Halfway to NoWhere

Ranting and Complaints of Life in Taiwan

Japan Trip: Kurama Mountain

Talking about being DEEEPPP in the mountains lol

Talking about being DEEEPPP in the mountains lol

Finally finished organizing my pictures (sheesh, nearly 7 Gigs). The good news is that a typhoon will be arriving (actually, it has arrived already), and strong winds have resulted in a holiday for the entire island.

Anyways, this gives me a good chance to bring out some highlights of my recent Japan trip, as I’ve promised in the previous post.

Why Kurama Mountains? For those who has studied a bit of Japanese history, Kurama Mountains is the place that the legendary Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源義經)learned his sword-fighting skill – supposedly from a Tengu living in the mountains. So to satisfy my curiosity, I convinced my friends to accompany me to this place.

However, I did not expect it to become a hiking trip.

Here’s the first view of the Kurama train station. Wow… this structure (wooden!) looks like its been there since the 1950s…

Kurama Station, from the outside

Kurama Station, from the outside

Yep, I found myself to be somewhere in the backwaters of Kyoto. When I walked out the station, this was what I saw:Talking about being DEEP in the mountains lolIt’s definitely not something I get to see everyday in the city.

One thing that’s nice about being in the mountain area – the temperature is about 2 to 3 degree cooler than the city – not to mention the wind and the woods. The gate of the Kurama Temple (鞍馬寺) is a short walk from the station. Even though its really easy to find, I was pretty awestruck by the sheer beauty of the entrance:The Nin-oh Gate of Kurama Temple

The Nin-oh Gate of Kurama Temple

The Nin-oh Gate of Kurama Temple

I recall one of my professors saying that the beauty of Shinto Shrines are the ways it manage to merge with the surrounding environment. I guess he knows what he’s talking about, alright. I could hardly stop myself from wondering what the place looks like in winter, with the snow and cold temperature. That gives me something to look forward to… hopefully with a new SLR camera.

But again, great view comes at a great price. This time, it came in the form of hiking:

Climbing up a really sloped staircase.

Climbing up a really sloped staircase.

For a middle-age person like me, its quite a chore climbing the staircase. However, it proved to be quite rewarding: the place includes a lot of impressive scenic spots. Here’s what I found at Yuki shrine – a shrine located in the vicinity of the Kurama Temple (how big is Kurama Temple? Supposedly the entire mountain).

A sign with the name Yuki Shrine

A sign with the name Yuki Shrine

 

A view of Yuki Shrine

A view of Yuki Shrine

I was actually pretty surprised I manage to snap the following shot with my compact camera. From the picture, its not hard to tell how tall the tree is:

Looking upward from the bottom of the staircase toward the ancient tree

Looking upward from the bottom of the staircase toward the ancient tree

After the Yuki Shrine, it was a long climb all the way the “99 turns path”. You can probably tell from the name that its going to put my obese body to a severe test. Let me assure you, it did.

Near the end of the 99 path... and boy was I sweating like a dog

Near the end of the 99 path... and boy was I sweating like a dog

After what seemed to be a long time, we finally arrived at the main temple. This place is located really up there in the mountain:

A look down the side of the mountain. You can see the top of a temple building further down

A look down the side of the mountain. You can see the top of a temple building further down

The main temple. There's a bunch of elderly tourists who came here by bus

The main temple. There's a bunch of elderly tourists who came here by bus

So after resting for about five minutes and wondering around the temple, we decide to follow the suggested trail listed in the guide book I brought with me. Of course, I was having my doubt whether I was in the physical shape of completing this ‘little’ trip…

The entrance to the inner sanctum

The entrance to the inner sanctum

The entrance to the ‘inner sanctum’ looks harmless enough: I was quick to learn otherwise. 

A hiking trail comprising of cobble stones and tree roots

A hiking trail comprising of cobble stones and tree roots

This is supposedly the deepest part of the mountain, housing the shrine to Ma-oh (奧之院魔王殿)

One of the temple within the inner sanctum - rally deep into the mountain

One of the temple within the inner sanctum - rally deep into the mountain

Finally, the trail began to take us back down the mountain. We started our descent from the other side. Here’s a look at  what it was like:

Descending trail... Thank God we didn't climb from this direction

Descending trail... Thank God we didn't climb from this direction

So after an hour or two of hiking, we managed to exit via the temple’s west gate. Yes, nothing like a morning stride across a well-known temple.

