10 Inspiring Places in Western Kyoto: Bamboo Groves, Temples, and History


Yokokuji temple
Kyoto Otokuni Bamboo Grove

The region west of Kyoto City is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and history. Muko boasts a dreamlike bamboo grove, Nagaokakyo offers stunning seasonal scenery, and Oyamazakicho is full of nature and ancient temples. They can all be reached in less than 15 minutes from JR Kyoto Station.

Discover Historical and Natural Treasures in Western Kyoto

Upper left picture courtesy of Muko City, upper and lower right pictures courtesy of Nagaokakyo City.

The area west of Kyoto City is the Otokuni district of Kyoto Prefecture. This district is comprised of Nagaokakyo City, Muko City, and the town of Oyamazaki. The main train stations in this area are reachable from JR Kyoto Station in about 15 minutes.

At first sight, Otokuni might seem like an unassuming residential district. It takes a second look to discover the incredibly rich history, magnificent temples, and art in this area.

Nagaokakyo was the capital of Japan for a brief period between the Nara period (710-784) and the Heian period (794-1185). Shrines and temples established in that era still exist today.

Home to a thriving bamboo culture, Otokuni is often called “the home of bamboo,” or Take no sato. It also boasts picturesque scenery that gathers crowds of visitors for seasonal cherry blossoms and fall foliage.

We’ll introduce ten wonderful places in Muko, Nagaokakyo, and Oyamazaki, along with tips on the best times to visit. These destinations will make you want to explore the lesser-known side of Kyoto!

Muko City

Muko is home to the Take-no-Michi Bamboo Road and to the Kyoto Rakusai Bamboo Park, a vast area dedicated to bamboo culture. The historical remains of the Nagaoka Palace that was built here between 784 and 794, as well as Muko Shrine, with a history that goes back to the Nara period, are also located here.

The main destinations in Muko City are near Nishi-Muko Station, which can be reached in about 20 minutes using JR and Hankyu line trains from JR Kyoto Station.

1. Take-no-Michi Bamboo Road

Take-no-Michi is a 1.8 km (about 1.1 mile) road surrounded by an expansive bamboo grove. Local farmers use this space to cultivate bamboo shoots, an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, as well as bamboo for use in handicrafts.

Even the intricate, latticed fences are made from bamboo, adding to the scenery. The road is public, so visitors are welcome to enjoy the beauty of the bamboo grove at any time of year. Please refrain from stepping into the grove, though, as it is private property.

Visit in early spring, and you join in a bamboo shoot digging activity. It’s a great chance to see first hand how these sprouts are cultivated and cooked, and you can taste local specialties made with bamboo shoots!

The Kyoto Rakusai Bamboo Park, located within Take-no-Michi, is a facility where visitors can find out more about bamboo and its daily uses. Many objects used in Japanese households, such as kitchenware,  vessels, and interior items, like paper lanterns and tatami mats, are traditionally made of bamboo. Utensils used in tea ceremony, for instance, are almost entirely made of bamboo.

Bamboo also plays a central role in one of the oldest stories in Japanese culture: “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” or “The Tale of Princess Kaguya.” The park’s exhibition area introduces this story with beautiful illustrations.

Step outside into the park and you’ll be able to see various types of bamboo up-close, from thin variations to the golden Kinmei bamboo or the Kikkochiku, with its distinctive turtle-shell pattern.

Take-no-michi and Kyoto Rakusai Bamboo Park can be reached by bus, or a 15-minute walk from JR Katsura Station or Hankyu Rakusai Station.

Take-no-Michi (The Bamboo Path)

Take-no-Michi (The Bamboo Path)

Bamboo shoots are one of Kyoto’s specialty products, but the “Otokuni” area around Muko City and Nagaokakyo City is known for producing some of the highest quality bamboo shoots in Kyoto. Take-no-Mich …

2. Muko Shrine and the Cherry Blossom Garden

Muko Shrine, established in 718, is one of the ancient landmarks west of Kyoto City. The shrine is dedicated to several deities mentioned in Japanese creation myths, including a mysterious deity called Mukahi no Kami. This deity is Muko City’s namesake.

The main prayer hall, a beautiful wooden structure built in 1422, has been designated an Important Cultural Property of Japan. In front of the main hall is a stage for traditional dances performed as an offering to the deities.

Picture courtesy of Muko City

On the right side of the main hall is the entrance to the Cherry Blossom Garden. Lined with various types of sakura trees, this is a famous spot for viewing cherry blossoms in the spring.

Nevertheless, Muko Shrine is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year. Its dignified atmosphere and tranquility make you feel the depth of the ages that this shrine has witnessed.

