Footpath in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
A grove glows green

arashiyama bamboo forest

One of the most photographed places in Japan is this otherworldly grove of towering bamboo. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in the outskirts of Kyoto is surrounded by temples and shrines along the Katsura River, rising as a manicured oasis of stories-high bamboo that seems to turn the world green. The former villas and temples of the old noble class are located near the Arashiyama Grove, and its single 500-yard path is usually filled with visitors wielding cameras and selfie sticks, making this serene view a rare one.

World Bamboo Day, celebrated September 18, was created in 2009 to bring attention to this useful and versatile plant that flourishes in East Asia. Though the tallest bamboo can grow up to 100 feet, bamboo is not a tree but a grass. Known for its light weight, strength, and rapid growth, bamboo can be used to make almost anything, from clothing to building materials—and its shoots can even be consumed as food. Because it grows as much as 3 feet in a day, it's a highly renewable resource. Though for the same reason, it's also an invasive species in some places, as a small stand of bamboo can quickly become a large one. While bamboo grows best in tropical and warm climates, it adapts well to cool temperatures and high altitudes. And though it might have the most cultural value in Asia, it grows wild in Africa, the Americas, and Australia, too. Could there be bamboo growing near you?