The iconic Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is one of the most beautiful and serene places we visited during our travels through Japan. One of our lasting memories of the trip is the two of us standing hand in hand gazing up at the towering bamboo grove on a fresh Kyoto morning.
The graceful bamboo pillars stretch up to the sky, whispering back and forth in the wind illuminated in the soft morning light. It’s an incredible place!
Together with the Fushimi Inari shrine and the Kinkaku-ji temple the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the most photographed places in Kyoto and for an excellent reason.
However there is no substitute for experiencing the Bamboo Forest and standing in awe of the peaceful beauty of the surroundings.
Visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is located in western Kyoto, close to the entrance to the Tenryu-ji Temple.
As it’s one of the most popular spots in Kyoto it can get very busy, especially during peak season, so we recommend visiting first thing in the morning. The path through the grove is open all day and is a short walk from the Arashiyama train station so it’s very easy to get to from the Kyoto JR station!
Like most cities in Japan we recommend staying close to the main JR stations as it makes transports much easier.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Tip: We visited the grove just after sunrise and had the place pretty much to ourselves for around 30 minutes. The early start was completely worth it!
The Sagano Romantic Train
Any visit to the Arashiyama bamboo forest should include a trip on the now famous Sagano Romantic Train which departs from Saga Torokko Station close to the bamboo forest. This stunning 25 min train journey winds its way in a vintage style train along the Hozugawa River from Kameoka Station to Saga Station. During cherry blossom season the rail journey is one of the most beautiful in Japan. The Sagano Scenic railway operates from March 1 to December 29 so make sure to book it if you’re visiting Kyoto during these times. Klook has the best ticket prices and you can reserve tickets in advance. You can pick up tickets from Kansai airport, Osaka or Kyoto Station – check prices now!
How to get to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove from Kyoto
There are a number of options for getting to the bamboo grove at Arashiyama: namely bus, train or taxi. We recommend taking the train from Kyoto Central Station. It’s quick, cost effective and runs throughout the day and night.
The ICOCA IC Card is a contactless travel card which works on JR, subway, private railway, buses in Kyoto. You can purchase this in advance of your trip and it’s one of the cheapest ways to get around the Kyoto transport system – check prices now!
By guided tour:
One of the best ways to see the main sights in Kyoto in a limited time is by guided tour. The sheer variety of things to see and the size of the city makes it difficult to plan your time in Kyoto. We recommend the Klook app for booking tours and admissions and have used them extensively throughout Asia. Klook have a highly rated single day tour of Kyoto which covers all the main sights (including the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove) in a single day – check prices now!
By JR Pass:
If you have a JR Pass, take the JR Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to the Saga-Arashiyama Station – the journey is around 15 minutes ( ¥240 without a JR Pass) and, from the station, it is around a 10 minute easy walk to the bamboo forest.
We travelled throughout the country with a green JR Pass which we purchased prior to travelling to Japan. We also used this to travel from Kyoto to both Fushimi Inari and Arashiyama using ours – you can check out the latest prices for green and ordinary passes on Japan Rail Pass where we purchased our JR passes.
Where to stay in Kyoto
Like most Japanese cities we highly recommend staying as close to the main train station as possible as this makes getting around much easier. However the best hotels close to the train stations fill up weeks ahead of time (in some cases months) so you’ll save yourself a lot of extra walking or expensive taxis by booking your accommodation well in advance!
Hotel Granvia Kyoto: A modern hotel with comfortable western style rooms, a fitness centre and swimming pool plus the location is amazing – the hotel is in the train station meaning super quick access to the trains and the rest of the city. This is our number one pick for where to stay in Kyoto – check latest prices here!
Hotel Kintetsu Kyoto Station: Another great hotel located within the train station. Hotel Kintetsu is slightly cheaper than Hotel Granvia, however it is still a great choice with decent sized western style rooms and beds – check latest prices here!
Ibis Kyoto Station: The Ibis is a great value option and, it’s so close to Kyoto station, you can catch a glimpse of the hotel from the Shinkansen platform! – check latest prices here!
Walking through the Bamboo Grove
The entrance to the Bamboo Forest is a short walk from the Saga-Arashiyama Station train station and the forest pathway winds up the hillside with each corner unmasking more beautiful views of the grove.
As there were very few people around when we got there we had lots of time to enjoy the views and to take some photos.
Located at the back of the bamboo grove is the Villa of Okochi Sanso, a popular Japanese actor. The gardens of the Villa rival those of the finest in Japan. Entry is paid but includes a tour of the grounds and a traditional tea service at the end of the tour.
The Bamboo Forest is a popular location for wedding photographs and we saw some newly married couples having photo shoots during the morning – the presence of the newly married couple caused quite a commotion in the forest and it was amazing to watch their photo shoot!
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest tip: As the path through the Bamboo Forest is quite narrow you’ll need a wide angle lens for some of the best shots. It really helped to capture the beauty of the Bamboo Grove. I used my Manfrotto travel tripod and Sigma wide angle lens to capture most of the images of the grove.
When you’re finished visiting the grove we highly recommend taking some time to visit the Tenryu-ji Temple which is located beside the Bamboo Forest and is accessible from the forest – it is possible to enter the temple either from the main road or from the actual path of the forest itself.
We entered from the Bamboo Forest and spent a few hours exploring the gardens. The gardens and temple are truly beautiful and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the top 5 Zen temples in all of Kyoto.
We spent the remainder of the morning exploring the gardens before grabbing some lunch near the train station!
Here are some of the best travel guides for planning your Japan trip. We personally used the Lonely Planet Japan series for our trip planning. Click on the images below to buy yours now!