Walking in a Bamboo Wonderland

Synonymous with seemingly never-ending bamboo shoots, Arashiyama is one of Kyoto’s most ethereal locales. If you’re looking for solitude, however, there’s a caveat: tourists descend on the bamboo grove in droves during daylight hours. Having gleaned the aforementioned titbit from fellow travellers, we decided to embrace another early morning in the hopes of having the bamboo grove to ourselves.

Since neither of us particularly fancied a repeat of that misty morning in Kawaguchiko, we decided to give ourselves some additional beauty sleep and set the alarm for 6am. When we rolled up to the bamboo grove just past 8, we were lucky enough to have this magical place virtually to ourselves. When it comes to dodging hordes of tourists, the early bird catches the worm.

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The zesty green bamboo canes rustled in the breeze; in the heart of the bamboo forest, you could almost forget you were on the outskirts of Japan’s ninth largest city.

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The swaying bamboo canes seemed to stretch on indefinitely – as did the stream of sightseers who arrived forty-five minutes or so after us. Soon after their arrival, we decided to leave the bamboo forest behind and explore the neighbouring Kameyama-kōen Park; we didn’t catch sight of any of the park’s monkey population, but the viewpoint overlooking the Hozu River somewhat compensated for this.

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Towards lunchtime we caught the train back into central Kyoto, then set off on foot for Nishiki Market.

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Perusing the wares we spotted a few unappetising options – namely, placenta essence (we seriously hoped this was a mistranslation!) and pickled cucumber. Whilst Nishiki Market was interesting to visit, it was by no means as good as Tokyo’s Tsukiji or Kanazawa’s Ōmichō Market.

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Continuing to evade the midday heat, we wandered along the neighbouring undercover shopping street. No sooner had we collapsed into a heap than an elderly Japanese man eagerly picked up Laurence’s camera and proceeded to take pictures of us! He then returned Laurence’s camera and gave us a hearty “welcome to Kyoto, welcome to Japan” before seeking out the next utterly befuddled tourist. One thing’s for sure, the Japanese are far more eager to interact with tourists and give off a positive impression of their country than we are!

We then wandered up to Kyoto Imperial Park; at almost a mile in length, the absolutely vast grounds of Kyoto’s Imperial Palace left our legs weary at the thought of exploring them in full! Opting to explore the southern portion of Kyoto Imperial Park, we divided our time between people-watching and relaxing by Itsukushima Shrine, a picturesque spot at the very southern edge of the park.

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In need of some air-conditioning, we decided to investigate the food department of a Japanese department store – the sky-high prices made Harrods resemble Aldi! We amused ourselves no end trying to find the most expensive items and marvelling at how anyone could justify spending ¥7000 (£54) on a bunch of grapes! Trust me, that’s no typo: ¥7000. I wish I’d taken a picture for the ridiculousness of it, but sadly it slipped my mind.

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As the sun began to set, we wandered around Ponto-chō, a prosperous neighbourhood which borders the river. Its lantern-lined main street complete with traditional architecture and tea houses makes it a pleasant place to wander round, though the eateries were well out of our price range. Reaching the end of the main street, we double backed along the riverside, which was bedecked with fairy lights and tinsel-esque decorations. After a few sunset snaps from Shijo Ohashi Bridge, we detoured via a supermarket to pick up some food for tea.

Tips:

  • To get to Arashiyama, take the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama (¥240/ £1.85; 15 minutes). From the station, follow signs for the “Path of Bamboo”; free entry, open from dawn to dusk.
  • If you want to avoid the crowds, aim to arrive early in the morning (the 7.30-8.30am window should be sufficient) or just before sunset.
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18 thoughts on “Walking in a Bamboo Wonderland

    1. Seeing bamboo shoots that tall was super cool – when you’re there you really get a feel for the scale of it, as humans just look so tiny in comparison! Thanks for the nomination Diana, look forward to answering your questions in due course (and I’ll be sure to check out your post too!) 🙂

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    1. It is a gorgeous place, best experienced without the crowds! It puts me off going to places when they’re just heaving with visitors, as it can ruin the atmosphere at times.

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      1. So true – sometimes it drives me round the bend if I’m trying to get a picture without people in it! Other times people add to the picture…but not when it consists of flag-waving tour guides!!

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  1. £54 for grapes!? Wow that really is ridiculous!
    Oh Rosie it’s like you’re in a dream world, everytime you post about somewhere it adds yet another item to the list of places I want to visit!
    One problem is that I’d love to visit with my boyfriend but I know getting up so early would be nearly impossible with him! I will have to show him this post and make him realise that being an early bird is very worth it 🙂

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    1. It was absolutely mental – I’ve never seen anything like it before! I get the same feeling when I read others’ posts – and all your posts on beaches during your year abroad had me wanting to visit them too! Being an early bird definitely pays off in Japan – and since it’s so humid you can always spend the hottest part of the day napping/chilling inside!

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  2. Arashiyama remains one of the highlights from my trip to Japan; I’m so glad that you also enjoyed it, as well as being able to beat the rush of people during the daytime! Did you also visit the historic town near there? There were so many good (and delicious!) eateries over there; I tried a soy ice cream, which when tipped over did not fall! Didn’t see “placenta essence,” but that’s something I’d be willing to try!

    On an *unrelated* topic, I’ll be in Lyon this December and was wondering if you would be interested in meeting each other? I can understand if you don’t want to, though. Feel free to let me know!

    Take care; looking forward to your posts about Japan and France!

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    1. I was so glad Arashiyama lived up to the hype, as so often guidebooks/online publications rave about places which in reality don’t quite meet expectations. Yes, we did have a wander (and got totally lost!), it was such a picturesque area. That sounds so bizarre!! I meant to comment on your bucket list post when I saw you’d finalised plans to come to Lyon – which day will you be visiting? My boyfriend’ll be in Lyon over the weekend so I won’t be free Fri/Sat/Sun, but if you’re coming for the first night I’d be up for meeting up 🙂

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    1. The early mornings definitely paid off! Though it took me weeks to get over the fatigue/jet lag when I got home – not helped by the fact I moved abroad two days after returning to the UK! I’d love to know the answer to that question too!

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