Apr. 27, 2020 UPDATE
Kurama Temple- 鞍馬寺 -
This temple is recommended for those who like walking. Many from overseas also visit this temple.
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Story & Recommendation
Kurama Temple is a temple surrounded by beautiful nature and known as the abode of the king of the tengu
The area of Kurama is, of course, most known for Kurama Temple. Because the temple is on a mountain, the grandness of the nature you get to see is such that you almost can’t believe you are still in the same city of Kyoto. The history of Kurama Temple started over 1300 years ago after the monk Ganjin came to Japan from the Tang dynasty to propagate Buddhism in Japan, and the temple itself was founded when Ganjin’s discipline Gancho dedicated the temple to Bishamonten (Vaisravana). Originally the temple didn’t belong to just one sect but had a diverse belief system, but since the events of World War II these beliefs were joined up, and now Kurama Temple is the head temple of the Kurama Kokyo sect. The temple is well known as a great place to see cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves in autumn, and many people visit the temple to enjoy the beautiful nature. From the entrance of the temple, the Niomon Gate, it takes around 30 minutes to walk up the mountain, and when you continue up the mountain from the main hall you will get to a rather steep mountain path that will take you all the way to Kifune Shrine. There is a lot to see on the vast grounds of Kurama Temple, and Kifune Shrine and Kurama Onsen are both close, so I would like to recommend you go to them too.
Kondo main hall
In front of the main hall you can see a pattern made out of blocks of stone called Kongosho, and it is said that by standing in the middle you can feel a strong sense of power. At the main hall, a trinity of three called the Sonten (Bishamonten, Senjukannon, and Gohomaoson) is worshiped, and this trinity is said to be the energy behind all life (at Kurama Temple they call this energy “space energy”).
A bit further from the main hall, there is a big three-storied building. The mission of this museum is to get people to understand Kurama Temple and Mt. Kurama more deeply, and for this reason the first floor is about the flora and fauna of Mt. Kurama; the second floor exhibits treasures of Kurama Temple, and the third floor exhibits national treasures like the Buddhist statue of Bishamonten.
Enjoy a leisurely walk
There are two routes to get to the main hall, and the first one is to walk up the mountain. The walk takes around 30 to 40 minutes, and the walk can at places be rather steep. On the way up you will pass Yuki Shrine, famous for the Kurama Fire Festival, and you can enjoy the historic feel around the zigzagging path up the mountain.
Take the cable car
The other way of getting to the main hall is to take the cable car. This is the only railroad in Japan that is run by a religious entity, and also the shortest one in Japan. If you use this cable car, you will get to Tahoto from the Niomon Gate in about two minutes. Those who are not confident they have the stamina to walk up the mountain should take this cable car.