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last day in Kyoto
drinking bird
This turned out to be a day with really gorgeous weather. Perfect to go visit Kurama-dera. I met my friend Aya-san at 10, and we went to Demachiyanagi Station. We reached it by subway, first crossing Gojo bridge to get there. Gojo bridge is where Yoshitsune first met Benkei, but it has changed a lot in 800 years! Now it is a large bridge with a lot of traffic, not romantic at all.

The best thing is to ride the train all the way to the last station, Kurama. Then a little cable car takes you part of the way up the mountain. After that, you just have stairs ( a lot of them) to contend with.

Some of the stairs at Kurama

But rewards await you. After a turn, you suddenly see

the pagoda, Kurama

Actually, there were still more flowering sakuras on either side. We arrived at the same time as a small group of Japanese tourists, and we all went a collective "Oh!" of admiration. Then we all lined up to take photos. LOL

This view encourages one to climb yet more stairs, and finally we got to the main temple. There are rather few tourists there, as it is out of the way North East of Kyoto, and a somewhat arduous visit. But it is really worth it. The site is peaceful and quite beautiful.

side view of main temple, Kurama

balcony, Kurama

It is restful to sit a bit and absorb the atmosphere. There are beautiful spots all around.

After Kurama, one ought to go at least to Kibune, a small town not too far away with a temple of its own. There is also Kurama Onsen, which is very nice. We skipped it and just visited Kibune. Two ways of going there: for the energetic, on foot up the rest of the mountain and down an infinite number of winding stairs through the forest on the other site. We went the easy way, by train (only one station away) and then by bus up a hill. You arrive at a village, and go on from there to the temple. We did go into the forest and climbed stairs for about 35 min. You have to be fit! The remarkable thing about that forest (towering cryptomerias and other trees) is that there were quantities of large camellias in bloom. They were huge, really  trees rather than shrubs, and quite gorgeous.

Torii to Kibune temple

We got to the temple, and there was a wonderful smell of cedar, as it had just been rebuilt! So we got to see how those places look before age darkens the wood. I want to note that Japanese temples are often rebuilt, at least in part, as a lot of the wood is eventually damaged or rots, especially where it is unpainted.

Kibune temple

To the left is the purifying fountain, a little hard to see in the picture.

We walked back to the town and had lunch in a tiny restaurant. I always enjoy those little places, of which there is a legion across Japan.  Then back on the train and back to Kyoto. I had wanted to visit Kurama-dera for such a long time, because of its association with Yoshitsune, and then my friend Karen had given me a glowing account of the place. This was a perfect day.

The next day we went to Hakone for a couple of days of relaxation (sort of, as we did do some exploring and went for a while on the old Tokaido road, the one the daimyos used to walk along on their way to pay obeisance to the shogun in Edo. It is lined by giant cryptomerias).

Then back to Tokyo (Shinjuku and some last minute frantic shopping). And on towards home, tired but happy!

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Hi! I did come by during this past weekend but only looked at pictures ^^ I'm taking my time wandering thru Japan thru your eyes and reading your descriptions now. I'm starting at the top.

I love the sakura pictures. These are such beautiful trees! The architecture is breathtaking. At the Kibune temple, is that a statue in front of it or is it carved into the rock wall?

I have some questions that may sound odd but I'm just curious. In the rebuilt temple, have they 'modernized' it or did they stay true to the original plan? Modern as in adding heating/air conditioning for tourists' comfort. I'm hoping that they did not. Sure, if I were there I'd want to be able to be comfortable but that sort of defeats the purpose in visiting ancient/older sites LOL For some reason when watching Yoshitsune and hearing them walk barefooted thru things I always got the sense that it was comfortable inside due to cross breezes and such. Maybe I got that sense simply because the actors didn't seem to break a sweat. When I watch the period dramas I can't help wondering how they could wear so many layers of clothing and NOT be hot..especially the women.

Looking up that stairway at Kurama--well you know what a well placed speed bump can do to me LOL Is there any other way up or down? I know there are other ways of getting to some places by train, etc. but you mention that you still had to climb stairs for 35 minutes to get to the other temple *whew!*

It's a shame they didn't preserve Gojo bridge somehow :(

Did you get any pictures of the camellias? They sound beautiful.

I guess I did not express myself clearly. The 35 minutes ascent was not necessary to reach the Kibune temple. It is beyond the temple, going up the mountain on the other side of which is Kurama. People, if they continue the ascent from Kurama, get to the top and then go down these stairs to Kibune. The stairs to Kuruma cannot be avoided. There is a cable car which we took, but it is before the stairs!

The statues (I assume you mean the horses) are free standing. The temple was rebuilt exactly as before. Actually, in Japan, those ancient wooden structures are often partially rebuilt because of damage over time.

Traditional Japanese houses are very comfortable in summer because indeed of allowing the cross breezes. I think the women did not wear all those layers in every day life but were dressed more simply around the house. However, these houses are also uncomfortably cold in winter: no insulation, and heating, aside from the central hearth, only by individual braziers. The dinner tables have one underneath, with a quilt over the table keeping in the heat.

Sorry, the pics of the camellias did not do them justice. From a distance, you don't see them well, and up close you cannot get more than a bit of the tree. They were gorgeous.

waaahh so many beautiful scene XD i envy u :S .. i hope i graduate soon so i can go on a vaca XD

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