Curious on how to visit the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto? This guide tells you everything you need for your bamboo forest visit and other things to do in Arashiyama!
The Arashiyama bamboo grove near Kyoto has always been on my bucket list. Unfortunately I had missed the opportunity to visit the bamboo forest the last time I was in Kyoto, so I made extra effort to visit the Arashiyama bamboo grove this time around. While doing my research on visiting the bamboo forest near Kyoto, I found out that Arashiyama is not only famous for the bamboo forest, but there are also many things to do near the bamboo forest such as charming temples, beautiful Japanese gardens, Iwatayama Monkey Park up the hill, and some amazing food in Arashiyama.
Things To Know Before You Visit Arashiyama
I had never heard of the town of Arashiyama before I researched how to get to the bamboo forest in Kyoto. I thought the bamboo forest is in Kyoto but I only found out later that it’s located in Arashiyama, which is in the western outskirt of Kyoto. The name Arashiyama in Japanese is 嵐山, which means Storm Mountain. The town itself is not super big and the heart of Arashiyama is one main street and the Togetsukyo Bridge. However if you want to explore more of Arashiyama. I want to share some other tips for your visit to the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama:
- The best time to visit the bamboo forest is spring or fall in the early morning; summer in Japan tends to get really hot and humid and crowded
- Wear bug spray if you are visiting the Bamboo forest in the summer or early fall, there are a lot of mosquitoes around
- Expect a lot of crowds in Arashiyama, unless you go first thing in the morning
- Plan enough time to visit Arashiyama because it’s about an hour away from Kyoto
- There is more to Arashiyama than the bamboo grove!
How To Get To Arashiyama From Kyoto
There are several options to visit Arashiyama from Kyoto, including trains, buses, and taxis.
- Train (~1 hour): There are numerous daily direct trains from Kyoto station to Arashiyama. You can take the JR Sagano line or the San-In Line and get off at Saga-Arashiyama Station
- Bus (1 hr or more): You can take Kyoto Bus #28 from the Kyoto station to Arashiyama but I think it’s better to check Google maps especially going back from Arashiyama to Kyoto because you may want to get off at different places in Kyoto.
Other options from Kyoto to Arashiyama include subway (which is a bit more complicated) and taxi (30 minutes, about 2000 yen so quite expensive).
Top Landmarks in Arashiyama
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The official name of the Kyoto bamboo forest (or sometimes called Arashiyama bamboo grove) is Sagano Bamboo Forest. This bamboo forest is considered one of the prettiest bamboo groves in the world and is free to visit. Tens of thousands of visitors come to Japan each year to visit the beautiful bamboo forest so it can get really crowded especially in the warmer months.
What is the best time to visit the bamboo forest? After doing a ton of research, we found out the bamboo forest starts to get crowded around 9 in the morning so we decided to beat the crowd and get there at 8!
It’s pretty straightforward to visit the bamboo forest from Kyoto. The bamboo grove is located about an hour trip from Kyoto by bus or train. To avoid confusion, the easiest way to get to the bamboo forest from Kyoto is to take the JR train “San-In Line” from Kyoto station to Arashiyama station.
After getting out of the Arashiyama station, there are signs that point you towards the bamboo forest and it’s about a 10 minutes walk from the Arashiyama train station to the bamboo forest.
You will start seeing the bamboo forest shortly and you probably will be like me, getting really excited and start taking tons of photos. In reality the bamboo forest gets even better as you walk down more so make sure to keep walking down to see the “better” part of the bamboo forest.
We were so captivated by the beauty of the forest (and the fact that nobody was here) we didn’t realize this forest was full of mosquitoes! I ended up getting 7 bites on my legs from the hour that I was there, so make sure to have some bug spray with you before you visit the bamboo forest.
Like what we expected, by 9 o’clock more and more people started showing up. You probably will spend an hour at the bamboo forest taking photos if you are into that. I would highly recommend that you bring both a fixed lens and a wide angel lens for the Sagamo Bamboo Forest. If you want some Instagram worthy photos in the bamboo forest, the fixed lens will give you that amazing bokeh. If you are more of a landscape photographer, then the wide angle lens may be a better choice so you can capture more of the bamboo since they are really tall.
Most people visit the bamboo forest first before visiting the other famous attractions in Arashiyama such as the Tenjyuri Temple, Iwatayama Monkey Park, Togetsukyo Bridge, etc.
Tenjyuri Temple (天龍寺)
The Tenjyuri Temple is one of the most important temples in the Arashiyama area and one of the top things to do in Arashiyama. Although the main building had been burned down a few times throughout the centuries, the beautiful garden remained intact and untouched. The garden and pond represent the beautiful Japanese architecture and the mountain backdrop makes the Tenjyuri Temple’s garden one of the prettiest places in Kyoto.
The Tenjyuri Temple is perfect to visit after you finish seeing the bamboo forest. It’s about pretty much next to the bamboo forest and you actually see the temple entrance when you explore bamboo forest. Since we came to the temple right when it opened, we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves!
