Kurama and Kibune, Kyoto
Kurama and Kibune are two small villages in the woods in the mountains north of the city of Kyoto, respectively on Mount Kurama and Mount Kibune.
I have placed them in the same page because they are usually visited together, because of their proximity.
The typical itinerary is to arrive in one of the two villages, and then reach the other one through a long path (about 2 hours walk) in the woods. So you can decide to start your hike from Kurama, or Kibune.
If you visit the area during a cold period, a good idea might be to start from Kibune, and then arrive very tired in Kurama and relax in the warm waters of the Kurama Onsen
Kurama-Kibune hiking trail
Kurama and Kibune are connected by a path that crosses the woods and the mountains and passing by the temple Kurama-dera (see below).
The part of the trail between Kibune and Kurama-dera is the steepest and it takes about an hour and a half up to the temple, from Kurama-dera to the village of Kurama the path is easier and often covered by stairs, it takes half an hour or a little more to cover the whole path, and it is also much more popular.A portion of this route is also covered by a short funicular (see section about Kurama-dera).
Along the hiking trail you will encounter several small Buddhist or Shinto buildings, and be surrounded by majestic pine trees, wisteria, cedars.
Kurama is a mountain village famous for its thermal springs and the nearby temple Kurama-dera, it is also a destination for many lovers of trekking and hiking.
This place is actually a ryokan
where you can sleep too (see paragraph below), is located about 10 minutes walk from the station, and there is also a free shuttle service.
The property has two large bathtubs, one indoor and one outdoor. Even if not staying there, you can still access the onsen for a few hours, paying ¥ 1100 to use only the outdoor bath, or ¥ 2,500 for both, including the Jacuzzi and sauna.
To bathe in this onsen you must follow all the rules of traditional Japanese bathing, so you can only get into the water naked (of course baths are divided by sex), and only after you have washed well.
In winter, a bath in the outdoor hot tub, surrounded by woods, maybe covered with snow, is an unforgettable
(admission 200 yen, opening hours 9-16:30)
A Buddhist temple in the woods of Mount Kurama, in the middle of a trail that connects the villages of Kurama and Kibune.
It is said that the samurai Minamoto no Yoshitsune
was trained on this mountain by the legendary creature Sojobo
, king of Tengu
, born in this mountain according to the legend.
Much more realistic is instead the story according to which it was here that the Buddhist monk Mikao Usui
, developed the holistic healing technique called Reiki
in the early '900.
From the village of Kurama, you can reach this temple by walking through the forest for about half an hour, through a long stairway, or take a short funicular managed by the temple (Kurama-dera Cable
) with an offer of 100 yen which takes you up to about half way.
The walk is very pleasant for hikers and not, in fact, along the way you will often come across small minor temples and other typical Buddhist buildings.
A Shinto shrine located along the path to the Kurama temple, known primarily for the Kurama Fire Festival
, one of the most important festivals of Kyoto that takes place every year on October 22.
The buildings of this shrine has a very particular style, definitely worth a short visit if you're on the way to the Kurama-dera.
Kibune is a village with a few houses which extend in length along a road that runs next to a river.
There are some luxury ryokan, Kibune is in fact very much appreciated by the Japanese to relax a few days, especially during the summer months when the weather here is a bit 'cooler than in Kyoto.
During the summer months some particular restaurants open along the river (see below).
For the rest, there is not much to do, the Kibune Shrine is the only noteworthy building in the area.
(free admission, opening hours 6-20 may-nov, 6-18 dec-apr)
You get to this Shinto shrine after climbing a charming staircase surrounded by red lanterns.
Once there, after a few minutes to take some pictures you can go, there is not much to see.
the staircase leading to the Kibune Shrine
Sleeping, where to stay in Kurama and Kibune, recommended ryokans
Kurama and Kibune are places where you can have the experience of staying in a real Japanese ryokan. Like all true Japanese ryokan, the prices are very high, similar to those of 5-star hotels. Remember: if a ryokan is very cheap, it is certainly not a real ryokan.
Ryokans in Kurama
In Kurama there is only one ryokan. If by chance you would like to stay overnight on the evening of Kurama Fire Festival (October 22), you must know that you have to book at least 6 months in advance if you want to have any hope of finding a free room.
The only ryokan in the village, you can also take advantage of its onsen for a few hours of the day without stay overnight (see above), of course the onsen is available to guests at no extra charge. If you want to stay here, the service is without a doubt excellent and the location lovely. Double rooms starting from ¥36,000 per night, including breakfast and kaiseki-style dinner, served in your room by nice ladies in kimono. You will never forget such experiences.
Ryokans in Kibune
Kibune is full of ryokans, but it is a place frequented almost exclusively by the Japanese and information is very scarce since the websites are in Japanese only.
The only ryokan of Kibune with a website in English, an ultra-luxury level ryokan, just take a look at the photos on their website to understand the exceptional level of the structure.
Rooms from ¥49,000 per person.
Other ryokans in Kibune, all members of the Japan Ryokan Association (an association of the best ryokan in the country), but whose websites are only in Japanese, are the Ryokan Hiroya
(this one can be booked on japanican.com
, the Ryokan Fujiya
, the Ryokan Beniya
Eating in Kurama and Kibune
In the village of Kurama there is not much to suggest, just some normal noodle restaurants near the station, or the Kurama Onsen, where you can also dine without staying in the ryokan. On their website there are packages from 4,800 yen which include access to the onsen and dinner, it seems pretty interesting.
Shortly after the beginning of the stairway to the Kurama-dera, on the right before the main gate, there is a very popular restaurant called Yoshuji
, where you can eat a bowl of noodles for 1100 yen or some shojin ryori set (Buddhist vegan cuisine) for 2,000-3,000 yen.
As for Kibune, in summer this small town worths a visit just to have lunch or dine there. During this period, in fact, along the river that runs along the village there are various restaurants, mounted just above the river. In Japanese, this kind of experience is called kawadoko
and is very interesting. The prices in this kind of restaurants are very high, from a minimum of 4.000 even up to 10,000 yen per person.
a restaurant on the river in Kibune
Another special experience that you can try in the summer months in Kibune is that of Nagashi somen
(literally "flying noodles"), that can be eaten at Hirobun
, one of the most popular restaurants on the river of Kibune. You sit in front of a small bamboo canal where cool water flows, and in which these noodles are launched. You have to "grab" them with your chopsticks, dip them in the souce and eat. Price 1300 yen.
eating nagashi somen at Hirobun in Kibune (photo taken by nannchimax123
Pratical guide, how to get to Kurama and Kibune, how to get around
Kurama and Kibune can be easily reached from Kyoto thanks to the Eizan Kurama line
. To take this line, you must go to Demachiyanagi station
in northern Kyoto.
To reach the village of Kurama just get off at the terminus of the line, Kurama station
(30 minutes, ¥420). The station is located within the village and you can move on foot once you arrive.
To reach the village of of Kibune you first have to get off at the stop before Kurama station, which is Kibuneguchi station
(27 minutes, ¥420). From there, the shrine of of Kibune is about a half-hour on foot. Alternatively, the bus #33 (¥160) leaves from outside the station towards Kibune every time a train comes.
As already explained in the guide, Kurama and Kibune are also connected by a hiking trail through the forest.
Map of Kurama and Kibune, Kyoto