Jul. 20, 2017 UPDATE
The first day of summer in Kyoto
Part 1

Enjoy the grand play of nature in Kibune and Kurama!

Like most years, the summer in Kyoto this year looks like it is going to be a hot one. And because it is hot, I would like to recommend the areas of Kibune and Kurama! Kibune and Kurama are in the northern area of Kyoto called Rakuhoku, and while these two areas are around an hour’s train ride away from the city center, they are sometimes called the “summer resort of Kyoto” and the temperature can be as much as 10 degrees lower than in the city center!

These areas are popular among tourists as a kind of a refreshing summer retreat where you can be surrounded by nature; the trees and rivers of Kibune and Kurama. In this article, you can find out how to get most out of a day out in Kibune and Kurama, so I hope this can be of help when you plan your summer in Kyoto.
10 a.m. Hiking from Kurama Temple to Kifune Shrine!
Eizan
First, it is time to take Eizan Electric Railway toward Kurama from Demachiyanagi, and after a rather comfortable 30-minute train ride, we get to Kurama. On the way, there is a “tunnel of spring greenery” where you get to see the almost overgrown green maple leaves by the train tracks, so there is a lot to enjoy even before you get to Kurama.
tengu
This Tengu statue warmly welcomes you to Kurama Station.
niomon
In just five minutes, we are at the Niomon Gate of Kurama Temple! After going through this gate, you get to see the beautiful nature of Mt. Kurama all around you.
hiking
You are going to be hiking up the mountain, so I recommend going in the morning before it gets really hot.
entrancce
From the entrance to the main hall, it takes about an hour on foot. On the way you get to Yuki Shrine, famous for having held one of the three weird festivals of Kyoto, Kurama no Himatsuri, which in English would be the Fire Festival of Kurama.
great view
From the splendid main hall you can see this great view. This is a nice reward for hiking up the mountain, and I hope you will follow my example in this.
route
So, let’s continue on the route from the main hall. The path gets steeper from here on, and you start to truly feel like you were on a hike, not a walk, so remember to wear some comfortable clothes.
tree
These unique roots are one thing you can enjoy at Mt. Kurama. The way these cedar tree roots are on top of the ground looks peculiar. It is said that the famous military commander Minamoto no Yoshitsune used these zig-zagging roots to train in his youth.
cable car
After going through Mt. Kurama, you get to Kibune. It takes about three hours at a slow pace if you walk from the entrance of Kurama Temple to Kibune, but those who don’t have the time or stamina to do this can also turn back at the main hall of Kurama Temple. Kurama Temple has a cable car for those who can’t make the walk up the mountain, so you can also take the cable car and train to go to Kibune too.
1 p.m. Enjoy the summer tradition of kawadoko at Kibune!
Enjoy the summer tradition of kawadoko at Kibune!
After hiking Mt. Kurama, we get all the way to Kibune! The nature in Kibune is just as rich as in Kurama. Lisntening to the murmur of the river running by the road, you get to feel very refreshed.
kawadoko
So, when you get to Kibune, I hope you will also experience kawadoko. Kawadoko is a summer tradition where the restaurants around the area build terrace platforms over the river. Noryoyuka, or just yuka, at the Kamo River is more famous, but here in Kibune you can feel the refreshing river even closer!
river
The reason for this is that the platforms are on top of, and really close to the river! The way you get to see and feel the powerful stream of the Kibune River just below you is an interesting experience.
nice experience
You can even steep your feet in the river. This is an especially nice experience for kids.
terracce seating
There are many rather fancy restaurants by the river, and in summer most of them have kawadoko terrace seating. This time, from amongst all those restaurants, we have chosen the very famous Hirobun. The elegant scenery made possible by the red parasols, the deep green of the leaves, the streaming river; all of it together is bound to make your experience special.
restaurant
And as expected from a fancy restaurant, their dishes that use seasonal ingredients go well with sake. The restaurant is the most famous for their salt-grilled fish caught at the very river on top of which you are going to be eating it. Hirobun is also popular among foreign visitors and families because they also have nagashi-somen, cold somen noodles that are carried to you on a bamboo flume.
2:30 p.m. Time to go to Kifune Shrine!
Time to go to Kifune Shrine!
After a refreshing lunch at kawadoko, we have our tummies full, and next it is time to go to Kifune Shrine. You can feel an awe-inspiring sense of nature at the shrine that enshrines the dragon-god of water. Also, the path up to the shrine is lined with red lanterns, and this is a great photo spot.
fortune
This water fortune slip is popular at the shrine. This is not a normal fortune slip, but one that you have to wet first to see your fortune. As expected from the shrine that enshrines the god of water.
main hall
At Kifune Shrine, besides the Motomiya main hall, they also have Yuinoyashiro and Okunomiya shrines too.
shrine
Yuinoyashiro and Okunomiya are a bit far from Motomiya. There is no staff at these two shrines, and there are not that many people here, so those with the time and stamina can have a relaxing hike up here. Yuinoyashiro is a great place for women: you can improve your marriage luck at the shrine!
4:30 p.m. Relax at the hot springs of Kurama Onsen
Relax at the hot springs of Kurama Onsen
After going to Kifune Shrine, I recommend you take Eizan Electric Railway again to Kurama Station and finish your day with a soothing bath!

From Kurama Station, this, of course, means Kurama Onsen. The hot springs are a 10-minute walk away from the station, or you can take the free shuttle bus.
kurama onsen
The biggest attraction at Kurama Onsen has to be this big “rotenburo” open-air bath from which you get a great view of Mt. Kurama. This is one luxurious bath.
onsen
Kurama Onsen is a traditional Japanese hotel, but you can also only take a bath at it. After a sweaty hike, a bath at Kurama Onsen is like a reward from heaven, and after it, you can stay the night at Kurama Onsen, or go back to your hotel. For 1,000 yen you get to use the open-air bath once.
massaging chair
After a refreshing bath, my recommended way of spending your time would relax in a massaging chair and then have some ice cream. They also have a restaurant, so you can also enjoy delicious food and sake.
kurama onsen
After a day spent surrounded by nature, you can end it surrounded by nature in a bath. Those who a are going to Kurama should definitely also check out Kurama Onsen.
This was my recommended itinerary for a day in Kurama and Kibune, but how did you like it? You can enjoy this area in just one day, although it is a bit far from the city center, the place is perfect for a little retreat in the middle of nature from the hot summer. I hope you will spend a memorable summer day in Kurama and Kibune!
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