In the Western part of the city of Kyoto there's one of the most spectacular places in Japan - Arashiyama Park and the Sagano bamboo forest. The park owes its huge popularity not only to its extraordinarily beautiful landscapes, but also the unique sound created by the wind blowing through bamboo stalks.
Guests visiting Sagano Forest state that this sound, which resembles music, has a calming effect and gives a person a feeling of harmony. It’s not surprising, then, that the Japanese government registered the soundscape of this place on its list of protected monuments of national heritage.
The grove covers an area of 16 square kilometres. Numerous walking trails on both sides are bordered by fences made of dried bamboo stalks. The Moso bamboo species from China grows here, like all over Japan. This type of bamboo is unique because it can grow up to 20 metres in barely a month, and the largest plants can reach even 40 metres in height and 35 cm in diameter.
Sagano Forest was created by Muso Soseki, a monk and poet, in the 14th century. In addition to the rows of bamboo, one can find here Sojen Pond, surrounded by paths, with a shape reminiscent of the Japanese character for ''heart". On the right, we'll see majestic mountains, and on the left the medieval temple of Tenryu Ji. This temple was built in 1339 but has burned down several times. Thus, the only thing that remains completely in its original form is a garden with a stone arrangement laid out in a waterfall.
In the East, the beneficial properties of bamboo have been known for a long time. In India, it's a sign of friendship, and in China - a symbol of long life. In Japan, people believe that bamboo trees protect people from evil spirits - for this reason, they are often planted around temples.
A bit further on, we find the "House of the Fallen Persimmons" - a small house in which the Japanese poet Mukai Kyorai stayed several times during his travels. A haiku that he wrote was engraved into one of the stones near the house.
From the Togetsukyo Bridge, a panorama of Arashiyama Mountain and the Katsura River opens up. It's possible to visit this amazing landscape in a boat. But the most beautiful thing which Arashiyama can give us is the opportunity for solitary contemplation. We'll find here a cosy gazebo which is ideal for this kind of contemplation. It's possible to become submerged in silence and the gentle sounds of the bamboo forest, and to infinitely admire the views of Old Kyoto which open up from the top of the hill.