Japan Trip: Kurama Mountain
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…
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
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:
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).
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:
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.
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:
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’ looks harmless enough: I was quick to learn otherwise.
This is supposedly the deepest part of the mountain, housing the shrine to Ma-oh (奧之院魔王殿)
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:
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.
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）.
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.
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:
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:
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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