Mukojinja Shrine

Mukojinja Shrine

Located in Muko City in the Otokuni Bamboo Grove area of Kyoto Prefecture, Muko shrine is an ancient shrine founded in 718 and is said to be a shrine for good harvest, academic achievement, and traffi …

3. Nagaoka Palace Daikokuden Park

Nagaokakyo served as Japan’s capital for ten years during the rule of Emperor Kanmu (reigned 781-806). The foundation and remains of Nagaoka Palace (Nagaokakyu) have been discovered in what is today Muko City.

Just ten years after it was established, the capital was changed to Heian-kyo, present-day Kyoto City, because of a curse. In Daikokuden Park, visitors can see the remains of the Imperial Audience Hall (Daikokuden).

Picture courtesy of Muko City

The best way to enjoy your visit here is to use AR Nagaokakyu, an augmented reality app that shows how the palace buildings used to look, more than 1,200 years ago. You can either download the app on your smartphone or borrow a tablet from the office of Chodoin Park. After turning the app on, hold your device toward the park and the former structures will appear on the screen.

Visitors can also rent Nagaoka-period attire and take photos of themselves using the virtual backgrounds offered by the AR Nagaokakyu app.

The Nagaokakyu Daikokuden Park is lovely to visit in spring when its many sakura trees are in bloom. Also, if you visit on November 11, you can enjoy a ceremony held in remembrance of the ancient Nagaokakyo capital.

Nagaokakyo City

Pictures courtesy of Nagaokakyo City (upper and lower right, lower left)

Nagaokakyo Station, located in the heart of Nagaokakyo City, is an 11 minute train ride from Kyoto Station. This city stands on the area that used to be the residential district of the Nagaokakyo capital (784-794). Home to some of the most famous sightseeing spots in the suburbs of Kyoto, such as Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine and Komyoji Temple, Nagaokakyo is an excellent day trip destination.

4. Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine

Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), who is worshiped here as the god of study and learning. The shrine receives thousands of visitors at New Year’s holidays and during the exam periods. when students come to pray for good results.

In February, the season of plum blossoms, as well as in March and April when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, this shrine offers splendid views. The garden at the entrance to the shrine grounds is also a famous fall foliage viewing spot, ablaze with the reds and oranges of maple leaves around late November.

Picture courtesy of Nagaokakyo City

The extensive shrine grounds of Nagaoka Tenmangu include the Hachijogaike pond. This area is particularly picturesque around the end of April, when the thousands of azaleas growing here are in bloom.

Bamboo shoots kaiseki menu available at Kinsuitei. Picture courtesy of Nagaokakyo City

At Kinsuitei, a traditional Japanese restaurant by the pond, visitors can enjoy a refined, full course menu that includes bamboo shoots, the specialty of Otokuni.

Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine

Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine

Nagaoka Tenmangu is a shrine in Nagaokakyo City, Kyoto Prefecture, not far from Kyoto City and close to Uji—the region of Kyoto famous for matcha green tea—and the famous Otokuni Bamboo grove. Nagaoka …

5. Komyoji Temple

Komyoji was established in the twelfth century by Kumagai Jiro Naozane, a disciple of Pure Land Buddhism. This temple is associated with the origins of Pure Land Buddhism, a sect that retains a large following among the Japanese population today.

The main hall can be visited free of charge. Its impressive interior will make you want to stop for a few minutes and contemplate in front of the altar in silence. Please note that photography is not allowed.

Komyoji is located on the mountainside, and its grounds are full of beautiful natural scenery.

Hundreds of maple trees line the path toward the main hall. In the summer, their leaves catch the sunlight in a mesmerizing green filter, and it’s very pleasant to take a walk under their cool shade.

Picture courtesy of Nagaokakyo City

The scenery changes dramatically in the fall, when the maple leaves turn red. Many people travel here to view this magnificent vermilion spectacle.

Komyoji Temple can be reached in about 20 minutes via local bus from JR Nagaokakyo Station or Hankyu Nagaoka Tenjin Station.

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 …

6. Yanagidani Kannon Yokokuji Temple

Yokokuji Temple, founded in 806, enshrines a sacred statue of the Eleven-Faced Kannon Boddhisatva. It has gathered a large following since its establishment in 806, reputed to be a place where those with eye ailments pray for healing.

Every month on the 17th, the statue of Kannon Bodhisatva is revealed to the public. During your visit, stop for a minute before the altar in the main hall to pay your respects. The altar itself is a magnificent example of Buddhist iconography.

“Opening the eyes of one’s heart” is one of the central themes at Yokokuji. The temple has an ancient garden where nature and Buddhist imagery combine to create a scene of rare beauty. It only takes one look at this garden to feel the all-encompassing power of nature.

Picture courtesy of Yokokuji Temple

Yokokuji is known throughout Japan as a flower temple, where beautiful blooms can be viewed in every season. From cherry blossoms in spring to hydrangeas in July, you’re sure to find stunning blooms. In November, visitors can view fall foliage. It has also been gathering much attention for the unique flower arrangements in its purification fountain. This is another way Yokokuji strives to open people’s hearts through visual stimuli.

