The Bamboo Forest of Nishikyo-ku: Experience Forest Bathing, Temples, Hot Springs, and More
The Nishikyo-ku area of Kyoto, known for its bamboo cultivation, has a number of lush bamboo forests ideal for forest bathing. While Arashiyama's bamboo forest is a well-known Kyoto sightseeing spot, its popularity means that it's typically full of sightseers. In this article, we'll introduce some hidden temples and gardens where you can enjoy a deeper and more leisurely experience of Japan's bamboo forests, as well as an authentic hot spring, and a park offering a chance to see Japanese monkeys up close! Learn about the highlights in Nishikyo-ku and create a unique itinerary for your trip to Kyoto.
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Try Forest Bathing in Kyoto
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 15-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 20-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.
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, a 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.
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 in 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 aritifacts, 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.
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. They have different types of baths including 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.
Head Off the Beaten Track to Nishikyo-ku
There's so many popular spots to see in Kyoto, but if you're looking for a more relaxed and calm travel experience, we recommend a visit to Nishikyo-ku's hidden gems like Kyoto City Rakusai Bamboo Park and Jizo-in Temple. Refresh your spirits in the bamboo forest, soak in an onsen, and have an unforgettable time in Kyoto's Nishikyo-ku area.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.