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Western Kyoto Spiritual Tour: Forest Spirits of Bamboo and Zen

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2 travellers
    What to Expect
    Our cultural and spiritual tour of the city will begin with a walk through the cosy and tranquil residential streets of Saga Arashiyama. This quaint suburban village was originally outside of Heiankyo — the name given to ancient Kyoto — and functioned as a restful resort for the city's noble families. 

    We’ll cross the main street, which is brimming with colourful craft shops and mouth-watering street food stalls and make our way to the famous Bamboo Grove of Arashiyama. Often mistakenly referred to as a forest, it is in fact a ‘grove,’ as bamboo is not a tree, it’s actually a type of grass.

    As we stroll, the bamboo gently sways in the breeze, with dramatic streaks of sunlight shimmering through the tall emerald stalks, giving you a sense of slipping back in time or entering into another world. 

    Halfway through the bamboo grove, we’ll reach the compact but highly detailed Nonomiya Shrine. This ancient 9th-century structure was originally a sacred site for the purification and preparation of the priestesses of the Ise Grand Shrine. Today, it is a peaceful place where believers quietly ask their deities for a happier domestic life. 

    At the top of the grove we’ll wander through pretty Kameyama Park before reaching the mighty Hozu river valley. We’ll walk along the river, enjoying its lush surroundings, passing quirky shops, restaurants and historical sites as we go. 

    We’ll stop on Togetsukyo Bridge, which literally means ‘Moon Crossing Bridge,’ where we can take in pretty vistas and admire the swooping cormorant birds. During the summer months, trained cormorants are used in a method of fishing called ukai, where the birds catch the fish for the fishermen.

    Next up, we’ll stroll along the river until the end of the footpath. We then continue our way up the winding, ancient stone steps of Daihikaku Senkoji Temple. It’s located on the side of a scenic mountain with panoramas of the Hozu River valley, Arashiyama area, and Kyoto City on the horizon. On clear days you can even see to the top of the five-tiered Pagoda of Ninnaji Temple, far into the distance. 

    Here you will have a unique opportunity to encounter Zen by engaging in authentic Zen meditation under the guidance of a resident monk. We’ll also partake in a traditional matcha green tea ceremony, one of the hallmarks of Zen Buddhist culture. 

    After your Zen experience, we’ll leave the temple grounds and head back along the Hozu riverside to the lively main road of Arashiyama where our tour ends, outside the Randen Keifuku Arashiyama station, which is the terminus for the old tram or streetcar. 

    The station area provides an assortment of eating and shopping options for you to indulge in. There is also a glowing display of beautiful Kimono fabric patterns in transparent tubes, known as the Kimono forest. We also recommend the foot spa, where natural spring water can soothe your weary feet. 
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    Important Information
    Departure Point
    JR Saga-Arashiyama Sta. Public Bathroom, Japan, 〒616-8373 京都市右京区Ukyo Ward, Sagatenryūji Kurumamichichō, JR嵯峨嵐山駅南側
    Departure Time
    2:00 PM
    3h 30m
    Return Details
    Arashiyama Station, Arashiyama Higashiichikawacho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0002, Japan
    • Local English-speaking guide
    • Zen meditation instruction
    • Matcha green tea ceremony and cup of tea
    • Coffee and/or Tea
    • Additional food and drink
    • Souvenirs and any additional transportation
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    Additional Info
    • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
    • Not wheelchair accessible
    • Please wear modest, casual dress and comfortable walking shoes.
    • In case of closure of the temple the tour will not run. The booking can then either be changed to an alternative date or otherwise we will partially refund the customer.
    • In severe weather conditions some of the walks may be slippery in case of rain.
    • We can accommodate vegetarian and other dietary restrictions. Please notify us in advance if you have any dietary requests.
    • For your Urban Adventure you will be in a small group of a maximum of 12 people.
    • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 12 travelers
    Cancellation Policy
    For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.
    Reviews (22)
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    1 - 5 of 21 reviews
    Reviewed 1 week ago

    I had always been very interested in Zen Buddhism and the philosophy behind it. This was a rare opportunity to get to immerse myself into their genuine culture and learn about it from a monk himself. The tour was really well constructed, and our guide...More

    Date of experience: September 2019
    Thank hananperveen
    KyotoUA, Manager at Kyoto Urban Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded 1 week ago

    Thank you hananperveen for your fabulous comment. Masayo and Kyoto team are extremely happy to hear that you enjoyed the tour. Please have a good time in Kyoto. Best regards, Kohei Tamaki

    Reviewed 2 weeks ago

    I have to admit leading up to this tour, I was most excited about seeing the bamboo grove after all the beautiful Instagram pictures I've seen of it. But the highlights were actually our tour guide Zen and the experience of being in a secluded,...More

    Date of experience: September 2019
    Thank Caroline O
    KyotoUA, Manager at Kyoto Urban Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded 1 week ago

    Thank you Caroline O for your wonderful comment. Zen and Kyoto team are extremely happy to hear that you enjoyed the tour! Please enjoy your next destination. Best regards, Kohei Tamaki

    Reviewed 29 July 2019

    I can't speak highly enough about this company. I took three amazing tours with them! The guides, Masao and Zen, were amazing. Totally accommodating, informative, interesting and helpful. In one tour, there was a group of four additional travelers and in the other two, I...More

    Date of experience: July 2019
    Thank rgwalls
    KyotoUA, Manager at Kyoto Urban Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded 13 August 2019

    Thank you rgwalls for your comment. Masayo, Zen and Kyoto team are super happy to hear that you enjoyed the Urban adventures tours in Kyoto. Please enjoy your next destination! Best regards, Kohei

    Reviewed 26 June 2019

    This was a unique mix. Our guide was a young Chinese/Japanese man named "Zen" (yup) who was quite forthcoming and open in answering questions that I wouldn't have felt comfortable asking an older, more traditional Japanese person, so I got lots of insight into Japanese...More

    Date of experience: June 2019
    Thank rap_mom
    Reviewed 28 May 2019 via mobile

    We had Julian as our guide and he took us through forest spirits of bamboo and zen. Julian has rich knowledge of the Japanese history and the tour surroundings and we learnt soo much more than we would had we done the route ourselves. The...More

    2  Thank AmitM2412
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    Questions & Answers
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    25 October 2018|
    Response from Sorcha M |
    Is there availability for Saturday? I’m unable to pay online
    Key Details
    • Kyoto Urban Adventures
    • Duration: 3h 30m
    • Mobile Ticket Accepted
    • Instant confirmation
    • Languages Offered: English
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