KYOTO
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NATURE & PARKS

5 Ways to Explore Japan’s World-Famous Bamboo Forest

Located in the popular Sagano District along the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama Park offers nature lovers a lot more than the opportunity to explore bamboo groves.
5 Ways to Explore Japan’s World-Famous Bamboo Forest

Art, nature, culture, and world heritages collide in Kyoto. And this world of wonder is all yours to discover, traveler. Kyoto, known as the Ancient Capital of Japan, is one of our most popular travel destinations. 

Many of the country’s important attractions are located in Kyoto, including more than a dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At one point, Kyoto was the primary residence of the Emperor. And the scenic Kyoto area has been a hotspot for travel for centuries, especially for Japan’s nobility. Kyoto’s place in Japanese history is ever-present, from the historic neighborhoods to the serene natural escapes and world-renowned bamboo forest just outside the city limits. 

Located in the popular Sagano District along the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama Park offers nature lovers a lot more than the opportunity to explore bamboo groves. While an excursion to Arashiyama’s tranquil bamboo forest may be at the top of your travel agenda, Arashiyama provides travelers the chance to cruise the waterways on a pleasure boat, explore small local shops and charming restaurants, discover unique art installations, trek to the ancient Tenryuji Temple, and even make friends with the free-roaming Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, that call this picturesque rural area of Kyoto home. 

Today Kyoto welcomes visitors from every corner of the world. Japanese traditions are kept alive in Kyoto with festivals that date back hundreds of years, shrines that honor and preserve the past, and modern art installations that put a contemporary spin on otherwise ancient traditions.  

Escape from the ordinary and discover a world of natural wonder, ancient temples, contemporary art, and ethereal bamboo forests in Kyoto.  

Hike, meet monkeys, and relax at Arashiyama Park
Hike, meet monkeys, and relax at Arashiyama Park

Hike, meet monkeys, and relax at Arashiyama Park

Scenic Arashiyama Park draws crowds from season to season. And it is quite obvious as to why the natural area is so attractive to foreign travelers and day-trippers alike. Arashiyama is a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing in the spring season. Visitors continue to flock to the area throughout autumn to see the fall foliage as the leaves begin to change colors. 

When winter arrives, so does December’s Arashiyama Hanatoro Illumination. Also happening in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto in March, the twice-annual illumination event is quite the spectacle and features thousands of lanterns set throughout popular destinations, including ancient temples, shrines, and even the lush bamboo groves of Arashiyama. For 10 days, lanterns light up the mountainside and bamboo forests, giving visitors a new perspective of Arashiyama and Kyoto.    

During the warmer seasons, Arashiyama is best accessed via a boat ride on the scenic Hozugawa River for an adventurous experience. The boat ride takes approximately two hours to travel down the Honzugawa river between Kameoka city and Arashiyama. Travelers can also arrive by train via the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station or Arashiyama Station if using the Randen tram. If you are hoping to escape the crowds, it is best to begin your exploration of Arashiyama in the early morning hours. Make sure to dedicate at least half a day to wander so that you can see everything Arashiyama has to offer. And there’s a lot the region has to offer. 

Ancient meets modern: discover art installations at Arashiyama’s Kimono Forest

Ancient meets modern: discover art installations at Arashiyama’s Kimono Forest

There is a good chance that Kyoto’s Kimono Forest is unlike any forest you have ever seen before. Instead of towering green bamboo groves—we’ll get to those later—this modern-day “forest” consists of about 600 vibrant and colorful cylinder-shaped pillars featuring detailed textile artwork that line a paved walkway near Arashiyama’s Randen tram station. 

Each pillar stands two meters tall and the designs displayed are done in the traditional Kyo-yuzen style, a technique that is applied when dyeing silk panels with highly-elaborate, colorful designs that is commonly used for the traditional kimono. The design and execution for this art installation was a collaborative effort between artist Yasumichi Morita and Kamedatomi, a textile factory with origins that began over a century ago.

