Kuramadera is a large temple complex spread across the side of Mt. Kurama, looking over quaint Kurama village in northern Kyoto.
This temple is accessible by train.
Take the Keihan Line to Demachiyanagi Station. Transfer to the Eizan Dentetsu Line and get off at Kurama Station. Kuramadera is a 10-minute walk up the hill.
Kuramadera was founded in the eighth century, but its origins are shrouded in mystery. According to legend, a Chinese monk named Jianzhen appeared in the dreams of one of his disciples, telling him that Mt. Kurama was imbued with special powers.
The monk followed his orders and traveled to Kurama to build an esoteric temple that capitalized on this powerful spirituality.
It is still believed that tengu, or mountain spirits, live in the area.
The temple was controlled by three Buddhist sects until the postwar era, when abbot Kouun Shigaraki founded his own religion there, divorcing it from its Buddhist past. It remains dedicated to esoteric beliefs centered on the spirituality of nature and worship of mountains. You can see esoteric imagery throughout the temple complex.
The mountain is steep so you might want to pay the ¥200 required to ride a cable car up the hill to reach the main shrine. The more adventurous can hike the winding path up the mountain and take some time to look at the smaller shrines scattered around the area.
Once you reach the top, the steep slope flattens into a grand courtyard. The stately main shrine sits in the center, overlooking the mountain ranges and valley below. The view from here is incredible, especially in autumn when the trees show their brightest hues.
Past the main shrine, an excellent hiking trail, dotted with smaller shrines, continues over the mountain to nearby Kibune.