Whenever you see beautiful pictures from Kyoto featuring bamboo shoots soaring into the sky, chances are they were taken at the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. There’s also a little know forest of fabrics just on the way known as the Kimono Forest. Braving the unbearable Kansai heat, my wife and I set out to take a glance at some great nature and man-made fabrics.
I had never heard of this, but my wife assured me that it was real and beautiful to watch. The night-time shots looked particularly compelling, but we didn’t want to spend all day waiting for the dusk to dawn. The Kimono Forest is actually attached to the Hannari Hokkori Square and the tiniest little train station I think I’ve ever seen. The walk is very, very short through this fabric foliage; you’re looking at a few meters, an offshoot to a nice pond with a water feature, and then back to the start. All along the way, you see these big pillars with plastic casing, in which hold the various patterns and fabrics used to make kimono.
The number of patterns is finite, as you will notice many patterns repeated along the path. The visual is great as you pass through, though. It adds a sense of wonder and magic to an already cute and cozy area slightly off the beaten path. I can’t say we spent more than 15 minutes there; there’s just not that much to do there once you make a lap and take your photographs. Still, it’s worth a look and has some great opportunities for cool photos!
Going to the bamboo forest is one of the most unassuming experiences: You walk down the main road, take a left up some low-grade stairs, past a graveyard, and boom! There you are. It’s a single path that snakes for a couple hundred meters, forking at one point and leading to either the local park or to a nearby road where you can continue your journeys through Kyoto.
It’s thick and peaceful in the forest. It’s also very shady, and couple that with a smooth breeze and you have a really nice little oasis shielded from the muggy heat. You can spend as much time here as you want, as there is no gate and no entrance fee. Just yards and yards of bamboo to gaze at.
The forest has had some issues with vandalism, though. People who are prone to tagging everything they see carve their names into the stalks of bamboo. This really damages the plant because these scars make the stalk more susceptible to fungal infections and rot. The caretakers will eventually have to cut these stalks down, reducing the thickness of the forest and putting it in danger. While we were there, we noticed some bamboo with names carved in it in multiple languages (I think we saw English, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese). We also saw some nice fences of straw and wood, nice and thick, to keep would-be intruders out.
It’s a nice trek with some fun little shops along the way. You could spend a good morning here, enjoying the cloth and the bamboo, before heading into the city to find a nice air-conditioned building to hide in. After Typhoon Jebi, parts of the forest have been blown down. Bamboo is a very strong plant, but sometimes, the winds of a category five storm are stronger. I haven’t been able to find any update pictures from the post-typhoon situation, but if they come along, I’ll be sure to update.
Even if it is a bit more sparse, I think it’s still worth the time to give it a visit. It’s so peaceful and everyone visiting seems to take on a light and airy nature. Definitely one of the most relaxing experiences of my visit to Kyoto, that’s for sure!