One of the places Ewelina and I were really keen to visit when we reached Kyoto was Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. We had seen lots of photographs on websites like Flickr, 500px and Google plus when doing our research for the trip. Indeed it’s one of the most photographed places in the Kyoto area, along with Kinkaku-ji Temple and Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine. It was also mentioned and highly regarded in our Lonely planet guidebook. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is actually about 10km west of the centre of Kyoto and we decided to visit it before checking into our accommodation. As we parked up and left the campervan we were passed by a man carrying a rickshaw. I’m not sure how popular rickshaw rides are with tourists but I guess it’s a different way to see the place. We also quickly realised that this is another one of those very popular tourist locations. We were quickly met by the crowds of people with their selfie sticks (in the hands of some people those things are like weapons…it’s only a matter of time before someone loses an eye). Since we would not be able to get the photograph we had come for we quickly abandoned the visit and agreed to get up at sunrise the next morning and visit again. Unlike many of the tourist sights in the area, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is accessible to the public 24 hours a day which certainly helps when trying to get an image without crowds. It’s also free to the public which is always welcome when travelling on a budget.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – Getting there
If you happen to have your own transport like we did then getting to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is really easy. We were able to find free street parking just two minutes walk away. To be honest if you want that classic photo without all the tourists in the frame then you will need to arrive very early before public transport is working. It might even be worth getting a quote for an early morning taxi if you want that solitude as it should not take too long, and hopefully not cost too much. A final option perhaps is to stay in a hotel within walking distance of Arashiyama rather than stay in central Kyoto. That way you can visit Arashiyama bamboo grove when it’s quiet without relying on public transport. I believe some of the hotel options are expensive though!
If you are not concerned about getting a photo like the one below (without lots of tourists) then by all means travel by train. From Kyoto station you need to take the JR Sagano line to Saga Arashiyama station. It takes 15 minutes and costs 240 Yen one way. Once at the station it’s just a short walk to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Interestingly I notice from an Arashiyama map that there seems to be the Sagano scenic railway that you could take from Arashiyama station that seems to go closer to the bamboo grove. I’m not sure that it runs very frequently though and since it’s less than a 10 minute walk from Saga Arashiyama station I would probably advise taking this normal Arashiyama train from Kyoto.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – What else is there to see?
Now there are some facilities at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove like toilets and from memory a small shop or two but it’s unlikely you will need more than an hour to really see the place. It’s not the only thing in the area though so you could easily spend more time here. You might decide for example to visit Arashiyama Monkey Park which is also walking distance from the train station. It’s on the other side of the Hozu River and you will need to cross Togetsukyo Bridge. Since Ewelina and I had already visited Jigokudani Monkey Park we didn’t see the need to see more monkeys.
Another place to possibly visit very close to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is Okochi Sanso Villa. It formerly belonged to famous Japanese actor Okochi Denjiro who died in 1962. The villa and gardens are open to the public, entry fee I believe is 1,000 Yen but this includes a cup of Matcha tea at the end of the tour in the teahouse.
There are also a number of temples close by. The most popular which is a Unesco site is Tenryuji temple. I can’t say if the temples are worth visiting as we had only really come to see the bamboo grove. We would be visiting more temples in central Kyoto in any case and when visiting Japan it is possible to have temple overload! For us it was time to leave and head from Arashiyama to Kinkakuji temple, another of the classic sights of Kyoto.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the surrounding area are certainly worth a visit. If possible try and get there just after sunrise before all the tourists arrive. After you have seen and photographed the bamboo grove you can then visit some of the other sights we have mentioned in this article at your leisure.
For more information you might find the following link useful: