Early summertime in Kyoto is when the locals like to stretch their legs, go on hikes, and enjoy a picnic on the outskirts of the city. Another way of getting close to nature as the weather becomes gradually warmer is “forest bathing” in the verdant bamboo groves of Nishikyo-ku.
A fifteen-minute train ride west of central Kyoto, the Nishikyo-ku ward is one of Japan’s centers of bamboo growing. Most of Kyoto’s traditional bamboo crafts and building materials are made from bamboo grown in this area.
Furthermore, it is believed that Taketori Monogatari, or “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” Japan’s oldest prose narrative, was set in Nishikyo-ku. The story is about a baby girl discovered inside the stalk of a glowing bamboo plant, who matures into a beautiful woman and one day returns home to the moon, when her servants come for her on a full moon night in midsummer.
The most famous bamboo grove in Kyoto is undoubtedly the one located on the north of Arashiyama’s Togetsukyo Bridge. However, this destination is almost always packed with people, and it’s impossible to get a feel of its true qualities in the hustle and bustle and the constant flow of tourists. So to truly experience the magic of a bamboo forest, venture a bit deep into the woods and explore other areas of Nishikyo-ku, the secret haven of Kyoto’s bamboo.
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama: Let loose with monkeys at the mountaintop
Nishikyo-ku is also where you’ll find Arashiyama, famously known for the timeless Togetsukyo Bridge and the Iwatayama Monkey Park. Free-ranging monkeys await visitors at the mountaintop, which is reached by a twenty-minute hike up a surprisingly tranquil trail. For a few hundred yen, you can buy a pack of snacks to feed the monkeys yourself from inside an enclosed rest area. The panoramic views of the city are also worth the hike uphill.
Access: By JR Line: A 15-minute walk from Saga Arashiyama Station
By Hankyu Railway: A five-minute walk from Arashiyama Station
Opening Hours: 9:00 - 16:30 (The mountaintop park is open until 17:00)
Admission: 550 yen for adults (high school students and older), 250 yen for children (junior high students and younger), Free for children under age 3
Jizo-in Temple: A transcendent Zen sanctuary known as the "bamboo temple"
Built in the mid 14th century, this Rinzai sect temple is full of soaring stalks of bamboo which gave it its nickname. Jizo-in Temple is also where the Zen Buddhist monk Ikkyu, an historical figure famously depicted in Japanese anime, spent his childhood. Its gentle breeze, dappled sunlight, raindrops sparkling on tree branches, and the beautiful gradation of fresh greenery, moss, and bamboo are especially lush, luminous, and mesmerizing in the early summertime.
Access: By JR Line: From Kyoto Station, take the Kyoto bus #73 bound for Arashiyama Kokedera Suzumushidera. The temple is a 3-minute walk from the Kokedera bus stop.
By Hankyu Railway: A 12-minute walk from Kamikatsura Station
Opening Hours: 9:00 - 16:30 (Last entry by 16:15)
Admission: 500 yen for adults and university students, 300 yen for high school students and younger
Kyoto City Rakusai Bamboo Park: A beautiful yet little-known hideaway
The boundary of the park is lined with bamboo plants along a serene and quintessentially Japanese-style path that stretches 1.8 kilometers. Still relatively unknown, it’s a place where visitors can breathe deeply the crisp, quiet air of a bamboo forest. The museum inside the park is an educational facility that showcases bamboo instruments and crafts, as well as historical bamboo artefacts, such as a lightbulb made by Thomas Edison with a bamboo filament sourced from Kyoto. The park features over a hundred varieties of bamboo gathered from across the country.
Access: By JR Line: From Katsuragawa station, take the Kyoto City bus Toku Nishi 4. The park is a five-minute walk from the Minamifukunishicho (Chikurin Koen-mae) bus stop.
By Hankyu Railway: From Hankyu Katsura Station, take the Kyoto City bus Nishi 3 or Nishi 8. The park is a five-minute walk from the Minamifukunishicho (Chikurin Koen-mae) bus stop.
Hotel Kyoto Eminence Takenosato Onsen: Reinvigorate your body and soul after a full day of sightseeing
Takenosato Onsen is one of the few facilities in Kyoto City where visitors can dip into authentic natural hot spring baths. The Onsen’s tea different types of baths include a spacious indoor bath, an open-air bath, sauna, and jacuzzi. Although the onsen facility is built inside the Kyoto Hotel Eminence, even non-staying travelers are welcome to relax and soak away their tiredness in the warm baths. It’s the perfect oasis to relieve muscle tension and restore your energy at the end of a long day.
Access: By JR Line: From Katsuragawa Station, take the Kyoto City bus Nishi 4 or Nishi 12A. The Onsen is a one-minute walk from the Sakaidani Ohashi bus stop.
By Hankyu Railway: From Hankyu Katsura Station, take the Kyoto City bus Nishi 1, Nishi 2, or Nishi 5. The Onsen is a one-minute walk from the Sakaidani Ohashi bus stop.
Opening Hours: 10:00 - 23:00 (Last entry by 22:00)
Admission: 830 yen for adults and 520 yen for children on weekdays, 1,000 yen for adults and 620 yen for children on weekends and holidays, Free for children under age 3