Place Category: Attractions
Smooth, paved paths through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove ensures that those in wheelchairs or other mobility aides can also enjoy the ancient atmosphere of Kyoto.
Situated in the foothills off the main tourist area in Arashiyama, this famous bamboo grove is one of Kyoto’s most visited locations. The forest itself is comprised of several main groves, but the most celebrated is the westernmost one located behind Tenryuji Zen temple. The tall bamboo here is particularly nice on sunny, breezy days when you can experience komorebi – a Japanese word used to describe soft, dappled light as it filters through leaves and branches.
This special spot is what the edges of Kyoto used to look like before the city expanded, but the bamboo forest is not a wild forest nowadays. There are groups of local volunteers who show up every few weeks to care for the trees, repair the fences, and remove old growth. The bamboo itself is used in local crafts that you can find in shops along the main street in Arashiyama. At certain times of year, lights are installed along the path to illuminate the bamboo at night. You’ll probably spot some locals dressed up in kimonos taking pictures, as this is a very popular spot for domestic tourism as well.
About half way into the forest from the main street is Nonomiya Jinja. This small Shinto shrine deep in the bamboo used to be a training location for imperial daughters who were chosen to become priestesses at various shrines throughout Japan. Because of this, it’s a popular spot for young girls to visit nowadays and pray for good luck in finding love and prosperity. Even without going up the main steps, you can see inside the shrine through the trees and watch locals writing their wishes on wooden boards and buying lucky charms to take home. Take note of the torii gate at the entrance to the shrine. It’s the only one in the country made of unfinished, rough wood with the bark still attached.
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove can be accessed from either Hankyu’s Arashiyama Station, or JR’s Saga-Arashiyama Station. Both stations are fully accessible, including accessible toilets and elevators. Click on the station name to see a station map.
The grove itself is smooth and paved and is an easy ride for wheelchair users. There are some sloping areas and crowding in areas, but nothing that should cause difficulty.
Tenryuji Zen Temple is located near the beginning of the path through the groves. While the temple grounds have gravel paths and some areas are inaccessible due to steps, many parts of the temple are wheelchair accessible. A wheelchair accessible toilet is available within the temple grounds, however, since the temple is separate from the bamboo groves, it can only be used during temple hours (8:30 to 17:30; until 17:00 from late October to late March) and after paying the entrance fee of 500 yen.
The nearby Nonomiya Jinja is unfortunately inaccessible for those with mobility issues as it only has stairs at the entrance.
To get an idea of the area before going, the entire area has been mapped on Google Street View.
Railwayman Bicycle Rental, located next to Saga Torokko Station, has 3 manual wheelchairs available to borrow for free.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove feels like the ancient Japan that so many people hope to experience when visiting Kyoto. The smooth path ensures that those in wheelchairs or other mobility aides can also enjoy the atmosphere. There are many other places to see nearby, so visiting Arashiyama is a must-do.
Special thanks: Accessible Japan would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to:
- KyoTours Japan for the excellent background information on Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. http://www.kyotoursjapan.com/
- Shireen & Ruud for helpful information on accessibility at the site and train stations, as well as the top image.
Volunteer contribution help many interested visitors. Thank you!