Seasons in Japan are all beautiful. Spring with the cherry blossoms, summer with the sunflowers and greenish trees, autumn with the red maples leaves and in winter all the scenery is covered by snow. If you want to appreciate all of this and visit a hot spot of Japanese culture, you definitely should go to mount Kurama and Kibune. These small towns are full of energy and beauty in all seasons. Mount Kurama is surrounded by a dense forest that has many cherry and maple trees. Moreover, visiting Kurama and Kibune you have the opportunity to see the Japanese rural life style.
Enjoy the trip to Kibune/Kurama
The adventure starts on your way these villages. To reach the mountains, you have to take a small and old style train from Eizan Company. During spring and autumn, the company offers special trains to go to Kibune/Kurama. These are scenic trains, in which the seats face the windows, so you can enjoy the beautiful landscape. Some seats are designed for two people, so couples can enjoy the romantic view together.
Kibune, a piece of old Japan
One of the last station in Eizan Kurama line is Kibune (the station is Kibune Guchi), your first stop. There you will be surprised by the view of a small and cozy old Japanese village. The city has perfect spots for amazing pictures. Kibune has many small restaurants that can provide delicious and traditional Japanase food. Actually, during summer, some restaurants raise platforms above the Kibune river, where you can enjoy a meal and escape from the summer heat, an unique experience. Full of energy after a good meal, you can visit the most famous shrine in Kibune: Kifune. The shrine is famous for its unique type of written fortune that is on paper slips that reveal their messages when dipped into water. Kifune Shrine is also associated with the god of marriage. Many young couples go there to write their names on wooden plates and ask for happiness together. After getting your fortune and making wishes, it is time to start the journey: climbing mount Kurama. Kurama and Kibune are connected by a path that crosses the woods and the mountains. After paying a small fee, you can start the adventure. The path up is very quiet and peaceful, a good moment to engage in a good conversation with your partner and discuss about all the things you hope to see in Kurama.
Every step, new surprises
After several minutes climbing, you can find a beautiful temple, Oku no In, where you take good pictures and take a short brake. After that, the walk is a little bit long, but the reward is worth it; when you reach the top of the mountain, you will find one of the most magical places in the mount Kurama, a tree root path that makes the scenery enigmatic and beautiful. Going down, you will encounter several shrines along the way and each one is unique and full of magic, making you feel like you are in an old movie or in a Japanese cartoon. The temple complex also has a small museum where you can take a rest and learn a little bit more about Japanese culture. As soon as you leave the museum, you can find the main spot in Kurama temple, Kindo temple. The place is considered one of most spiritual temples in the complex: in front of the main hall you will see a star symbol on the ground. Couples and families make long queues to stand on that symbol and feel the energy from the temple coming inside you. Not only that, but from Kindo temple you have a breathtaking view from the village and the mountains around.
Funicular – another way to see Kurama
In the last part of the trip, you can enjoy another point of view by taking a funicular that will bring you down to the main gate. The funicular is considered one of the smallest railways in Japan, traversing in a couple of minutes a route that typically takes about half an hour to walk. From the cable car, you can appreciate the forested slopes and valleys that change their colors during the seasons. The trip is short, but the photos taken from the cable car are always amazing. Reaching the Kurama temple entrance, you can see a lantern-lined stairs path that ends your adventure in Kurama temple.
Before leaving Kurama, enjoy the hot spring
Afterwards visiting so many incredible places (and doing a little bit of exercise hiking mount Kurama) my recommendation is: relax in one of the wonderful hot springs in Kurama. A good bath on those hot springs can renew your energy and make you feel more into Japanese culture. You can choose from the indoor and outdoors tubs and then appreciate nature. During winter, the snow can make the experience like a magical fairy tale. To finish the trip in great style, you can enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner in one of the several restaurants in Kurama. The way to Kurama station could be considered the end of the adventure, couldn’t it? Actually it isn’t, because when you reach the station you can see a huge Tengu mask, the last stop for an iconic picture. The tengus (or heavenly dogs) are ancient spirits that protect the shrine and Mount Kurama. Thus, save some space in your camera for more photos. If you decide to visit Kibune/Kurama in Autumn, during the foliage’s peak, the train route is lit up at night for passengers’ full enjoyment. All the lights inside the train are turned off and the trains reduce the speed. For 5 minutes, you can appreciate the colorful landscape and share a memorable moment with your partner, finishing your adventure in countryside Kyoto. In my opinion, the word adventure can be fully understood after visiting Kibune/Kurama, one of the most magical places in Kyoto.