There are several buildings on the temple grounds, connected by passageways, staircases, and alleys. The Kamishoin houses a tea ceremony room with a wonderful view of the main hall and the garden. In the summer, visitors can see the vibrant greenery, and in the fall, the gorgeous red hue of the leaves. A 500-yen admission fee is required to visit the Kamishoin.

There is still more to discover if you climb to the Okunoin, a prayer hall located uphill. This building houses treasures of Buddhist iconography.

Yokokuji is one of the rare temples where traces of Buddhism-Shinto syncretism can be observed. Japan has treasured the worldview and deities of both Buddhism and Shinto for centuries: the two have melded into a single belief system, and it was natural to find shrines on temple grounds at one point. However, the separation of Buddhist and Shinto practices was implemented through a government mandate in 1868. Since then, temples with shrines on their grounds have become rare.

Walking through the vermillion torii gates and past the small altars dedicated to Inari, the god of crops, and other deities in the Shinto pantheon, you’ll encounter the whole world of Japanese spirituality.

Yokokuji showcases the majestic beauty of nature in every season, which makes it a wonderful destination at any time of the year.
Yokokuji Temple can be reached by taxi in 10 minutes from Hankyu Nishiyama-Tennozan Station or in 15 minutes from JR Nagaokakyo Station.

Yanagidani Kannon (Yokoku-ji Temple)

Yanagidani Kannon (Yokoku-ji Temple)

Yanagidani Kannon (Yokokuji Temple) is located in Nagaokakyo City, not far from Kyoto City and close to the famous Otokuni Bamboo Grove, where the main attraction is the eleven-faced, thousand-armed s …

7. Suntory Kyoto Brewery


Nagaokakyo is also home to the Suntory Kyoto Brewery, which opened in 1969. Nagaokakyo was chosen due to its rich nature and the high quality of its natural water.

Suntory is a prominent company that has contributed greatly to the growth of Japan over the years. It is known for its patronage of the arts and sports, as well as its commitment to environmental protection and support of regions affected by natural disasters.


Take a guided brewery tour to see all the stages of beer production, from ingredient selection and wort production to fermentation, maturation, filtration, and packaging. If you love Japanese beer, this tour is a truly exciting and insightful experience!


The brewery tours, held on weekdays from 10:00 to 15:15, last about 70 minutes and are free of charge. (*1) Tour participants can taste three types of Suntory beer at the end of the tour!

*1 The Suntory Breweries countrywide have temporarily stopped holding brewery tours as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections. Please chek the official website (Japanese) for updates.

Suntory Kyoto Brewery

Suntory Kyoto Brewery

Suntory Kyoto Brewery is Suntory’s second brewery, opened in 1969 in Nagaokakyo City. Around 90% of beer is made of water, so Suntory insists on building their brewery in places rich in high quality g …

Oyamazaki Town

The lower left picture shows the Niomon Gate of Yamazakishoten Kannon Temple

The town of Oyamazaki, a treasure trove of historical and cultural monuments, can be reached in about 15 minutes from JR Kyoto Station.

The history of Oyamazaki goes back as far as the Nara period (710-784). This area was an important transportation hub, as it stands at the confluence of three great rivers: Katsura, Uji, and Kizu. In the early days of the Heian period (794-1185), when the capital was being built, a kiln was established in this area producing ceramic tiles for the buildings in Kyoto. The Oyamazaki Tile Kiln Site (pictured lower left) is a national historic site that offers unique insights into Heian-era urban management.

A famous battle took place here in 1582 at the foot of Mt. Tenno. The Battle of Yamazaki was fought between Akechi Mitsuhide (1528-1582), Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), Oda’s successor. The battle was won by Hideyoshi, who went on to unify Japan.
A monument commemorating this battle can be found on the summit of Mt. Tenno (270 m, 886 ft) at the Hatatatematsu Viewing Point, where the flag of Hideyoshi’s armies had been raised to lift the spirits of his soldiers. The viewing point can be reached by a hiking trail of light to medium difficulty. Hatatematsu offers a great view of Oyamazaki and the Kyoto Plateau to the east, and of the Osaka basin to the west.

8. Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art

The Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art opened in 1996 and regularly holds exhibitions of modern Japanese and Western art.

The Oyamazaki Villa was built in the 1920s as a personal weekend retreat by Shotaro Kaga (1888-1954), an influential businessman. Kaga had traveled through Europe in his younger years; he was the first Japanese person to reach the summit of Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps.

