One of Kyoto’s most famous scenes—alongside Fushimi Inari’s torii tunnels and geisha-spotting in the Gion district—the Sagano Bamboo Forest takes you to the west side of the city along the banks of the Hozu River in Arashiyama.
The image of strolling in a sprawling bamboo forest, perhaps even wearing a traditional yukata, as the sun sets, seems other-worldly or even as if it were a dream. A visit to Kyoto would not be complete without strolling in the Sagano Bamboo Forest. Here’s what to expect, as well as what else you can do in the area.
The Sagano Bamboo Forest is quite a tricky location for photographers, as capturing that perfect picture is often hindered by its very popularity. Regardless, when you are successful in your attempts to avoid any people walking in your shot, and have shuffled yourself in all kinds of angles to find the perfect lighting, it will certainly be one of your most cherished photographs among the estimated few hundred you will take during your visit in Japan.
While it is the endless bamboo’s impeccable visual beauty that draws people in, it is also one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan set by the Japanese Ministry of Environment. The everyday sound of rustling bamboo as it sways on the wind and the stirring of its leaves is what completes your dream.
When to go: Kyoto Bamboo Forest opening hours
The Arashiyama bamboo grove is open 24-7, but is not illuminated throughout the route and the Arashiyama area is not as well-lit in the evening as more central parts of Kyoto. The absolute best time to visit the bamboo grove would be an afternoon in the early summer, when the weather is still pleasant and locals may be out for a stroll wearing yukata. However, it’s delightful year-round.
Note that there is no admission fee for the bamboo grove itself, but temples or residences along the route may require a minor fee to pay a visit.
Starting point: Tenryuji Temple
As you walk along Arashiyama’s main street, you will pass Tenryuji Temple, one of the finest Zen temples in Kyoto that deserves its own visit. According to Japanese tradition, bamboo is a symbol of strength and it is far from rare to find a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine without a small bamboo grove to ward off evil within its grounds. When exiting the temple’s north gate, the path leading into the Sagano Bamboo Forest lies just to its left. Enter and enjoy!
On your way out: The Okochi-Sanso Villa
Before exiting the bamboo forest, you may notice a sublime traditional villa at the top of the hill. The Okochi-Sanso Villa, as it is known, is the former home of Denjiro Okochi, who was famous for his roles in Japanese silent films and period dramas (including the The Tale of Genji in 1951). The villa is a truly grand complex encompassing its own altar, study, teahouse and museum devoted to Okochi. Amongst the buildings are countless gardens with a wide variety of plant life in all four seasons.
The Okochi-Sanso Villa is open between 9:00 and 16:00 for an admission fee of ¥1,000. Although this may seem quite hefty, it is well worth a visit to complete your experience in Arashiyama.
How to get to Arashiyama
From Kyoto Station, you can take city buses 28, 71, 72 and 73, or the train to Saga Arashiyama Station on the JR Sagano Line.
From the area around Shijo Kawaramachi (central Kyoto), city buses 11 and 28 also leave for the bamboo grove. Or you can take the train from Shijo Omiya Station to Arashiyama Station on the Hankyu railway.
Pro tip: You can also explore bamboo groves in Tokyo, if you happen to find yourself in the capital.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in 2016. Last updated in September, 2019.