Bamboo grove in Kitasaga

Natural Frequency


Points of View
(1)A whole bamboo grove
(2)The natural frequency of bamboo
(3)The natural frequency of bamboo joints

The tea ceremony is an essential and indispensable part of Japanese culture. The actions of making tea and serving guests involve many kinds of aesthetic elements such as architecture, gardening, painting, calligraphy, literature and handicrafts, which are closely connected in a complicated way. Kyoto is the capital of the tea ceremony, and bamboo plays an important role in the ceremony. It is often used to make the tools for the ceremony such as tea-stirrers, teaspoons and vases, and also to make parts of the teahouse including interior ceiling decorations, decorative pillars and window frames. Bamboo is a useful material that is neither tree nor grass, and offers the features of lightness and flexibility. In Kyoto there are many bamboo groves, and the western part of the city is famous for them due to the favorable soil and weather conditions found there. The bamboo grove in Kitasaga, stretching out behind the Tenryuji Temple, is one of my favorite spots in Kyoto. Let’s go and see it.

The bamboo grove is located behind Tenryuji Temple, and on both sides of the narrow path are bamboo fences reaching to around hip height, behind which the bamboo groves are found. The path is about as wide as a saloon car, and the dark canopy of bamboo stretches for several hundred meters. In the canopy, the sunlight is largely shut out by the bamboo leaves, making it dim even during the day. Birds sing but cannot be seen, and the trains that run regularly near the grove can also be heard. In the occasional tender breeze, you can hear the bamboo leaves rustling softly against each other.

Stopping along the path and looking around carefully, you see that it is surrounded with layers of bamboo stems. The verdant green of the leaves appears among the vertical bamboo stripes, and the sunlight comes through them and pervades tenderly into the air. The stems grow straight up towards the sky; if trees grew with the same thickness as bamboo stems, they would break and fall down. Botanically speaking, bamboo is a member of the rice family, and as it is hollow, like straw, it is relatively light. The regular distance between its joints makes the stem stronger, enabling it to stand so straight despite its slightness. These stem joints appear at regular intervals with a certain natural frequency. This coherent frequency is created and incorporated as an essential part of bamboo’s genes through a complex process of natural randomness.

Bamboo is essentially a straight plant, curving slightly under the influence of wind and gravity. Regularity and irregularity in the realm of nature create the design of bamboo’s joints. As a material, it enjoys preferred status in Japan and is one of the symbols of Kyoto’s culture. Looking carefully at the living bamboo in this grove, one can feel its flexibility, sharpness, lightness and rhythm.

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