Kurama and Kibune are a pair of gorgeous mountainous towns situated at either side of Mount Kurama that are connected by what is, in my opinion, one of the best hiking trails for beginners in the Kansai region. The path is kept natural and rugged but is still easy enough for complete beginners like my friends and I to have an extremely enjoyable experience. The journey across Mt. Kurama began for us at Kurama station, which is about 40 minutes away from Kyoto by a train that takes you through the trees straight into the mountainous town.
Immediately when you reach the station you are greeted by a large statue of Sojobo, the king of the Tengu, who is said to have originated in Kurama. Tengu are often characterised by their long noses, and are either considered Kami (Shinto god) or yokai (supernatural beings).
Kurama is also famous for its onsens! There are free buses that take you to them from Kurama station, where you can relax in the hot water in both indoor and outdoor baths. Remember to make your ryokan and onsen reservations in advance!
The plan for my friends and I was to walk up to Kurama dera temple, and then hike across the mountain to Kifune shrine. This takes about 3-4 hours, and there are lots of beautiful sub-shrines along the way. The mountain has a wonderful peacefulness, and is just oozing with natural beauty.
You can take a cable car up the side of the mountain to Yuki-jinja shrine for 200 yen, but we opted to walk the whole way. This is something I really recommend doing as the little sub shrines covered in moss and the pretty stone lanterns that you come across along the way are really picturesque and worth the climb. Just remember to wear proper shoes and bring lots of water!
Mount kurama is best known for a fire festival that takes place sometime in October at Yuki Jinja shrine (Kurama Hi Matsuri). Other then the fire festival, it’s also known for the large cedar tree located in its precincts. Just look at the girth of the tree in the picture!
The moss covered shrines were just so beautiful, and this wasn’t even the main part of the mountain. There was also a bright red bridge along the path which immediately sent the theme song of spirited away ringing through my ears.
The higher grounds also gave great views of the forest below. The path to Kurama dera was lined with red lanterns, which seemed to be a bit of a theme on the mountain.
We then reached the main attraction, the Kurama dera temple, where we took a short break before starting on the hiking trail towards Kifune shrine. This is a great place to take in the view of the surrounding mountains. You can also explore the temple itself for 300 yen.
This is where the more rugged part of the hiking trail starts. The flights of stairs are traded for a path strengthened by the roots of the trees and bamboo poles.
Along the route there are small wooden shrines as well. At the summit of the mountain there is a trail known as the Kinone Sando (Tree Root Pilgrim Path), named so for pretty obvious reasons.
We then started our descent towards Kibune, and the trail started to get more rocky. As you approach Kibune, you start hearing water flowing, and when you reach the town the beautiful river is the first thing you see. The town consists of just a single street lines with ryokans (Japanese inns) and restaurants.
The town is most famous for Kifune shrine, which is fittingly dedicated to the deity of water – legend has it that a goddess came to Kibune on a yellow boat and the shrine was built where she came to rest.
The shrine gives a wonderful view of the river and was really pretty. For 200 yen, you can purchase a fortune which magically appears when you place it in water! It also conveniently comes with a QR code that you can use to translate the fortune.
It was now starting to get dark so we decided to head towards the train station, which was about half an hour away, while taking in the scenery around us. This was an undoubtedly tiring but extremely satisfying day, free from all the crowds and just surrounded by forrests. For those who love nature, this is the ideal day trip to get away from it all and explore the little wonders you meet along the way.
Location of Kurama station
Location of Kurama dera
Location of Kifune shrine
[adapted from my now missing odigo page]