Mountain temples, an onsen and forest spirits in Kurama-Dera

Mountain temples, an onsen and forest spirits in Kurama-Dera

On my last day in Japan, I returned to Kyoto. As I wrote in a previous post, I wanted to see more of Kyoto - especially its less touristy side. And I did!

I decided to visit Kurama, a small mountain village above Kyoto. I was missed the mountains and was looking forward to some hiking!

There was also an onsen (hot spring spa) in Kurama and I really wanted to visit one of those before leaving Japan.

Fushimi Inari

On the way to Kurama, I spontaneously visited Fushimi Inari. It's a very famous place. A tunnel of 10 000 red torii gates forms a tunnel all the way to the top of a small mountain. There are also fox statues everywhere.

It is a very beautiful and special place, unfortunately full of tourists - and that's why I have been avoiding it.

However, I saw it from the train and made the decision in a split second. It was my last chance to see it so I hopped off!

Luckily the rain had scared a lot of the tourists away! There were a lot of people around the first shrines, but I didn't see many on the way up, and in some spots I had the place all to myself!

It was magical. Everything was mossy and wet from the rain. The air was so fresh, and there was mist. It felt like a fairytale.

Unfortunately I didn't have time to go all the way up, but I spent about 2 hours in total here and I really enjoyed it.

Kurama-dera

After I was done with Fushimi Inari, I hopped back on the train to Kurama. I had to change to a small specialize train that goes up there. We travelled up the mountain through small villages, it was raining quite a lot, and I was really feeling the magic of Japan here.

After I got off the train, I stayed in the train station watching the rain, waiting for it to stop. The station was surrounded by hills covered with dark green pine trees, and a few wooden houses at the bottom. So magical.

The rain stopped after 10 minutes and I walked out. The village was very small - only one main steet - and there was no one around. I climbed the stairs into the forest and took a cable car to Kurama-dera temple.

After the cable car I walked for about 10 minutes through the forest to reach the temple. I was all alone and the forest was absolutely beautiful.

When I reached the temple - again there was no one there! I was so lucky. I spent a long time looking at the misty green mountains. The sun even shined through the clouds for a few minutes, adding to the magic.

Afterwards people started coming and I decided it was time to go back. It was also getting late in the day.

I didn't take the cable car, instead I walked all the way down, surrounded by crazy tall pine trees and lots of moss. I could feel the forest spirits and the magic around me :)

Onsen and traditional dinner

After the hike I headed straight to the onsen. It was an open air onsen with a view to the forest and I was really looking forward to it.

It was not completely traditional as there were a lot of foreigners there, but it was still an amazing experience. I soaked in the hot water for two hours, watching the misty forest as it got dark and lanterns were lit.

I don't have any pictures of the onsen as everyone there was naked and photos, obviously, were not allowed!

When I walked I felt so light, like I was walking on air. I didn't even know I could feel this relaxes.

I went into the restaurant and had a very cozy dinner - a traditional tempura course - before taking the train back to Kyoto and then Osaka.

Kurama was a truly magical place, especially for me as I love forests and nature so much. I miss it already and can't wait to be back.