Arashiyama, Western Kyoto

Bamboo Grove

There’s nothing that speaks of the exoticism of Asia quite as much as the bamboo grove. In Japan they line roads and rivers, stand tall on mountains, the bamboo flourishing as if — well, as if it were quite at home here.

One of the most visited and photographed sites in Japan is the Arashiyama bamboo grove which lies between the eminently visitable Tenryuji temple and Okochi-sanso villa.

Despite the ubiquity of this towering plant, entering the grove is a strangely rare and special experience. First, groves are normally dense and often inaccessible. Having this one open is a treat you don’t want to miss. Second, the light inside has a quality unlike anything else. 

This grove in Arashiyama comes with its own people-friendly path right through the middle and you can spend hours just photographing this magic world outside the real world.

It’s best to get here early if possible when there are less people around as it can get crowded during the day, there are no open or close times, or entrance fees.  We visit here on our Heartland Tour

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove



Is Tenryuji the unluckiest temple in Japan?

I was built in the 13th century, as magnificent as any temple in the country at the time, and as the principal temple of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism.

It was constructed on an ancient holy site that had been left in disrepair for 400 years. Tenryuji was then hit by fire — and hit by fire again and again and again.

But as often as disaster befell it, the temple was rebuilt, so the magnificent place we have inherited looks pretty much as it would have all those centuries ago.

What has not changed is the gardens, which remain as they were intended: classic, formal, gorgeous.

For the modern visitor, Tenryuji is located in the western district of Kyoto named Arashiyama and within easy distance of a host of other sights such as the bamboo groves and the Oi river — a beautiful destination all year round.

Tenryuji in Arashiyama



Think green, think Saihoji.

Saihoji is nicknamed the Moss Temple, or Kokedera, for its truly magical and mystical moss covered gardens.

At its creation in the 8th century, moss was not on the minds of the designers, who carefully crafted temple gardens in a more conventional style. However, after a mishap involving floods in the Edo period, and a reported lack of funds to clean up properly, moss started to take over.

It was decided that the green stuff looked just fine and it was allowed to flourish. There are said to be over 120 varieties of moss here.

Unfortunately, Kokedera is not open to simply stroll in as most temples and shrines are. You need to make a written application a good week in advance, pay ¥3,000, and when you arrive you will be asked to undertake certain tasks such as meditating or tracing sutras for a short while. After that you have 90 minutes to explore the exquisite gardens. There is also a classically designed stone garden (moss free), one of the most notable examples of its kind, and various pavilions and tea houses.

Saihouji has UNESCO world Heritage status.  If you want to visit here, let us know and we’ll get it arranged.

Saihouji, the famous moss garden with World Heritage Status



The garden of the lion’s roar … A beautifully evocative name from an age long gone. The garden in question (a lot safer than its name suggests) has been noted for its special beauty for hundreds of years and is one of Japan’s most notable temple gardens.

Many say the garden is at its best in autumn when the leaves of the trees in the temple grounds and on the slopes of the mountains that make the backdrop explode into fiery reds and yellows. At any time of the year the garden is illuminated at night giving visitors a thrillingly mystical experience.

The statue of Buddha here also well known for its eleven faces.

Located in the specially beautiful area of Arashiyama near Tenryuji, a visit to Hogonin can easily be incorporated into a tour of the surrounding delights.



Okochi Sanso Garden

A peaceful garden located near the end of the bamboo path. The admission fee of JPY1,000 seems to deter most of the smart phone wielding droves outside.  It is worth the entrance fee and you can fully enjoy it properly without the crowds.



Adashino Nenbutsu Temple

A great spot, within walking distance from the main attractions of Arashiyama




Preserved area in northern Arashiyama, we visit here on our Crimson Leaf Tour each November when the leafs are ablaze!