Bamboo Groves to Visit in Kyoto (and Alternatives to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest)

Kyoto, once the imperial capital of Japan, is a city with rich history, cultural heritage, and natural beauty. Among its many attractions, the Arashiyama bamboo forest is one of the most visited spots. However, aside from Arashiyama, Kyoto is dotted with other, less-known bamboo groves that offer a more secluded and intimate experience. In this post, you will find a list of must-see bamboo groves in Kyoto and additional visiting tips.

Lesser-Known Bamboo Groves in Kyoto

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is the most famous bamboo grove in Kyoto, attracting so many visitors that it often becomes overcrowded, which can diminish the experience. If you prefer a more serene and quiet atmosphere to fully appreciate the elegant beauty of bamboo gardens, we recommend the following places. We stumbled across them on our Kyoto trip and were pleasantly surprised.

Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple

One of the most unique things about Adashino Nenbutsu-ji is its collection of thousands of stone statues of Buddha, which are scattered throughout the temple grounds. These statues represent the souls of the deceased who were abandoned without relatives to care for them.

While the bamboo grove at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji is small, it has a tranquil atmosphere. The path through the bamboo is very quiet with very few visitors (we actually had the place to ourselves when we visited last year). You can calmly enjoy its beauty and take photos with no one else in the frame.

Bamboo Groves at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji temple in Kyoto.
The bamboo garden at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji
a walking path through the quiet bamboo grove at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji in Kyoto, an alternative to Arashiyama bamboo forest.

Visiting tips: I think the temple and its bamboo garden remain less visited largely due to their somewhat remote location, making access more difficult for most tourists. I recommend taking a bus or taxi to Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, and then walk down to Adashino Nebutsu-ji from there. The path is very scenic, and you can read my Arashiyama self-guided walking route for more detailed information.

Also, be sure to check out general temple and shrine etiquette to follow in Japan. I’ve seen more and more “Instagram influencers” post about this temple, so I’m not sure if it’s going to become crowded in the future. I hope its atmosphere will not be ruined and visitors will be respectful.

Kodai-ji Temple

  • Location: in Higashiyama ward, near Gion (Google Maps)

Kodai-ji is a beautiful temple with exquisite gardens and tea rooms. Walking through the gardens, you’ll find a small but enchanting bamboo grove that adds to the temple’s aesthetic and spiritual ambiance. Our mediocre photography skill doesn’t quite capture its ethereal beauty and tranquil atmosphere.

the bamboo garden at Kodai-ji temple in Kyoto with a walking path.
Small bamboo grove at Kodai-ji temple in Kyoto.
The bamboo grove at Kodai-ji temple

The location of Kodai-ji makes it an easy addition to a day of sightseeing in Gion and Higashiyama area. We think the temple itself is worth visiting for its history and architecture. So it was quite puzzling to see so few visitors during our visit. It seems its busy time is in the fall, when the temple offers special night illuminations. During this event, the gardens and bamboo grove are lit up, creating a mesmerizing experience.

Hidden Bamboo Grove at Fushimi Inari

We had read about a hidden path leading to the “secret” bamboo grove at Fushimi Inari before even visiting Kyoto but didn’t have the time to explore it. To get there, you start by walking past the main shrine as normal, and later take a path off to the side of the tunnel of torii gates.

You can do a Google or Youtube search to see how to reach the hidden bamboo grove. There are also Fushimi Inari walking tours that will take visitors to the bamboo area, such as this Hidden Hiking Tour on Viator.

Fushimi Inari is one of the major attractions in Kyoto, besides Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji. Therefore, it is better to go early for a quieter atmosphere. And generally, the crowds tend to thin out the further up you go.

a tunnel of vermillion torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.

Is Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Still Worth Visiting?

One of the most iconic sights in Kyoto, the Arashiyama bamboo grove is a larger bamboo forest, compared to those mentioned above. It is not vast though, and walking through it without stopping takes about 5-10 minutes.

We found the sound of the wind rustling through the bamboo leaves quite soothing and memorable when walking through it. However, other than that, we didn’t enjoy the atmosphere since it was very crowded and touristy.

Here are the two main advantages of Arashiyama bamboo grove compared to the ones mentioned above:

  • It is free to enter. Fushimi Inari is also free; however, an entrance fee is required for Adashino Nenbutsu-ji and Kodai-ji (about 500-600 yen). Both temples have very nice written goshuin though, if you are interested in collecting that.
  • It is easily accessible, flat, and wheelchair-friendly. Accessing the three hidden bamboo groves mentioned previously involves several to a number of steps and stairs.
the walking path full of tourists at Arashiyama bamboo groves.
Arashiyama bamboo groves

Overall, we think it is not a must to visit the bamboo grove in Arashiyama. However, Arashiyama area is very picturesque and there is much more to see there than just bamboo. Again, I have an article about the best self-guided walking route with a variety of things to see and eat in Arashiyama.

Given its proximity to other attractions, such as Tenryu-ji Temple, Okochi Sanso Garden, and Togetsukyo Bridge, it’s quite likely you’ll find yourself on the Arashiyama bamboo path almost inadvertently. If you want to walk through it slowly and take pictures, get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Otherwise, your valuable time in Kyoto may be better spent elsewhere instead of at this bamboo forest.

a lush and beautiful bamboo grove in Kyoto, an excellent alternative to Arashiyama bamboo forest.
lush and beautiful bamboo groves in Kyoto, an excellent alternative to Arashiyama bamboo forest.

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