The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Japan’s most incredible sights. Our walking tour route allows you to enjoy the Bamboo Grove and the surrounding sights while avoiding the worst of the crowds.
The upper (western) section of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Sergii Rudiuk / Shutterstock.com
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Introduction
Located about 7km west of downtown Kyoto, Arashiyama is one of Kyoto’s most popular sightseeing districts. The heart of the district is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a mesmerizing grove of thousands of tall bamboo plants. A paved walkway runs through the middle of both sections, forming the famous “Bamboo Alley,” one of Kyoto’s most photographed sights.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in winter: saraporn / Shutterstock.com
It was possible to have the entire place to yourself just a few years ago. Now, if you go during high season, you’ll find almost as many selfie sticks as bamboo stalks. Luckily, the crowds tend to thin out as you make your way away from the main street of Arashiyama. Our walking tour below is designed to get you away from the crowds as quickly as possible.
About the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is really two separate bamboo groves, both of which are sandwiched between Tenryu-ji Temple grounds and the JR Sagano-Saiin line train tracks. The combined length is about 500 meters, and the grove is about 140 meters wide. In the middle of the eastern section, near the main street, you’ll find Nonomiya-jinja Shrine, a popular Shinto Shrine, while on the southern edge of the western section, you’ll find the beautiful gardens and halls of Tenryu-ji Temple, one of Kyoto’s most beautiful Buddhist temples.
Typical crowds in the Bamboo Grove: xerazed / Shutterstock.com
Many people wonder about the meaning or purpose of the bamboo grove. As a matter of fact, it’s merely decorative. Arashiyama has been a favorite location of imperial and noble villas and temples from the days of classical Japan (the Heian Period). Bamboo was a popular element in the gardens of these villas. During the Edo Period, bamboo was cultivated in the area for use in many Japanese crafts, as well as for eating (bamboo shoots are a popular ingredient in Japanese food). Due to economic changes in the modern era, many bamboo groves in Arashiyama were abandoned or turned into residential areas. However, the government acted in in 1967 to protect the remaining bamboo groves, so that today we can enjoy the fantastic grove we see today.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Walking Tour Route
While it’s possible to enter the Bamboo Grove directly from the main street of Arashiyama, we find that the first section is always too crowded. Thus, in the following route, you will enter via the north exit of Tenryu-ji Temple. This allows you to enjoy the temple and also skip the worst of the crowds. After traversing the best part of the Bamboo Grove, you’ll visit Okochi-Sanso Villa and then enter Kameyama-koen Park, before descending to the Katsura-gawa River and walking downstream back to the main street of Arashiyama.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove during Arashiyama Hanatouro Festival (mid-December): Nishitap / Shutterstock.com
This walk can be done in about an hour if you walk non-stop. If you slow down and enjoy the sights along the way, plan on three or four hours. Hint: the restaurants are usually pretty busy in Arashiyama, so consider picking up some picnic supplies at a bakery or convenience store before heading out to Arashiyama and eating them in Kameyama-koen Park (along the route). For transport directions to Arashiyama, see our main Arashiyama page.
The route and the sights mentioned here are all shown on the map at the end of this page.
Start your walk from the main street of Arashiyama near Keifuku Arashiyama Station. Walk north (away from the river). You will soon see the main entrance to Tenryu-ji Temple on the left. Enter through this entrance.
Tenryu-ji Entrance – image © Chris Rowthorn
If you missed the main entrance, there is another entrance just a bit further along. They both go to the same place.
Tenryu-ji Alternate Entrance – image © Chris Rowthorn
Walk toward the temple (in the direction of the mountains). You will soon come to a sign for the temple and the ticket booth. Continue straight toward the temple.
Tenryu-ji Entrance Sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
The next sign indicates the choice between visiting the garden and visiting the main hall of the temple. We recommend visiting the garden only, so take a left here.
Tenyu-ji Ticket Prices Sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
Buy your ticket at the ticket booth and enter the garden. The garden here is one of the best in Kyoto, so take your time to enjoy it before continuing.
Tenryu-ji Temple garden pond: Chatchawat Prasertsom / Shutterstock.com
Make your way past the pond and work your way uphill toward the Tahoden Hall. Just beyond this, you will see the North Exit of the temple.
Tenryu-ji North Exit – image © Chris Rowthorn
Exit the temple via the North Exit. You will find yourself at the bottom of the western section of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Take a left and walk uphill.
Tenryu-ji North Exit Close-Up – image © Chris Rowthorn
Walk uphill through the famous “Bamboo Alley.”
Bamboo Alley section of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: structuresxx / Shutterstock.com
When you reach the top of the slope, look to the right and you will see entrance to Okochi-Sanso Villa diagonally across from you. This superb villa and garden is well worth a visit. Be sure to hold onto your ticket as it will get you a cup of matcha tea and a sweet after you explore the garden.
Okochi-Sanso Entrance – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a picture of the sign at the entrance to Okochi-Sanso Villa.
Okochi-Sanso Sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
We recommend following the full route through the garden at Okochi-Sanso. It’s clearly marked with signs. Then, make your way to the tearoom area when you’re done for a nice break.
Okochi-Sanso Villa : Andres Garcia Martin / Shutterstock.com
When you have finished your tea break, exit the villa the way you came in. Take a right at the bottom of the slope and walk south (toward the open park area). This will bring you to the entrance to Kameyama-koen Park.
Kameyama-koen Entrance – image © Chris Rowthorn
Shortly after entering the park, take the cobblestone path uphill. Keep walking until you reach the summit of the park.
Uphill Walk to Summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
There is a viewing area at the summit of the park that affords excellent views of the Arashiyama Mountains and down to the Hozu-gawa River (the name of the river changes to the Katsura-gawa just downstream from here).
View of River From Summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
Now, walk downhill, sticking to the pathways on your right (the southern edge of the park).
Downhill Toward River – image © Chris Rowthorn
You will soon come to a narrow footpath branching off on your right. Take this path.
Start of Trail Down – image © Chris Rowthorn
The path descends some cobblestone steps.
Trail Down to River – image © Chris Rowthorn
Keep heading downhill, sticking to the right. You will soon pass the wooden sign for Shorai-an, a traditional tofu restaurant. The river will also appear through the trees at this point. Head down the paths to the river.
Continue Down Past Shorai-an Sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll soon arrive at the pleasant, flat walkway along the Katsura-gawa River. Take a left and follow it downstream.
Arriving at River – image © Chris Rowthorn
A few hundred meters of walking along the river will bring you back to the heart of Arashiyama and the main road. To the left is Keifuku Arashiyama Station, to the right, across the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, is Hankyu Arashiyama Station.
Katsura-gawa Riverside – image © Chris Rowthorn
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Walking Tour Map
All the sites mentioned here are on this map. The map also shows the walking tour route described above:
View a full-sized version of the Arashiyama map.
Places to Stay and Eat in Arashiyama
For our recommended restaurants and accommodations in Arashiyama, check out our main Arashiyama page.
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