Just outside of Kyoto lies this misty mountain paradise.
- Kurama's Fire Festival will light up the village on October 22! Festivities start at sunset around Kurama station.
What are Tengu?
Just a little way up the hill from Kurama Station lies the entrance to Kurama-dera, a huge temple complex that spreads across the mountainside. You can take a cable car up the side of the mountain to the main shrine for 200 yen, or hike the winding path and explore the smaller shrines that dot the hillside on the way up. At the top, the steep slope levels out into a courtyard where the main shrine sits overlooking the surrounding mountains and valley below. It’s a gorgeous vista during any season, but particularly in the autumn when the leaves show their fiery hues.
If you continue up the mountain (wooden steps guide the way), you will eventually leave the temple complex and begin the climb over the top bringing you to the town of Kibune. Through the woods, you will encounter many more small shrines that offer a peaceful respite from the crowds. Of note is one particularly serene grove of trees whose roots have grown above ground and woven together. Including the walk from the base of the shrine complex, the hike is 3.9 km and takes about 2-3 hours, but it’s quite easy and suitable for beginners.
Kurama is also known for its onsen, arguably the best natural hot spring within an hour from Kyoto. A free shuttle bus outside Kurama station will take you there. The Kurama Fire Festival occurs once a year on October 22. Bonfires are lit in front of houses and businesses, and locals parade down the street holding pine torches.
What are Tengu?
Tengu are mythical creatures from Japanese folklore considered to be both kami (gods) and yokai (ghosts) and are represented with human and bird-like characteristics. What was previously interpreted as a long beak is now considered a a very long nose. Although once thought to be demons who brought ill will and war, Tengu are now respected as protectors of the mountains and forests.