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Kurama-dera

Located in the northern part of Kyoto, Kurama-dera is known for its spirituality and its breathtaking natural beauty, something that has been fostered in Kurama for ages. The temple itself has a history from the year 770, and each season the temple shows visitors a different face. Whether you take the cable car or hike up the mountain, you’re surrounded by verdant mountain forests where you may be able to spot some of the local wildlife.  The temple’s main hall offers a gorgeous view out over the surrounding mountains, and a sandō path connects it to the nearby Kibune village and Kifune Shrine.  Mt. Kurama is also believed to be the birthplace of reiki, a type of “energy therapy” which utilizes spiritual elements.  Tengu, long-nosed or beaked creatures believed to be the guardians of the mountain, can be found as statues, art, and goods in the village and in the temple complex.

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Tengu

One thing you will notice about Kurama is that you can find many tengu in the area. Tengu are long-nosed legendary creatures found in Japanese folk stories that represented to ancient people the mysterious power of mountains. There is a lot of tengu imagery visible around Kurama because legend states that they once lived in the area. It is also mentioned in the tales of historical figure Minamoto no Yoshitsune that he endured harsh training with Sōjōbō, the lord of the tengu. You can find a large statue of a tengu’s face at Kurama Station, and you can also take this creature home by buying some tengu-shaped omikuji at Yuki Shrine.

Sacred Path To A Shrine

One of the noteworthy points about Kurama Temple is that there is a sandō (sacred path to a shrine/temple) that connects the mountain to the beautiful Kibune, a mountain village famous for its shrine and its unique riverside dining experience. 

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 Exposed Tree Roots

The hike from the bottom of Kurama Temple takes about an hour and a half, but if you want to stop, enjoy the scenery and take a few snaps along the way, it might last you a good two hours or more. The mountain trail has a mysterious atmosphere with its giant Japanese cedars, exposed tree roots, wild animals, interestingly-shaped wisteria trees and small shrines along the way.  Kurama-dera wants those who visit to take the time to appreciate the nature heaven has granted us, and encourages people to ponder their wishes and place in the world along this path through the mountains.

Minamoto no Yoshitsune

One of the most famous historical legends of the Heian period, the story of the Heike Rebellion, involves Kurama-dera.  The temple was the place where Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189), the young son of the assassinated lord of the Minamoto clan, was placed by his father’s political rivals, the Taira clan, to grow up as a monk instead of a warrior who would later be able to oppose them.  It is told that in spite of their intent to make a monk of him, Yoshitsune snuck off into the mountain forests and was trained by the king of the tengu in swordsmanship before leaving monastic life to reclaim his family’s honor and take revenge on the Taira alongside his brothers. 

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