February 12, 2012
by Maki Mitsumata and Nami Murakami
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo is found in regions with a warm climate. It exists from the north of Hokkaido through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. It also exists in central Africa. It is not so common in North Africa, Europe, or North America. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Some species can grow up to 100 cm in a day! The number of species differs according to various sources. It is said that there are approximately 600 to 1,200 species in the world, while in Japan there are between 150 and 600 species. Dry bamboo is hard and flexible, and is used in various ways. For example, paper is made from bamboo fiber. It is also used to make vinegar and charcoal, as well as for building and industrial arts materials.
The Most Famous Bamboo Grove in Kyoto
There are many bamboo forests in and around Kyoto. The most famous bamboo grove in Kyoto is in Sagano, near the famous Arashiyama region on the west side of the city. This bamboo grove has a road that runs through it for about 100 meters, from Nonomiya Shrine to Okochi Cottage. If you walk slowly down this path, you can smell the scent of bamboo and feel the rays of sunshine that come from down through the foliage above. You can forget how time flies while walking through the bamboo grove, or you can just walk there without thinking about anything in particular. The path through the bamboo grove is flooded with many tourists on holidays. Therefore, you should go there on weekdays so that you can walk slowly and in peace. If you plan to go on holidays or weekends, an early time would be best.
In addition to the lovely sights, the rustle when the wind goes through the bamboo grove is a very pleasant sound to Japanese people. In fact, the Japanese Environmental Agency chose this as part of its list of 100 selections of Japanese sound scenes to be saved. Therefore, the bamboo grove is one of the most poignant symbols of Japanese sensibility. You can listen to this pleasant sound in the following video:
Currently, this famous bamboo grove is maintained and supported by a managing group of people who own property there. Kyoto city also helps to manage it.
The Kyoto-Arashiyama Hanatoro Festival is held in mid-December around Sagano and Arashiyama. In this festival, about 2,500 oriental lamps are lit and people enjoy the night walk. This is a sightseeing event on the theme of ‘light’ that started in December of 2005. It had over a million visitors in 2011. Many temples and shrines are lit up, as is the bamboo grove road running between Nonomiya Shrine and Okochi Cottage. These nighttime lights create a fantastic scene.
If you go there in person, you can see experience much greater beauty than these photos represent. Moreover, you can sample delicious Japanese cuisine nearby. If you are interested in bamboo forests, why don’t you go with your family, friends, or special someone?