Have you ever heard of Yamato Tanooka? Last year, seven years old Yamato got lost during a family trip to one of the forests of Japan’s biggest, least populated and northernmost island – Hokkaido (and my favourite place in Japan). An extensive search operation was carried out for Yamato and he was found alive after six nights alone in the forest. The Japanese forests, which have recently hit the headlines with the news of Yamato, are somehow commonly associated with the concept of “suicide” and “death”. You may have heard of Aokigahara also featured in the recent American movie – “Sea of Trees” – otherwise known as the “suicide forest”. With this background info about the Japanese forests, I had a chance to visit the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Japan during my second visit to Kyoto. Using these quite dark concepts, I tried to photograph the forest from a little bit of a darker perspective, using long exposure to make the visitors look like ghosts.
Where is Arashiyama?
Arashiyama is one of the most common day trips from Kyoto as it is only thirty minutes away by a train. While the most special part of Arashiyama is its bamboo forest for me, the region is also a home to many temples, a lake and even a monkey park. The easiest way to reach Arashiyama is to take the JR train from Kyoto main station using the Saga-Arashiyama line – this will get you to Arashiyama center within thirty minutes. Arashiyama – thanks to its foresty landscape – is one of the most photographed regions in Japan during the famous sakura (cherry blossom) season – late March/early April.
While the bamboo forest feels very otherworldly and magical, the center of Arashiyama feels quite the opposite as it is occupied by cheesy looking gift shops not looking very authentic. If you itinerary allows for it, I would recommend that you save your meal time for Kyoto and not waste a meal in Arashiyama as the dining experience in Japan is so unique that every meal time feels important for the experience it offers.
Hear the wind – sounds of Arashiyama?
There is a walking path of approximately half a kilometer in the bamboo forest. I recommend that you take off your ear plugs and absorb the amazing forest sounds which feel relaxing and otherworldly. Arashiyama has this calming effect even when it is crowded with people.
You may have seen the wonderful snow photos of Kyoto taken this winter. Even though Kyoto gets quite cold in winter, heavy snow is not as common. Out of the all the snow photos, the ones taken in Arashiyama were my favourites. I have to confess that I felt envious of people getting to see Arashiyama under snow.