Not too far from the humdrum of the city of Kyoto is the Sagano Bamboo Forest, perhaps the most visited yet tranquil natural spot in the region. It is known for its towering trees, but other than the mystic sight of these natural beauties, look out for the sound of nature that resonates here.
There are rows and rows of towering trees, all standing tall and together, dominating everything else in their surroundings. A trail of bamboos is defining all space in this forest, which is one of the most popular tourist destination for visitors from in and outside Japan. This is the Sagano Bamboo Forest located in the tourist district of Arashiyama in the western outskirts of Kyoto.
Over here is a dense cover of green, under which people come to “forest bathe”. Sunrays shuffle through this cover, touching down in time to lighten up the many photographs tourists take here. Gone are the days when this grove would be as barren as other jungles, now with the rush here, it seems to be on every globetrotters travel list.
With incomprehensible rows of bamboos and their viridescent hues, this forest is ecstatically scenic. But not just the sights, the sounds of the jungle are equally enchanting, resonating hums of nature.
The Sagano Bamboo Forest is on the Ministry of Environment’s list of “100 Soundscapes of Japan” — a selection of everyday noises intended to encourage locals to stop and enjoy nature’s music.
Other than experiencing the natural echo, visitors can also watch locals practice traditional cormorant fishing on the Hozu River during the summer months. December is also a good time to visit when the bamboo groves are ornamented with lanterns for the Hanatoro illumination – a set of lighting events that take place in the district.
It is also recommended to take a trip to the Togetsukyo Bridge, which is Arashiyama’s central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions are found nearby, including Tenryuji Temple.
The Tenryuji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the Kyoto-gozan – five major temples of Kyoto. It is open daily between 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The temple also has one of the best Zen gardens in Japan and is the headquarters of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism.
In Japan, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are often situated near bamboo groves for they are considered a means of warding off evil, and the bamboo is seen as a symbol of strength.
At the other end of the Bamboo Forest is Okochi-Sanso Villa, the former home of late silent film star Denjiro Okochi. Open between 9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily, a visit here will costs JPY 1,000 (~INR 570/EUR 7). The house gives a sneak-peek into the life of Okochi, and makes for an insightful end to a trip to the Bamboo Forest.