The Arashiyama area is a “touristy” location, which makes it sound like one of those ugly tourist traps flooded with souvenir shops vomiting cheap goods onto sidewalks. Not so. It does have souvenir tourist shops, but a lot of the stuff is a lot more tasteful than the cheapo “I <3 [insert city here]” fare, with some gorgeous products such as handcrafted chopsticks or beautiful coin purses.
It probably helps that it’s been a “tourist” spot for over a thousand years.
There are a lot of gorgeous sights to see in this area, but let’s start with the bamboo forest itself, which, as you can see, is simply otherworldly.
Generally, it can get pretty darn crowded here since it’s such a hot destination.
The winter day we were there was a little crowded at parts, given that it was holiday season, and that’s kind of a bummer when you want to just take gorgeous photographs of the bamboo without crowds of people. So if you’re interested in taking some people-free photos, I’d suggested coming early in the morning before the crowds get there. Also, apparently they sometimes light up the bamboo groves at night for some lovely night views, so that would be worth it, too. Often I had to take pics above people’s heads or to the side to cut them out, but pictures still came out nicely.
However, despite the crowds, there were some parts where the crowd thinned and I was able to get some ambient shots of the walkways.
One thing about visiting Kyoto this time was it was after I had become a pretty hardcore fan of the anime Rurouni Kenshin, so there were a lot of sites that I found familiar from the anime itself, if you can believe that. Since Kenshin is a historical fiction about the Japanese civil war about a century ago and the Meiji Restoration that followed, a lot of Kyoto was the site of some key events, and the ronin assassin samurai in the magenta kimono was often traipsing through Kyoto landscapes, including the Arashiyama bamboo forest area. I could practically hear the slicing of bamboo by samurai blade at times.
Definitely, pictures can’t exactly capture the feeling of being in the place. One particular aspect that I had wished I could bottle and bring home with me was the sound of the wind blowing through the bamboo. It was like a flowing waterless rainfall was enveloping the area, and everyone would suddenly stop and look up at the waving bamboo to feel the sensations of those amazing moments.
The bamboo was not the only sight to enjoy there. There was a creepy but pretty cemetery right at the edge of the forest.
Also, the buildings in and around the area had really pretty stylized designs that added to the ambience of the whole neighborhood.
Next up in the Arashiyama area, Tenryuji Temple.