As you approach Arashiyama in Kyoto, the first thing you see is that the flat views disappear in the mountain ranges. In the early medieval years, rich nobles traveled to Arashiyama to enjoy the natural landscape and escape the city. Now this place is for everyone, rich or poor. The word ‘Arashiyama’ translates to ‘Storm Mountain’. The mountains here are covered with lush trees and so they look a bit dark, giving them their intimidating name. The mountains look down on the river Ōi, creating a picturesque landscape that is especially nice to take in while cycling along the road.
Attractions Around the Bamboo Forest
The bamboo forest (Chikurin no Michi ‘竹林 の 道’) is one of the most popular tourist sites in Kyoto along with the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Kinkakuji Temple, all of which provide visitors with wonderful visual panoramas. Most of the bamboo trees in this forest have a height of 5 to 10 m, some reach up to 20 m. There is a path of approximately 200 m long that crosses the forest where visitors can enjoy a pleasant walk.
The road runs between Tenryuji Temple and Okouchi Sanso Garden, which are also popular tourist attractions. There are some smaller roads that split off from the main road, giving access to the other attractions inside the forest. Tenryuji Temple and Nonomiya Shrine serve as markers that flank the end of the road. Within the bamboo forest, is the Nonomiya Shrine. To this small Shinto shrine, single imperial princesses have traveled to purify themselves before their marriage. The deities that are enshrined here include Nonomiya Okami; God of Health and Wisdom, Shirafuku Inari Daimmyojin; God of conception, gentle childbirth, and prosperous business, Shiramine Benzaiten and most importantly for single women, Nonomiya Daikokuten; God for pairing.
Beauty in Vision and Sound
Each December, the Hanatoro festival takes place in several locations in the Arashiyama area, including the bamboo forest. During this festival, they light up the bamboo giving it a special atmosphere. Although it is the visual beauty of bamboo that attracts the masses, the distinctive noises produced by the bamboo grove has become an attraction in their own right.
A few years ago, the Ministry of the Environment included the Sagano bamboo forest in its list of ‘100 sound landscapes of Japan’, a selection of everyday noises intended to encourage locals to stop and enjoy nature’s music. Another great activity you can do here is to take a boat trip on the Hozu River. The river flows through the wooded valley towards the urban area of Kyoto. Alternatively, you can enjoy the views of the valley from the Sagano train and you can rent a bicycle near the station or take a bicycle tour with one of our guides.
Arashiyama is particularly beautiful during the season of cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. To enjoy the best experience it is best to leave early in the morning or later at night and to avoid the weekends completely, when Japanese hikers descend in the area, especially in autumn and spring.
From Saga-Arashiyama (JR Line) or Arashiyama (Randen Line) station