Kurama / Kibune

As I wrote in “Destinations,” Kurama is one of my favorite places. Because it feels like a town out of fairy tail: small, green, mysterious. The first time I was there, Japan had a typhoon Jebi, so before we went to the airport, I got a call from my mother who was simply terrified. The news reported that Kansai international was blocked because of the high water level on the landing site. And Kyoto stations glass ceiling is broken. So, I had to choose, step back and wait, or proceed with the travels. I looked at my father, who was traveling with me, and understood that I wouldn’t back up. By the end of our flight, Kansai was open, and Kyoto’s central station ceiling was restored. Yes, I checked 😀

While visiting Kurama and Kibune, we saw how strong Jebi was, and when you see it on the screen, you do not understand the magnitude of it. When you are standing next to the three, which was almost 1 meter in diameter, and now you see it broken and twisted, that’s scary.

kura, woods broken trees
twisted bamboo

Because of Jebi, the trail was closed in 2018, and I couldn’t explore it, so this year, I asked for favors in every shrine I did see on my path. And I was heard, the weather was perfect, despite the forecast of rain by 99%.

Last year we went from Kyoto on SUB to Kokusaikaikan Station and then used a local bus to get to Kibune. Of course, that wasn’t the worst solution ever, but at that time it seemed to be alright. This year we’ve chosen the different side of the mountain and went to Kurama. Used similar combo, train from Karasuma line to Kokusaikaikan station (10 stops), and then Kokusai Kaikan Ekimae Bus Nr.52 that goes directly to Kurama Onsen (20 stops).

train station Kurama

Kurama (鞍馬) is a small beautiful town in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, less than one hour from the city center. For most of the tourists, Kurama is associated with its temple Kurama-dera.
And only a handful of foreign tourists knew about the Kurama onsen.

Kurama village

The majority of people in the Onsen were Japanese; most tourists I met were using that outdoor bath.

Important – you can’t use onsen if you have tattoos – allegedly ! You will ask me why allegedly? Coz I have 2 of them, well, they are discreet and easy to hide. But I did see a Japanese man with a tattoo sleeve entering the open bath. And no one gave him even a stink eye. So precision’s are advised, First, ask the stuff, as I did. The answer was, it’s forbidden to enter with tattoos, BUT only for Japanese people. White people, go “below the radar” if you can cover it with the towel, do it.

But in the daytime, when the water temperature is almost the same as the air temperature, I couldn’t relate. So we left our things and went for a walk. The main plan was to explore Kurama-dera. And then we went to the other side of the hill to the Kifune shrine.
We made an attempt to go and test the trial to the Kibune. A decision was made, and we cheated a little bit. You can climb up for 30-45 minutes and be tired by the end of the root. Or go up halfway the mountain for 5 minutes with the cable car (200 yen one way). The best investment ever.

Along the ascent to Kurama-dera stands Yuki Jinja. A shrine, famous for its Fire Festival (Kurama Hi Matsuri), held annually on October, 22. Kurama-dera’s main buildings stands on a terrace on the mountain slope, overlooking the wooded valley.

map of the kurama mountain

Behind the temple’s main building, the hiking trail continues through the forest. Past several other temple structures to Kibune, a small town in the neighboring valley. The hike from Kurama-dera to Kibune takes about one hour and a half at times. But if Japanese senior citizens accompany you, you will do it faster, because they will motivate you with their speed. We made that hiking trail in 35 minutes. Because we had a Chinese couple behind us, and an old Japanese couple in front of us. So zero chances to escape. The first part of it was exciting, because of small shrines and lanterns.
Second half was more pure nature and consequences of Typhoon Jedi. And that was scary and mesmerizing. Scary because you could see the force of nature up close, and the scenery is just mesmerizing.

The trail itself is not that long or problematic, I was in regular shoes, and had no problems. Some of the tourists went from Kibune back to the Kurama using same hiking trail. We weren’t such advanced hiking experts, so we used the bus to get back to our accommodation in Kurama Onsen.

My mothers thoughts on this place you can read in her blog.

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