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Kyoto Otokuni Bamboo Grove

Kyoto Otokuni Cycling Route: Cycling in the Western Kyoto Otokuni Bamboo Grove Area

2022.02.18

While Japan’s impressive high-speed bullet trains make intercity travel a breeze, what better way to explore a local area than to slow the pace down and take a leisurely cycle? With this cycling route through Kyoto’s beautiful Otokuni Bamboo Grove area on the west side of the city, you can get a feel for daily life in Japan’s cultural capital, explore an enchanting bamboo grove and hop between ancient temples, shrines and other unmissable gems.

The total route is around 17km (10.5 miles) and will take about 1 hour in total to cycle. However, there are so many sights to see along the way that you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to explore, so this route makes for a perfect day trip. Hydrate with water at one of the many vending machines you’ll pass along the way, and the route also passes by some excellent local restaurants and cozy cafes where everyone from couples to families are welcome to relax and refuel.

To make it even easier to follow this route, here’s a map with all the points marked out.

Point A: Rakusaiguchi Station

Start your day off at Rakusaiguchi Station, which is about 15 – 20 minutes away from Kyoto’s city center by train. There are a couple of bicycle rental shops just a stone’s throw away from this station, so drop any extra luggage you might have at the lockers in the station and head to the rental shops to choose your bike.

Point B: Rent a bike

For a city bike or e-bike, Hankyu Rent-A-Cycle has the best range of options, and Cycle Base Asahi Rakusaiguchi is best for sports bikes, road bikes or more e-bikes.

Cycle Base Asahi Rakusaiguchi
Per day (11:00 – 19:30)
E-bike ¥5,000
Road bike ¥3,500
Per hour ¥1,000
Per helmet ¥300

Hankyu Rent-A-Cycle
Regular bike per day ¥320 (06:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)
E-bike per day ¥420 (06:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)

*Prices current as of January, 2022

  

・Some helpful Japanese phrases:

The staff will likely know basic English, but it never hurts to have a few useful Japanese phrases on hand:
Phrases staff might say:
● Welcome! “irasshaimase!”
● What kind of bike would you like? “donno jitenshya ga ii desu ka”

Useful phrases for you:
● I’d like to rent a bike for one day “ichinichi rentaru de onegaishimasu”
● An e-bike please “e-baiku onegaishimasu”
● A road bike please “roudo baiku onegaishimasu”
● How late are you open until? “nanji made eigyou shiteimasuka?”

  

・Some rules of the road:

● In Japan, a helmet isn’t required by law, but you’ll have the option to rent one along with your bike for an extra fee.
● The bike rental shop will give you a bike lock, but take care to observe any signs when you want to park your bike to make sure that parking isn’t prohibited in that area.
● Cyclists should cycle in single-file on the left side of the road, but you’ll notice that many people also cycle on the sidewalk where permitted.
● It’s against the law to drink alcohol and cycle, so save any drinks for when you’ve returned your bike safely.

Point C the Rakusai Chikurin Bamboo Grove

Once you’ve chosen your bike, it’s time to set off! From Hankyu Rakusaiguchi Station, head south-west towards Rakusai Chikurin Bamboo Grove. This garden is home to over 110 species of bamboo and is one of only a few bamboo botanical parks in the world. Along the road, stalks of bamboo will rise on either side, and you’ll ride between beautiful fences made of young bamboo. Park your bike in the parking lot by the north gate entrance and wander on foot through the stone pathways, weaving your way through the towering bamboo. At the end of the path, you’ll come across the bamboo museum, which has signs in English and Japanese with information on bamboo and its place in Japanese culture. If you step just outside the museum and onto the terrace, you can enjoy a view looking out across the ecological garden. The garden is a traditional Japanese style with walking paths, and in addition to its rare species of bamboo, it also features an area with stone Buddhist statues and historical heritage sites, like the Dodobashi Bridge. Though the larger bamboo park in Arashiyama is one of Kyoto’s main tourist hotspots, the Rakusai Grove is much more tranquil and less crowded, so you can explore in more peace. Best of all, entrance to both the park and the museum is free!

