It is always a pleasure to write about one of my favourite trips so far – an assertion that is getting hard to keep, given the high level of recent trips and experiences -, specially if we are talking about a special place like Sagano Bamboo Forest, in the Japanese district of Arashiyama (嵐山).

How to get from Kyoto to Arashiyama

Located half an hour from Kyoto, it makes the perfect day trip. You can get there taking the Kyoto City Bus #28 in the Station or, preferably, using the JR Sagano local train line, in order to avoid delays caused by traffic. This train takes us to Saga Arashiyama station in a trip included in the Japan Rail Pass, in case you are travelling with this resource.

Cycling through the Bamboo Forest

As I was travelling alone and just carrying my backpack with the photo equipment, I decided to make use of my most-liked transportation, renting a bike – so I did in Kyoto – in a business located close to Arashiyama train station.   

In a few minutes, with the help of a simple map, I was entering the path that crosses this spectacular forest of unquestionable mysticism, a must-see location with a natural generosity that surrounds and surprises the visitor, from the first moment, due to an unusual beauty of shocking proportions. 

Sagano Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan

The forest, formed below the mountain of Arashiyama, is populated by slender specimens that exceed the 20 metres of height and represent more than 50 varieties of bamboo. The trees, when rocked by the wind, create a peculiar sound that was included in the list of 100 Soundscapes of Japan, as you can hear in this video.

Temples of Tenryu-ji and Jojakko-Ji

Once enjoyed the enriching calm of the bamboo forest, I decided to visit some of the temples in the area. I began with Jojakko-Ji, founded in 1596 and almost empty that day, for my peaceful amusement. If you have the chance, I recommend a visit to this hillside sanctuary, surrounded by natural wealth and framed in a setting that invites to deep meditation

After visiting this hidden jewel, it was time for cycling my way to the Temple of Tenryu-ji, the largest in Arashiyama and head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism.

Founded in 1339, at the beginning of the Muromachi Period, it is considered one of the five most important zen temples in Kyoto and registered as on of Japan´s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”.

With a name that is traduced as something like “Heavenly Temple of the Dragon”, it owes most of it´s fame to the presence of a unique zen garden that survived the centuries in its original form. Designed by the founder of the temple and famous garden designer, Muso Soseki, features a circular promenade around the Sōgen Pond and was a reference for other posterior creations.

Without forgetting the undeniable beauty of Tenryū-ji, I have to admit that my memory decided to keep, in a colorful sequence of details, the feelings awakened from walking alone in the temple of Jojakko-Ji.

If you have enough time to spend, remember there is much more to see in Arashiyama, besides the places I mention in this article. Not in vain, it has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would visit and enjoy its natural setting.

Text & Photos © Nano Calvo

Any unauthorized use of this material is prohibited.
If you are an editor and want to publish this reportage
or some of the images, please email us.

More about this destination: