The Sagano Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama, Kyoto3:30 AM
When Chiyo (Zhang Ziyi) became a full-pledged geisha, she was paraded in Hanamachi by Hatsumomo (Gong Li) which included a ride aboard a 1920's luxury car along the Bamboo Grove. That scene in the 2006 film "Memoirs of a Geisha" lasted only for nearly five seconds but the background visuals were so stunning that it left a mark.
I soon realized that the Sagano Bamboo Grove in the Arashiyama District in Kyoto is actually a real place. It's not just any production design made specifically for the movie. It is among the places in Kyoto which have been proclaimed to be a National Historic Site as a "Scenic Place of Beauty".
Given the chance to spend a day in Kyoto while I was traveling in Japan earlier this week, I told myself that I have to visit this place. It may not be the season of the cherry blossoms and even if it was raining very hard that day, the Bamboo Grove is a must-see.
The Japanese has a long history of the bamboo in their folklore, specifically in its myths and legends. The bamboo also plays an important part in some of the Japanese festivals. There are a lot of Bamboo forests in the Kyoto area but the Sagano Grove is special because of the 100-meter walkway that is built in the middle, leading to another beautiful Kyoto landmark, the Tenryu-ji Temple.
Even if it gives you the feel of the countryside, commuting to the Bamboo Grove is pretty easy. Japanese trains can be very overwhelming at first but if you survived Tokyo, you should be fine in Kyoto. You can take the JR Sagano Line from the central Kyoto station and cross six stations to the Saga Arashiyama station. From there, you can walk for about 7-10 minutes to the Bamboo Grove, passing by a quiet residential area. Just follow the pack of tourists and you should be on the right track.
Access to the Bamboo Grove is totally for free. However, separate fees apply if you want to enter the temples surrounding it. You can choose to visit anytime of the day but daytime is the best time of course.
Just be sure to take your senti mood with you to appreciate the beauty of the Sagano Bamboo Grove fully. I didn't really need that, however. I instantly fell in love with the place. :)