Today visitors traveling to the region can take a self-guided stroll through the colorful modern forest and make a stop at Ryu no Atago, a small pond where visitors pause to pray for their goals and dreams. And, during the evening, Kimono Forest is illuminated by glowing LED lights, adding a dreamscape-like atmosphere to the already scenic setting of Arashiyama when the sun goes down. 

Kimono Forest is located nearby the Arashiyama Randen tram station. The unmissable colorful pillars can be viewed as you depart the train. 

Experience the serene Tenryuji Temple and enjoy a traditional Japanese lunch

Experience the serene Tenryuji Temple and enjoy a traditional Japanese lunch

Tenryuji Temple is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, making this special place in Kyoto one of Japan’s 25 world heritage sites. Founded in 1339, Tenryuji Temple is the largest zen temple in Kyoto, and it is widely regarded as the most impressive zen temple. 

An explorer’s dream, Tenryuji Temple is brimming with walking paths, beautifully manicured strolling gardens, and ornate temple buildings. Fall is the most popular season to visit when the autumn leaves add beautiful colors. 

After a morning of exploring, hungry visitors can enjoy a Japanese lunch at Shigetsu, an expansive, temple-style restaurant that’s tucked inside of historic Tenryuji. The Michelin-recognized restaurant offers an entirely vegetarian cuisine that is served in the traditional Japanese style. The dining experience is an absolute must-do for any foodie traveling to the Kyoto area. 

Tenryuji Temple is located within walking distance from the Arashiyama Randen station. 

Explore the peaceful Sagano Bamboo Forest

Explore the peaceful Sagano Bamboo Forest 

After a traditional Japanese lunch, make your way to Kyoto’s Sagano Bamboo Forest. The bamboo groves outside of Arashiyama feature paved pathways that visitors regularly travel, both foreigners and Japanese daytrippers. Regarded as the most famous bamboo forest in Japan, it is easy to see why the expansive (totaling 16 square kilometers) and breathtaking Sagano Bamboo Forest is considered one of the most photographed places in Kyoto. 

The world-famous bamboo forest is easily accessible by way of Tenryuji Temple. Simply exit at the north gate into the bamboo path. From there, you will be greeted by the tranquil soundscape of rustling leaves and a visually stunning array of shades of green and swaying bamboo trees.

See scenic mountains and waterways in Kameyama Park 

See scenic mountains and waterways in Kameyama Park 

Located at the tail-end of Sagano Bamboo Forest, Kameyama Park provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. With minimal crowds, compared to the popular bamboo forest and bustling Arashiyama, this hilltop park provides a serene getaway for those willing to make the trek up the stone steps. 

Kameyama Park features a bevy of explorable trails with no shortage of scenic lookouts that provide postcard-perfect views of the forested Arashiyama Mountains, Katsura River, and the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge, which was originally constructed throughout 794 to 1185. 

Make your way to the observation deck to take in the panoramic views of Kyoto below. And, be sure to be on the lookout for your playful primate pals when you visit Kameyama Park. It is not uncommon for the free-roaming snow monkeys to descend to this area from Iwatayama, or Monkey Park.  

Visitors can access the hilltop park by way of the Sagano Bamboo Forest pathway. 

Adventure awaits: plan your trip to Kyoto today 

Whether you are interested in Japanese history or looking for a departure from the routine of city life, Kyoto truly offers something for everyone. While Kyoto doesn’t have an airport within its city limits, getting to the Ancient City is simple, wherever you may be traveling from. 

Visitors can easily arrive in the city of Kyoto, Japan, by way of Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka, a quick trip that is just over an hour and 30-minutes away. From there, a quick train ride can get you from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto in just over an hour. Travelers arriving in Tokyo can take advantage of Japan Explorer Pass, an affordable and simple fare for travelers wishing to explore Japan that offers access to over 30 unique cities across the country. Plus, Japan Airlines' perks, such as free Wi-Fi on all domestic flights and award-winning economy class seating, can keep you connected and comfortable as you travel through the country of Japan.  

Getting There