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Western Kyoto Spiritual Tour: Forest Spirits of Bamboo and Zen

  • See a side of Japan few visitors experience
  • Be guided in the ways of Zen meditation by a resident Buddhist monk
  • Partake in one of Japan's most important cultural traditions: A green tea ceremony
Western Kyoto Spiritual Tour: Forest Spirits of Bamboo and Zen
From $88.31
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  • Overview
  • What to Expect
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  • Reviews
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Western Kyoto Spiritual Tour: Forest Spirits of Bamboo and Zen
From $88.31
Have a spiritual experience missed by most visitors to Japan on this tour from Kyoto. Journey outside of the city into the picturesque surroundings of the Hozu river, surrounded by mountains and bamboo groves. Visit ancient Buddhist temples and enrich your experience of Japan's spiritual side with a guided Zen meditation session with a resident monk. Afterward enjoy a traditional matcha green tea ceremony.
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. 

Reviews (13)
1 - 5 of 13 reviews
Reviewed 4 weeks ago
The highlight of our trip

I organized (without help) a trip to Japan for myself and my three children, and included this tour as a contrast to the shopping, eating and sightseeing I had planned. (My kids at the time were 25, 21 and 20.) We all agreed it was...More

Date of experience: January 2018
Thank Peter T
Reviewed October 7, 2018 via mobile
Worth every penny!

My husband and me spent the best day of our trip last Thursday 4th October at the bamboo forest and up the beautiful mountains of Arashiyama taking in the views and learning about Zen Buddhism with the loveliest priest. Our guide Yuta was exceptional, he...More

Thank Sam O
Reviewed September 7, 2018

This has given me good understanding of Buddhism. It was a long and steep hike to the temple, but it was worth it, just be ready physically for it.

Date of experience: September 2018
Thank Mahmood M
Reviewed August 21, 2018 via mobile
A wonderful journey

This tour is all you can hope for if you are interest in spiritualism, walking in the nature and zen meditation. We were welcomed by Yuta who was very kind and helpful. We walked in the bamboo forest and he showed us some paths not...More

Thank AdrienS430
Reviewed July 30, 2018
Wonderful tour - Educational and Beautiful at the same time

We took the Western Kyoto -Zen tour had awesome time. Our guide, Miyake was wonderful ~ well spoken and very knowledgeable on the area. The pace of the tour was pleasant although getting up to the Monk’s temple was a bit of a hike so...More

Date of experience: June 2018
Thank lizerivers
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