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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan. Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan.
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare. An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare.
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife. Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife.
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan. Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan.
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara. The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara.
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower. Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower.
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving. Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving.
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky. The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky.
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

KYOTO Kurama The birthplace of reiki—watched over by protectors of the natural world

The birthplace of reiki—watched over by protectors of the natural world

Mt. Kurama is easily one of the best day trips outside of Kyoto. Magical temples, a mystical history, lush cedar forests, an outdoor onsen and an easy day hike are all at your fingertips.

Don't Miss

  • Take a dip in Kurama Onsen
  • The mountain dwelling Kuramadera Temple
  • Up and over the mountain on the Kurama-Kibune hike

How to Get There

The Mt. Kurama area is accessible by train from Kyoto Station.

Take the private railway Keihan Line to Demachiyanagi Station and transfer to the Eizan Dentetsu Line. Get off at Kurama Station.

A mystical land

Mt. Kurama is known for being the birthplace of reiki, a holistic healing art started in the early 1900s and still practiced widely today. But Mt. Kurama has a history steeped in mystical beliefs.

Protected by tengu

It is believed that tengu, mythical creatures from Japanese folklore, still haunt the area. Once believed to be evil, they are now seen as protectors of the natural world. Thought to be both kami and yokai—divine spirit and ghost—tengu are depicted with both human and bird-like characteristics.

Outside of Kurama station you will be greeted by an enormous statue of Sojobo, king of the Tengu, said to have originated in Kurama. His long beak has been reinterpreted into a curiously long red nose.

Best onsen in Kyoto

A 15-minute walk from the base of the temple is Kurama Onsen, thought to be the best natural hot spring in the Kyoto area. It features one rotenburo, or outside bath, for each gender, as well as various indoor baths. The complex also includes a restaurant with reasonably-priced Japanese cuisine. A free shuttle bus is available from the station.

The esoteric history of Kuramadera Temple

Kuramadera is the main temple of the area, sprawling down one side of Mt. Kurama.

The temple was founded in the eighth century, but its origins are mysterious. It is said that a monk traveled to Kurama after learning of its mystical powers in a dream. He built Kuramadera to harness the unique spiritual power of the area. Although it was controlled by various Buddhist sects throughout the ages, it is dedicated to esoteric beliefs and mountain worship today.

Hike or ride up to a grand view

You can pay 200 yen to take a short cable car up the mountain to reach the main building. If you'd like a more intimate look at the complex, you can hike up the mountain path.

At the top, the mountain plateaus into a vast courtyard where the main buildings stands. The view of the mountains and valleys beyond is amazing.

The Kurama-Kibune hike

Past the main hall, a trail continues up and over the mountain to the village of Kibune on the opposite side of the mountain. The hike is lovely, and leads to a few smaller temples that are part of Kuramadera .

Exposed roots

Halfway through the hike, you'll encounter a special grove of trees. Their roots are unable to penetrate the hard ground and have woven together in a mesmerizing pattern.

A satisfying journey

If you include the walk from the base of the temple, the hike to Kibune is 3.9 km and takes about two to three hours. It's not too difficult, and includes wooden steps and handrails in more difficult areas both ascending and descending the mountain. Come in August, when it's not as hot as the city, or autumn, when the trees are at their best.

Kifune-jinja Shrine and Kibune village

Once in Kibune, you should continue your mountain pilgrimage and visit Kifune-jinja . It's hard to miss the entrance to Kifune-jinja: a long stone staircase lined with red lanterns. The sight is absolutely stunning in any season.

The shrine is dedicated to the god of water and features a special paper fortune. At first it appears blank, but once placed on the water of the shrine's fountain, your fortune magically appears.

Dine on kawadoko

Kibune is a lovely village and worth a closer look. Local Kyoto people would come to Kibune to escape the heat of the city. It's known for the kawadoko, or decks, that are built over the Kibune river, and are a natural form of air-conditioning. During the summer, you can enjoy a traditional Japanese meal atop a kawadoko, a truly unique experience.

Kurama-no-Himatsuri

If you happen to be in Kurama in late October, try not to miss the Kurama-no-Himatsuri, or Kurama Fire Festival , which takes place annually on October 22. It is undoubtedly the most exciting of Kyoto's festivals, as bonfires are lit in front of each home, and locals parade down the street holding pine torches in a dramatic parade.

There are many more tantalizing places and events in the Kurama area. It is a full day trip away from the Kyoto city center, although if you plan to soak in the onsen and go on a hike, you might best consider an overnight visit.

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