Kyoto, Japan: Sagano Famous Bamboo Forest Of Arashiyama And UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tenryu-ji Sogenchi Garden
I’m a huge fan of nature, especially the magical type. You know what I mean: fairytale gardens, enchanting forests, or quaint rivers and ponds. That’s why I’ve always had my heart set on walking through a bamboo forest in Japan. I was able to accomplish this life goal in Kyoto when I visited the grove in Arashiyama. Tall and serene, the bamboo encompassing the wide walking paths were just what I had been hoping for.
Only 30 minutes or so from the bustling Kyoto city center, the towering bamboo forest is an almost shocking contrast to the urbanity surrounding it. Wooden paths weave through the dense thicket of tall bamboo stalks that reach dozens of feet into the sky, creating a canopy. The absolutely gorgeous forest of skinny bamboo trunks is the heroin chic of wooded glades. As the wind passes through the tightly packed plants, the wood bends and creaks, the leaves rustle, and the trunks knock together, creating a peaceful sound like almost nothing else.
In Japan, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are often situated near bamboo groves, which are viewed as a clever means of warding off evil, while the bamboo is seen as a symbol of strength.
The Japanese have a long history with bamboo, in myths and legends, metaphorically linking a mans' strength with this plant. Many festivals also include the use of bamboo in various forms. We can see that from bamboo ice cream cups, buildings and fences. However it is not often we get the chance to see bamboo forests in their natural state that grow thick and line the path like they do here.
Strolling though the bamboo forest will cost you nothing. You just have to prepare yourself and your camera to take this wonderful path.
It’s one of the most photographed sights in the city. But no picture can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of this sprawling bamboo grove – the whole thing has a palpable sense of otherness that is quite unlike that of any normal forest we know of.
The play of light and shadow along this serene path is a wonder to behold.
I open my eyes and look up against the sky, admiring the thick green bamboo stalks that seem to continue endlessly up towards the sky. The light is absolute beautiful with the sun barely peaking through the bright green bamboo leaves and the stalks swinging in the wind. The wind is making the stalks creak eerily as they collide and twist. I feel like I have entered another world, a place taken out of the fairytale of Alice in Wonderland. It feels like a magic forest!
The perfect way to slow down and feel embraced by nature away from the rest of the world.
The meditative natural noise is so lovely in fact that Japan's Ministry of the Environment voted the locations aural pleasures as one of the country's "100 Soundscapes of Japan," an initiative designed to get the local population to get out and appreciate the wonders of the ears. If visitors can find a time to visit the bamboo forest when it is relatively empty the combination of visual beauty and auditory calm may be one of a kind. There is no word however on how the place smells.
The Arashiyama area of Kyoto contains several Shinto shrines and temples, like the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tenryu-ji temple located right outside the bamboo forest.
Ranked number one of Kyoto's five great temples, Tenryu-ji celebrates a history dating back to 1339 and stands in dedication and memory to an ancient emperor. Many of the temple buildings have been destroyed over the centuries, but the temple's landscape garden remains much the same today as it did in the 14th century.
Tenryu-ji Zen Temple – Shrine Entrance.
The best thing about the Tenryuji temple grounds may very well be its splendid Sogenchi Gardens. Over the years the gardens been cultivated and cared for throughout the many seasons. The location is famous for its beautiful blossoming flowers during the spring time or its autumn leaves during fall. Stroll under the shade of the garden’s trees while listening to the flowing water from a small stream and your mind starts to ease. What’s great about places like Tenryuji is it is far enough from Kyoto station that you don’t feel inclined to quickly see one tourist attraction after another to quickly complete a checklist. The gardens and environment is a great place to relax and you won’t feel rushed or guilty to do so.
Cherry Blossom in Tenryuji Temple garden.
You can’t help but notice that this is one of the best examples of shakkei (borrowed scenery) in Japan: the steep mountains of Arashiyama form are perfectly incorporated into the design of the garden.
you can sit and admire the landscape garden with its koi pond, rocks, trees and the forested Arashiyama in the background. It’s like a Chinese oil painting. Sit and let this beauty calm your mind, soul and heart.
Arashiyama in the background. Koi pond in the foreground.
I loved the Sagano Bamboo Grove!! It is one of Kyoto’s and Japan`s top sights and that for good reason – it is really beautiful and standing among these soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world! If you are planning a trip to Kyoto, you should definitely visit the Bamboo Forest! Along with the Torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple, it is one of the most popular sights in the Kyoto and for a good reason. No picture can really capture the feeling of standing in the midst of the sprawling green bamboo grove listening to the wind rustle in the leaves – you have to feel it yourself!
The Tenryu-ji garden itself also boasts a clever and unique design that marries imperial taste with zen aesthetics. Lush foliage lines a shimmering pond, and as visitors walk from one end of the pond to the other, it appears as though the seasons change in front of their eyes. Intricate stonework on one hill represents a mountain stream cascading into the pond, while in another area stones appear to be carp fish. You should seek out the garden to be transported to another time!
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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