While the majority of our time spent in Japan was temple hopping and stuffing our faces full with matcha ice cream and different flavors of mochi, we got in our nature fix by spending a couple of hours in the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest one morning during our Kyoto visit. This Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto's most photographed sights, with tall, overarching bamboo stalks planted along a narrow pathway. Located on the outskirts of the city, we used our Japan Rail Pass to take the JR Sagano line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station. From there, it was only a quick 10-minute walk through the town to get to the entrance of the forest. Of course, we got a bit lost since there were no clearly marked signs from the station, but ended up following a crowd of school children that were on a field trip since we trusted their sense of direction more than Google Maps on that day.
The Bamboo Grove is open 24 hours, so we recommend coming before 8am to soak in a few moments of peace and quiet before the hoards of tourists arrive. The path of the grove itself was definitely smaller than we anticipated, as it only took us about 15-20 minutes to reach the end. We can only imagine how crowded this space must get during peak hours! It was honestly such a surreal and peaceful experience standing under these gigantic, tall stalks of bamboo, looking up and admiring its' strength and resiliency. However, to our disappointment, the bamboo stalks are fenced off, so we couldn't wander off the paved pathway and completely explore the area for ourselves. Nonetheless, we loved our time spent at Arashiyama, surrounding ourselves with the beautiful bamboo that we had anticipated seeing for months!
Although we went a bit early before shops and restaurants opened, we did pass by many places where you can grab a bite to eat for lunch, as well as small vendors selling fresh dango balls and our favorite, matcha ice cream for the perfect mid-afternoon snack. We recommend about 3-4 hours out of your day to see the Arashiyama Bamboo forest and an extra hour or so for a food break before or after your bamboo forest visit!