The west gate of the temple - complete with a bridge

The west gate of the temple - complete with a bridge

After exiting Kurama Temple, we decided to visit the other temple which is right next to the exit – the Kifune Shrine(貴船神社).

Entrance of Kifune Shrine

Entrance of Kifune Shrine

The Kifune Shrine is an old shrine dedicated to the worship of Takaookami-no-kami (高靇之神), a dragon-spirit that governs water. (If any of you’ve seen the anime “少年陰陽師”, that’s the diety which took possession of the main character’s body). The temple is known for its legendary water, being located near the source of the Kamogawa River.

The Kifune Shrine, located on the other side of the mountain

The Kifune Shrine, located on the other side of the mountain

We even managed to purchase a bottle of divine water (basically, you buy the bottle and then you can use it to fill up with the water from the waterfall:

The waterfall inside the temple complex

The waterfall inside the temple complex

After playing with the special fortune-telling using sheets that includes invisible letters viewable only after immersing in water, we left the temple and took a bus down to the nearest station – Kifune Station. Again, a  very small station:

Kifune Station

Kifune Station

So that was my little adventure into the Kurama Mountains. Definitely want to go back there if I have a chance, but I have my doubts about climbing the mountain trails again lol

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July 27, 2008 - Posted by | Trips

6 Comments »

  1. Wow… cool stuff man.

    Too bad many people still think that Japan is only about Akiba, Shibuya, and the over-exposed “tourist” temples and castles in Kyoto. There is so much more to Japan than just the urban experience and typical tourist locations.

    Kurama is a hidden gem that I sure would like to visit the next time I go to Kyoto.

    And your photography skills sure have improved over the years. I’m impressed!

    Comment by Jonathan Wong | July 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. Well, I’d say most of the ‘modern’ Japan pretty much remain at the major cosmopolitan centers, such as Tokyo and Osaka (but then, IMHO, Osaka’s ‘trendiness’ still has quite some way to go before catching up with its eastern neighbor).

    And yes, I did visit some of those over-exposed tourist temples (Gold, silver, what not – though I didn’t have time to drop by Nijo Castle). I’ll post some of those pictures in the next article, hopefully.

    Frankly, Kurama is probably by far the most memorial place I’ve visited during the trip. Then again, it would be a lot more enjoyable if I wasn’t suffering from my foot pain along the way lol.

    As for photography, I’m thinking about getting a digital SLR camera – maybe a Canon Rebel or Nikon D80. There are too many great moments that slipped through my finger tips due to the 1 second shutter delay…

    Comment by ronderick | July 29, 2008 | Reply

  3. Great pictures of my favorite mountain.

    If you want to learn more about the mountain, check out my book
    Reiki’s Birthplace: A guide to Kurama mountain.

    Even if you dont care about holistic healing, i talk alot about what all the places on Kurama are, and a bit of history as well.

    Comment by Jessica Miller | December 12, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks!

    I’ll be sure to take a look at your book .

    This was the first time I’ve had a chance to visit the mountains (mostly to pay my homage to the legendary figure in Japanese history), and I was really amazed by the entire atmosphere of the place. I admit I knew nothing about Reiki, but I could understand why the mountain has been regarded by many as a sacred place.

    In addition to the well-maintained environment, it is fairly impressive to see how the forest, fresh air and running water could compliment each other to create a concrete manifestation of serenity and harmony in this world.

    The Kurama Mountains is definitely a place that I expect to visit again soon.

    Comment by ronderick | December 14, 2008 | Reply

  5. I learn about intireiki, a bit different with usuireiki, but I wish someday I can visit kurama mountain

    Comment by Natalia Ita Harjono | August 8, 2012 | Reply

  6. I’m looking forward to visiting Kurama Mountain, hopefully in 2014. Plan to see it on one of Jessica Miller’s tours to the mountain. Would love to see it sooner, but looks like that will be the soonest. (Need to focus on getting into shape by then for the hike!!!!) I highly recommend Jessica’s book, “Reiki’s Birthplace: A guide to Kurama mountain.”

    Comment by marie swaney | October 19, 2012 | Reply


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