Goodbye Japan! Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine, Mount Kurama & Onsen

22 Apr 2017

Japan saved the best for last for our trip. Our very last day in Kyoto (and indeed, in Japan) was a melting pot of different experiences - most of which you'd never find in a guidebook.

On this morning, our amazing hosts - whom with we've spent several hours chatting to at their home in Nagaokakyo, Kyoto - announce they are taking us to a special shrine in the mountain near their home.

We're delighted. We've spent the last couple of days running around Kyoto trying to see it all, and this makes for a welcome change.

Our hosts, their kids and us all climb onto their four wheel drive and set off.

Yokoku-ji Temple

Half hour later (due to roadworks), we've arrived at Yōkoku-ji temple.

Everyone rinses their hands as we walk into the courtyard. The boys spot a bell and promptly run up to it to ring it.

We light incense as an offering.

And we walk in to explore the very many different rooms and shrines.

Inside, there are gardens and winding paths with steps leading into different areas. Each has its own magic.

We reach a spot where the kids show us a trick. If you fill up a cup and then pour the water onto a little well in the ground, you can hear the rain through these hollow bamboo sticks.

We spotted trees older than time and shrines brighter than diamonds.

We had the whole place to ourselves, and left early, before 11.

Trekking Mount Kurama & the Kuramadera Temple

I promised myself I would not visit any more temples in Kyoto, as we were already exhausted. Instead, we spent the previous night googling Onsens (hot springs) near Kyoto.

I know this is not an Onsen area, but hey, it can't hurt to look.

Luck is on our side as I find what looks like a promising area just 40 minutes north of Kyoto on the train. There's a popular climb from Kibune to Kurama, seeing the shrines and ending with a soak the hot springs nearby. Since we're short of time, we're going to head straight to Kurama.

We get there just after lunch, having eaten some food on the train.

There's a fun shop outside the train station. We walk to find the entrance to the temple.

The cable car to the top is not working today, so we'll have to climb a few steps.

This temple has several little shrines along the way with more and more to discover.

It takes us a while as we detour to see everything.

We keep walking up to the top through dirt roads and more steps.

And finally reach the summit!

C'mon Chris - don't be slow!

The views from up here are just breathtaking. Pictures don't do it justice, you've got to see the different colours on the trees below you, and the mountain tops disappearing into the sky as the fog lifts.

We are rewarding ourselves with a few hours of soaking in the super hot waters of the Onsen back down, so we make our way back.

And find some fun people on the way!

We get down quickly and start making our way up through the little village towards the Onsen.

Kurama Village - Image by Lucy Loves to Eat
We find the Onsen and buy our tickets to enter, renting towels. You can't take pictures inside the Onsens, but this is what it looks like:

It was truly relaxing to spend some time amidst the mountains, just soaking the stress off.

When we were done, we headed back to the station and to see one final sight in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

No trip to Kyoto is complete without paying a visit to this iconic shrine.

The famous shrine is perched at the base of a mountain that you get to explore by walking up and down several steps and through a forest. All in all, it's a huge composition of shrines spanning around 4 kilometres. It took us a good 2 - 3 hours to leisurely walk it.

The place is one of the few massive touristy sites that I truly, truly felt had an energy of its own. It was humbling and awe-inspiring, and no amount of crowds could take away from its spirituality.

We ended the walk by entering this most curious souvenir shop towards the exit. And that was pretty much the end of our adventures in Japan.

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