The Oyamazaki Villa reflects Kaga’s tastes and the inspiration he found in British culture. Every detail in the layout of the garden and the villa’s surroundings reflect the initial owner’s love for nature. In fact, the villa was renowned for orchids, which Kaga began cultivating himself in a greenhouse behind the mansion after learning the techniques in the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, Japanese artisanal crafts and aesthetics appear in many architectural details of the Oyamazaki Villa. The villa itself is an object of art that enriches one’s understanding of Japanese culture with every glance.

The artwork exhibited at this museum belongs to the art collection of Tamesaburo Yamamoto (1893-1966), the first president of the Asahi Breweries, contemporary and friend of Kaga’s, and a supporter of the Mingei art movement. (*2)

*2 The Mingei movement, started in the mid-1920s, promoted the beauty of Japanese folk crafts.

The Western art collection, which includes several paintings by Monet, is displayed in the Subterranean Jewel Box, an annex designed by renowned contemporary architect, Tadao Ando. This structure fuses harmoniously with the villa and its natural surroundings, enhancing the beauty of the scenery.

Visitors are encouraged to enjoy a coffee break on the terrace of the villa, which offers a wonderful view of Oyamazaki and the confluence of the three rivers. (*3)

*3 As of September 2020, the terrace is temporarily closed as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Asahi Group Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art

Asahi Group Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art

The Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art consists of the main building, which was built between the 1910s and early 1930s, and two annexes—the Underground Jewelry Box (South Wing) and the Dream Bo …

9. Hoshakuji Temple

Hoshakuji, a temple with ancient roots, neighbors the Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Art Museum. It was established in 724. Called the “temple of tresures,” it’s said to answer prayers for success in business.

The temple gate houses two guardian statues created in the Kamakura period (1185-1333), designated an Important Cultural Property of Japan.

As you proceed toward the main hall, you’ll pass by a centuries-old Three-Story Pagoda, another Important Cultural Property of Japan. Legend has it that this structure sprung up overnight more than 400 years ago, which is why it called Ichiya no to, the One-Night Pagoda.

Enmado, the building to the right of the main hall, houses a magnificent scene depicting Enma, the king of the underworld, and four judges. In the Buddhist tradition, these deities judge the destiny of each soul after death.

These statues are an exquisite example of Kamakura-period Buddhist sculpture. Sculpting during this time attained an unprecedented level of realism and expressiveness. The Enma statuary complex is also an important cultural property. (*An entry fee is required to visit the Enmado Hall.)

Take your time to explore the grounds of Hoshakuji, which has played an essential role in the community for centuries. The hiking trail leading to the summit of Mt. Tenno begins on these temple grounds. You’ll find it to the right of the main hall.

10. Myokian Temple

Picture courtesy of Myokian

Myokian is a Zen temple established in the last decade of the fifteenth century. It was built in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) when arts such as tea ceremony, Noh theater, and ikebana flower arrangement flourished.

This temple is famous as the home of Tai’an, a tea ceremony room designed by Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), the tea ceremony master. Tai’an is a national treasure and the only remaining tea room created by Sen no Rikyu.

Picture courtesy of Myokian

Tai’an is an extremely small space measuring 2 jo (1.80×1.80 m), accommodating just two persons: one guest and the host. The room is the epitome of simplicity, with mud walls, tatami mats, and a small window. There is minimal space to display a hanging scroll and some wildflowers, which are essential elements of the tea ceremony.

Seeing Tai’an, you can imagine a tea ceremony held here; the guest and the host, seated together in the small room. Only the sounds of the water being poured in the bowl breach the silence. This is a place where an honored guest receives a ritualized gesture of hospitality.

Sen no Rikyu faced many challenges in creating such a space in the latter half of the sixteenth century, a time of ambitious warlords and strife. Tea ceremony rooms were created as places where everyone should forget about the unrest. The sheer existence of Tai’an after all these centuries is nothing short of a miracle.

Please note that in order to see Tai’an, a prior reservation by a post is required at least one month in advance. The room can be seen only before noon and only from the outside (*4). A replica of Tai’an can be seen at the Oyamazaki Town Historical Museum.

*4… To prevent the further spread of COVID-19 infections, visits to Tai’an are temporarily suspended. Please check the latest information on the official website (Japanese).

Take a Trip to Western Kyoto

The ten destinations introduced above are just a few of all the wonders that Otokuni has to offer. It’s definitely worth taking a trip outside Kyoto City to discover the deeper dimensions to the region’s history and culture.

When visiting Take no sato – Otokuni, don’t miss out on specialties made with bamboo shoots, either at Kinsuitei by Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine or at Uosu, a dining facility in Muko that offers sushi made with bamboo shoots.

We suggest staying at Discover Kyoto Nagaokakyo or Kyoto Guest Inn Nagaokakyo, two stylish accommodation facilities that incorporate the regional bamboo culture to offer comfortable rooms with Japanese decorum and unique activities. Hotel Dew Oyamazaki (Japanese) is also very convenient for travelers in this area.