IT’S strong, resilient and very much part of Japan’s culture: the bamboo.
It’s in a folklore and used in expressions, you’ll find it in the cuisine, it plays an important part in festivals, it’s used for construction, handicrafts and art, and perhaps, in so many ways, a lifesaver, because the people are told to run for cover in a bamboo forest when earthquake strikes.
If you can consider the number of regular visitors this Kyoto attraction receives daily as “earth shaking”, then everyone is in the right place –the Sagano Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama.
The 100-meter scenic path that cuts through the emerald tinted grass forest is breathtaking, its vegetation so lush that it was listed by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan, a list created in 1996 by the agency as part of its efforts to combat noise pollution, and to protect and promote the environment.
Soundscape is defined as the component of the acoustic environment that can be perceived by humans, and Japan’s list of soundscapes was created to act as “symbols for the locals to promote the rediscovery of the sounds of everyday life.”
There are two ways to enter the chikurin-no kumichi (path of bamboo). First, through the KameyamaKoen (park). It’s a downhill walk starting from the Okichi Sanso villa (the former home and garden of the Japanese jidaigeki or period film actor DenjiroOkochi), pass by the NonomiyaJinja shrine and the KogenJi temple at the path’s end and exit the main road.
I did the opposite, the second route, and entered through the main road (buy the Japanese buchi-like treat at the corner store, it’s delicious). Via this way, it’s an uphill walk and you’ll catch the KogenJi temple first.
They say that to take the first route is how it’s done right, but whichever way you decide to take, the seen is the same—the sight of green vegetation swaying against the gentle breeze and the sound of the rustling leaves is calming, if you don’t mind the pack of tourists and the occasional rickshaw coming from both directions.
The popular Arashiyama attraction became more desirable (perhaps) when the bamboo grove was made a backdrop in a short sequence in the 2006 film “Memoirs of a Geisha”.
Did the number of visitors spike since then? Maybe so, the strip is one of the most photographed of Kyoto’s destinations.
And to get a solo shot in the crowded emerald forest maybe next to impossible. But “maybe” leaves an open window for the realization of a dream. Be patient, be alert, make blocking work to your advantage, and when that few seconds of alone-in-the-bamboo-forest come, grab it and make that shot happen.
If you get your solo snapshot, consider that an immortalization of your own Memoirs of a Geisha-ish moment.
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