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Exploring Abroad Series: Family Time in Sagano Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan

Leah from the blog City Living Boston shares a magical adventure she planned for her family including her 9 and 11 year old children. As you'll read, the trip was inspired by social media, and we hope this post will inspire you, as well! You can follow Leah on her blog, on Instagram at @citylivingboston, or Twitter @BostonintheCity.

It all started with a photograph on Instagram. Not the trip to Japan itself, but this little family hike. Japan was a destination my husband and I chose based on a variety of factors. We thought about places we have always wanted to go, we thought about travel with the kids, we thought about how easily our picky eater would find foods he likes. Japan checked all the boxes especially since our picky eater liked miso soup, rice and edamame.


We only had ten days for the trip and that included taking the kids out of school a little early. Our two destinations would be Tokyo for the urban Japanese experience, and Kyoto for a different urban experience in a city with a less modern feel than Tokyo from which we could easily take some rural day trips. For vacations and travel, I am the family concierge and tour guide. My job is to find all the best places to eat, play, explore and visit.

When you travel far and it takes a day on each end to get to and from your destination, 10 days is a short trip. We wanted to get the most out of our 10 days. The pressure was on to find things that we all would enjoy. I love doing the research and finding just the right way to spend our days. I don’t want to waste one meal on bad food. The order of every single day is thought out so we can squeeze everything in. On the other hand, we don’t try to cram everything in on one trip. I don’t want vacation to feel like work. We schedule in a leisurely morning or a little chill time at the playground.

For most of my research, I skip the guidebooks and go straight to the blogs and to social media. What I love about social media is that I can see what is going on right now. The photos are from today or yesterday or last week, not several years ago as they are in the guidebooks. I was looking through some of the #igerskyoto photos on Instagram. You can search by using the places options or the # option. When I was looking up Kyoto, Japan I saw photos of the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama. I knew we had to go there and planned a day around it.

The Bamboo Forest

After finding our destination: Sagano Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto, I had to build our day around it. I did a little research and learned that we could take a boat ride town the river and then a steam train ride back. The Hozugawa River cruise took us from Kameoka to Arashiyama. It was on a traditional boat that the boatmen pushed down the river with bamboo poles and steered with a rudder and oars. The two hour cruise was a great way to see the river and surrounding area, and by the time we got to our destination we were ready to stretch our legs a little.

Once we reached shore and stopped for lunch on the riverbank, it was time to go find that magical looking forest with the long, thin bamboo poles that seem to reach to the sky. The bamboo forest has a fairly wide path going through it. It was a place to explore at our own pace. We would walk together at some points and one of us would just stay back and stare up at other times. Certain areas can get quite crowded. It all depends what time of day and year you go. We were there just after lunch on a spring day-- a fairly popular time, but it didn’t feel that crowded. Some Japanese tourists and locals will dress in traditional clothes for a photo session out in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and tourists come from all over to stroll through it.

Happy Family at the Sagaro Bamboo Forest

There is a 500 meter path that runs through the grove. Time and space seems infinite once you step into this magical world. The bamboo makes you feel tiny and fills you with awe as you look up and out and see long, strong, bamboo stalks as far as the eye can see.

A sense of zen comes over you, too. I’m not sure if it is all the green, or the lovely linear pattern that the bamboo creates, but you can’t help but unwind and relax on this path. It isn’t a hike where you rush through to get to a destination but rather one that you breathe in and enjoy together. The path is long and straight for a good portion so the kids could run ahead or linger behind and still be seen. We were able to enjoy our moments alone amidst the bamboo and then also share our awe and wonder with one another. You can’t leave without a photo to capture the moment, but the image doesn’t come close to the full experience.

If you want to extend the hike you can head uphill to Iwatayama Monkey Park to visit the monkeys and take in the views. After our trek through the bamboo we walked through the town, past schools and houses, heading towards the Sagano Romantic Train. We stopped for some treats (tofu ice cream, waffles etc.).


  • The boat ride down the Hozugawa is fairly long-- it takes about two hours. You can also get to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest by train or bus from Kyoto.

  • There is plenty to see, but it can also be quite hot in the spring and summer.

  • The tours are in Japanese, but the tour guides will sometimes know a little English.

  • You can also set up private tours of Arashiyama.

  • The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is near the Tenryu-ji Temple and Okochi Villa, which was the estate of actor Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962).

  • Plan to hike up to Iwatayama Monkey Park. You will get a great view of Kyoto. It is an uphill walk but it takes less than 30 minutes to get to the top.

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Check out the rest of our Exploring Abroad Series HERE, and share your own adventures on our Facebook page or by tagging @wikebaby on Instagram!

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