The opening hour of Tenjyuri Temple is 8:30 and it closes at 5:30pm in the summer and 5:00pm in the winter. The entrance ticket to the garden costs ¥500.
The garden itself is very pretty with bamboos and ponds and rocks. But if you are interested in visiting the interior of the main building, it’s a separate entrance fee of ¥300. You can either buy the tickets at the entrance of Tenryuji Temple or the entrance of the building inside. Is it worth to visit the building in Tenryuji Temple? I would highly recommend visiting the interior of the building if you have never seen a Japanese palace or traditional building.
The Togetsu-kyo Bridge is another cool attraction in Arashiyama. The bridge may look like an ordinary wooden bridge, but there is 400 years of history behind it. It’s only a few minute walk from the Bamboo Forest and the Tenjyuri Temple. They say that during Sakura (cherry-blossom) season and foliage peak, tons of people would stand on the bridge to enjoy the view Arashiyama mountain and Katsuna River has to offer.
Even if you are not interested in the bridge itself, to get to the Monkey Park (discussed below), you need to cross this bridge.
Arashiyama Monkey Park
I’ve always loved fluffy things so I was SO excited when I found out there is a Monkey Park up the hill in Arashiyama! The official name of the Monkey Park is Iwatayama Monkey Park and it’s probably one of the best things to do in Arashiyama because you get to see the monkeys in their natural habitat but you can also get close enough to feed them and take photos of them.
The Monkey Park is located very close to the Togetsukyo Bridge. Once you cross the bridge, there are signs that point to the entrance of the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The ticket cost of the Monkey Park is 550YEN per adult and it’s a 20 minute hike uphill from the entrance to get to the Monkey Park. Is it worth visiting the Arashiyama Monkey Park? YES! This turned out to be one of the best attractions in Arashiyama despite the hike uphill. The monkeys at the park are Japanese snow monkeys, so they survive well in the snowy mountain weather in the winter. We were concerned that the weather might have been too hot for them but we were happy to see the monkeys were so active and energetic!
The first thing you see when you enter the entrance of the Iwatayama Monkey Park is a nice little shrine. We were too excited to see the monkeys so we didn’t spend too much time here.
After hiking up for about 20 minutes (mostly in the shade) and wondering if we were ever going to get there, we finally came across these cute guys!
You can feed the monkeys at the monkey park? There is a designated house in the Monkey Park where you can go in, spend 100 Yen to get a bag of apples and feed the monkeys through the fence. Some of the big monkeys can get really greedy and bully the tiny ones out of the way. I think it’s great that humans are the ones in a cage while the monkeys run free and enjoy their days.
After feeding them the whole bag (I’m not sure why they are not fatter considering how often people feed them), we decided to explore the area a little bit more.
We didn’t realize we had hiked up so much to have this breathtaking panorama view of Kyoto from the Iwatayama Monkey Park! You can actually see the tower near Kyoto station in the photo.
We also found some cuties while we were exploring the area on our own (still within the monkey park). For your safety, the Iwatayama Monkey Park prohibited visitors from getting too close to the monkeys, stare them into the eye, or touch them.
One last stop at the shrine before heading out to stuff ourselves!
Specialty Food in Arashiyama
Now that we’ve already spent half of the day visiting things before they got crowded, we finally had time to try some of the best food in Arashiyama.
Bitter Citrus/ Yuzu Jelly at Oimatsu
Natsumikan is a Japanese citrus fruit during the summer and there is a store in Arashiyama that sells a chilled Natsumikan jelly. In this chilled version, a citrus flavored jelly is put inside a Natsumikan peel. It looks like a fruit on the outside but when you bite into the jelly, you can taste the slightly bitter refreshing jelly and I see why it’s so popular during the summer times! Apparently this is a must-eat food in Arashiyama and I’m not surprised why.
The store we visited was called Oimatsu: 20 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho Ukyo-ku Kyoto.
Before I go into this, I have to say that the tofu meal in Arashiyama is probably not for everyone, especially those expecting a meaty meal or a meal full of strong flavors. From my experience in Japan, most traditional Japanese cuisines do not have strong flavors such as teriyaki sauce over everything as expected from many western countries. However, for those who want to explore something new (and Vegan) in Arashiyama, this is the right place for you.
The best tofu restaurant in Arashiyama is the Kyo Arashiyama Ine, a two story restaurant in front of the Tenryu Shrine. We got there quite early but it got crowded really quickly after we sat down. The restaurant serves several set menus and we picked the two that looked the most interesting to us: The Arashiyama Dish and the Pail Tofu Skin Dish. We picked these two because they offered different side dishes and sauce and it was too hot to pick anything in a boiling pot.
Coming from the US, I was a bit surprised by the “lack” of flavors in the first bite, but I quickly got used to a more natural flavor this meal had brought. It was impressive how everything you see was made out of Tofu, even the desserts.
There are many other interesting things to see and eat in Arashiyama, if you are interested, check out this post for more things to do in Arashiyama.