Sunday, April 03, 2016

Kyoto : Bamboo Forest of Sagano-Arashiyama

Recently Kyoto was named as the world's best city by Travel+ Leisure World Magazine. And Kyoto won this award second time in a row. It comes as no surprise since Kyoto offers visitors so much , be it  thousands of ancient Temples and Shrines, Museums, beautiful gardens, Japanese culture, Japanese food, a peek into the geisha culture that Kyoto is popular for or just beautiful nature. 

Speaking of nature, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Arashiyama district of Kyoto. Situated in the western outskirts of Kyoto, the area has been attracting visitors from as early as the Heian period and the popularity just keeps growing. In fact, Arashiyama is the second most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. Like most of Kyoto, the this area has no dearth of temples and shrines and the avenues lined with shops, tea houses and restaurants. However Arashiyama is best known for it's Bamboo grove. 
 The beauty of the Bamboo grove is something that cannot be explained. Photos don't do enough justice to the beauty of the place.
It is a feeling to be experienced. Walking on the path amid the Bamboo groves is a pleasant experience in itself. 

The sunlight playing a game of hide seek from among the tall bamboos adds to the beauty of the scenery. 
The number of visitors to the Bamboo groves seems to be increasing over the years. Back on our first visit to the place in 2010, there were a few visitors apart from us and we managed to click a couple of pictures with no people in the background. During our subsequent visits that seems to be impossible ! 
The Bamboo groves and the streets of Arashiyama tourist area are lit up with lanterns in December for the Hanatoro event. 

Visitors can be seen enjoying Jin-riksha rides through the Bamboo groves.
The rickshaw pullers also share interesting information and sometimes also sing songs to entertain their customers.

A little further away from the Bamboo groves is another of Arashiyama's landmarks, the Togetsukyo Bridge.
The bridge was originally built in the Heian period but the current bridge is a reconstruction from the 1930s. This wooden bridge across the river and the densely forested mountainside in the background are a beautiful sight. 
Interestingly the river changes its name on either side of the bridge. To the west of the bridge, it is known as the Hozu River whereas to the east it is known as the Katsura river. The area to the north of the Togetsukyo Bridge is known as Sagano while the area to the south is known as Arashiyama. But the entire area is commonly referred to as Arashiyama. 
Visitors can enjoy pleasure boat rides in the river and enjoy the scenic beauty of Arashiyama. 

The riverside promenade is popular among visitors and at times you can also enjoy some upcoming musicians practicing with their instruments. 

Arashiyama is beautiful no matter what the season. But the scenery turns spectacular especially in Autumn and Spring. Arashiyama is a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. 


A particularly popular way to enjoy the Autumn colors of Arashiyama is the Saga Scenic Railway. The 25 minute ride covers 7 kms between Arashiyama and Kameoka and winds its way through some picturesque scenery along the Hozu river. 


While walking through the Bamboo groves, we stopped by at the Nonomiya Shrine. 

In the past, Imperial princesses were sent here to spend some time to purify themselves before dedicating their lives to serving at the Ise Grand Shrine. A board at the shrine explains the history and importance of the shrine. 



Another place worth visiting is the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple which is known for its stone statues. 
These little stone statues have different facial expressions. They represent devoted followers of Buddhism. 
(Entrance to the temple- Adults 300 yen; Opening Hours 8:00-17:00 hrs. Open: 365 days)

There are couple of other temples and shrines in the vicinity.

Visitors can also walk through the colorful walking path near the Arashiyama tram station.
About 600 poles decorated with Kyoto style Yuzen print fabric (used for making Kimonos) stand on both sides of walking paths at the Randen station. This path is also referred to as the Kimono forest. At night the poles are lit up and are said to be quite a sight. 

The Gioji temple known for its small moss garden is also within walking distance from the Bamboo groves. 

2 comments:

  1. Bamboo forests are now available all over the world and are so amazing!! So peaceful and restorative. We just completed a project volunteering with EcoPlanet Foundation https://www.ecoplanetfoundation.org on some of the bamboo forests in Nicaragua and it was a once in a life time experience!

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  2. Very well written and very informative.

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