Kurama & Kibune
Though they are only a mere half hour or so removed from the city proper, the villages of Kurama and Kibune, located in valleys on either side of a mountain, seem like a world away. Nestled in the nurturing embrace of the northern mountain forests, these two villages are home to a famous shrine and temple, as well as rich natural beauty, traditional dining, and lovely hiking trails. Kyoto locals flock to these villages in summer to escape the summer heat, and in winter to take in the beauty of the snowy landscape.
Located in the northern part of Kyoto, Kurama-dera is known for its spirituality and its breathtaking natural beauty, something that has been fostered in Kurama for ages. The temple itself has a history from the year 770, and each season the temple shows visitors a different face. Whether you take the cable car or hike up the mountain, you’re surrounded by verdant mountain forests where you may be able to spot some of the local wildlife. The temple’s main hall offers a gorgeous view out over the surrounding mountains, and a sandō path connects it to the nearby Kibune village and Kifune Shrine. Mt. Kurama is also believed to be the birthplace of reiki, a type of “energy therapy” which utilizes spiritual elements. Tengu, long-nosed or beaked creatures believed to be the guardians of the mountain, can be found as statues, art, and goods in the village and in the temple complex.
Kibune is only around thirty minutes from Kyoto City, but it feels like worlds away. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle to experience a bit of tranquility and calm, take the Eizan train north. The area is filled to the brim with wildlife and seasonal flowers blooming along the river, and the local restaurants and ryokan (traditional inns) serve meals on platforms built over the cool waters. Kibune is also home to the Kifune Shrine, a shrine that worships kami associated with water. Three separate locations make up Kifune Shrine; the main shrine, Yui no Yashiro, and the Okunomiya. Some people choose to take a certain course to make this pilgrimage. First visit the main shrine, then after you finish praying go straight back to the Okunomiya, then lastly drop by the middle shrine, Yui no Yashiro, as you’re heading home. Not only stunning in the summer, Kifune Shrine is absolutely gorgeous in winter as well. If you can brave the chilly weather, go to Kibune village when it is snowing and the area is covered in a blanket of snow, becoming a dreamy wonderland.