Website: https://chikurin-park.com/ (Japanese; English access and park information available here)

Kyoto City Rakusai Bamboo Park

This is an establishment that primarily deals with bamboo, which is rarely done even on a global level.
Here, you can find a bamboo museum, a children’s plaza, and an ecological garden where various bamboo and bamboo grass are planted. In addition, there are also historical stone Buddhist statues in the garden.

Point D Terado Otsuka Tomb

When you’re ready to move on, follow the bamboo path south for just under half a kilometer and you’ll stumble across another ancient Kyoto hidden gem. Terado Otsuka Tomb is a burial ground dating back to the Kofun period (around the first half of the 4th century). This 10-meter-high hump of earth is so ancient that researchers are still uncovering its full story. Mirrors, bracelets, and swords were found in a section of the mound, leading to the belief that one of the people laid to rest here was of great importance.

Terado Otsuka Tomb

Terado Otsuka Tomb

This is a tomb that was built in the early Kofun period (4th century AD). It is about 95m in length and is shaped like a keyhole. It is also one of the five tombs of the Otokuni region located in Muko …

Point E Oharano Shrine

Still following the bamboo trail, head a little further south until you reach a right turn in the path. Follow this west until you pop out on a road called Takenosato hon dori. This stretch of road gives you a real feel for what it’s like to live in Kyoto like a local, with homes dotted along the way and a general buzz of suburban life filling the air.

Continue west along Takenosato hon dori about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) as you make your way to Oharano, a beautiful shrine which was founded around 784. When Emperor Kammu moved the imperial capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyo in 784, he also transferred the great deities of Nara’s Kasuga Taisha Shrine, deities of the imperial Fujiwara clan, here to Oharano Shrine. For this reason, the shrine is fondly known as “Kyo Kasuga” (as opposed to the Kasuga of Nara). You can spot several deer/deer-god statues in the shrine’s grounds, and omamori charms with a deer motif, as deer are revered at Kasuga Taisha Shrine as messengers of the gods as well.

If you’re ready for lunch at this point, slurp up a bowl of soba at the charming teahouse Sobakiri Kogoro and try its famous mugwort dumplings (yomogi dango) on the side. The teahouse is situated beside the shrine’s scenic pond, so you can soak up the peaceful atmosphere and recharge with nature as you dine.

Point F Komyo-ji Temple

Located in Nagaokakyo City, around 5 kilometers (5 miles) south of Oharano Shrine, this is another stunning historical spot to visit, especially in the fall months when the surrounding forest turns shades of gold and auburn. Komyo-ji Temple is the head temple of the Jodo-shu branch of Buddhism. Depending on when you arrive, you might even catch the monks chanting during a congregation.

Komyo-ji Temple

Komyo-ji Temple

Komyo-ji Temple was first built in 1198 by the soldier Kumagai Naozane in an area favored by his master Honen. Today, it the head temple of the Seizan sect of Pure Land Buddhism. Visitors can tour the …

Point G Chabana Cafe

  

Follow the road east and you’ll eventually cross over the Obata River before reaching Chabana Cafe in Muko City. This spot brings you back towards the direction of Rakusaiguchi Station and is a cozy nook for a coffee break or late lunch. The cafe has a traditional, rustic feel with wooden beams and floors. If you’re with children, there’s a private tatami room in which families are welcome to relax and enjoy some space. One of the most popular items on the menu here is the fluffy brown rice roll pancake made with Hokkaido flour from northern Japan.

Website: https://chabanacafe.owst.jp/ (Japanese Only)

Back to the station

Once you’ve taken a break and refueled on caffeine at Chabana Cafe, head north up the main road to complete the circuit and drop off your bike by Rakusaiguchi Station. From here, you can easily get back to Kyoto Station or spend some more time exploring around the local area on foot.