Finding Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama, Kyoto
Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto

In almost every Kyoto travel guide, you would undoubtedly find pictures of a lush bamboo thicket. Some would show a walkway flanked by numerous bamboos on both sides. Some would show bamboos growing so closely together that you cannot see what lies beyond them. But where are these dramatic photographs taken? What is this place called?

Scanning through Google Maps, I located Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (see map at the bottom) and set out looking for it. Knowing the words for bamboo and forest in Japanese – 竹 take and 森 mori, I decided to ask for direction after walking around Arashiyama Station for quite a while. 

“竹の森はどこですか? take no mori wa doko desu ka? (Where is the bamboo forest?)”, I asked people who looked my way. Most people shook their heads and walked on. One lady stopped and looked puzzle over my question. “竹の森?”, she repeated to herself. So I said, “はい、竹がいっぱいあるの場所。Hai, take ga ippai aru no basho. (Yes, a place with lots of bamboos.)” After pondering for a moment, a light bulb above her head seemed to have turned on. “竹林!Chikurin!”, she exclaimed and showed me the way to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

As with any language, there are many ways to say the same thing in Japanese. A kanji character can have multiple pronunciations. There are pronunciations derived from the character's Chinese reading (a.k.a. 音読み onyomi) and those that are based on native Japanese language (a.k.a. 訓読み kunyomi). For bamboo 竹, chiku is the onyomi, take is the kunyomi. While 森 mori does mean forest, 林 rin is the word for a grove or small forest. So the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is 嵐山竹林 Arashiyama Chikurin.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest



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