Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Like many of you with full-time jobs, I don’t always have the time to do research before a trip. Clearly, this was one of them. First, I booked a very questionable capsule hotel room. Then, I mistook Ginakaku-ji for Kinkaku-ji. Next, I thought the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest would be sprawling, like an actual forest. It wasn’t. Sad to admit, I don’t think I did Kyoto right.
Kyoto was a gloomy trip – weather wise. That overcast turned into an all-day mist during my visit to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. They say the best time to visit Kyoto’s famous bamboo grooves is when it’s a little windy. The light and melancholic sound hypnotizes you like a dream as the wind blows, making the stalks sway gently back and forth and back and forth. The soaring stalks look like they can almost touch the sky.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
There is only one main path through the bamboo grove and it’ll take you, at most, half an hour to saunter through it. It’s an easy walk uphill and if it wasn’t for the hordes of tourist, it would make for a nice bike or rickshaw ride. The path ends at the top of a small hill, which leads to the entrance to the former home of Okochi Denjiro – a famous silent actor.
The bamboos from this grove have been used to make baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries. It takes about one month for a bamboo stalk to reach over 60 feet high and the largest bamboo can grow to over 130 feet. Bamboos are placed in and near many temples because the Japanese believe that they ward off evil spirits.
Arashiyama Kimono Forest
I stumbled onto the Arashiyama Kimono Forest while searching for the train station back to the city center. The installation is located at the Randen Arashiyama Station and is created by Yasumichi Morita. The artist’s goal is to “give a fresh air to the station while still keeping the old tradition”.
The installation mimics the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, framing a path to the train station with 600 pillars. Each one of them consists of kimono textiles dyed in the traditional Kyo-yuzen style and protected in acrylic cylinders. It wasn’t until after my visit that I learned that it’s recommended to come at dusk to see the Kimono Forest light up with LED lights.
next stop: Tenryu-Ji Temple
And if a trip to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest doesn’t help you find your zen, head over to the Tenryu-Ji Temple on a weekday. It’s the most important temple in Kyoto located steps away from the bamboo grove.