Located high on the base of Kurama Mountain in the far north of Kyoto, Kuramadera is one of a few temples around Japan that remains the spiritual atmosphere. Hidden deeply inside a thick forest, the temple has gained the energy from natural power surrounding.
The temple is believed to be built in 772 by the Chinese monk Gantei in response to deity’s revelation. A legend tells that while he was wandering around mountains in the north of Kyoto, he suddenly met a white horse and followed it to the position of Kurama Valley nowadays where he felt the vision of Buddhism, therefore he decided to construct the temple. An other legend says that Gantei saw in his dream that Kurama Mountain had a spiritual power, then he built Kuramadera temple to gather and control this power. Whether these legends true or not, the temple and the area of forest around are believed to hide a secret energy. The temple was destroyed several times in the past but Buddhist statues and other treasures inside the temple are saved till now. Kuramadera was really popular for many believers during the Heian period and also known as the place the Commander Minamoto Yoshitsune spent his childhood and studied the art of swordsmanship.
Hiking up to the temple
Kurama originally belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism for a very long time but turned to independent since 1949 with its own brand of Kurama Horoyo. Nowadays, local people still believe that Tengu and some other mountain spirit are living around the area of Kurama temple and they advise not to go to the mountain at night. Tengu is used to call the forest Gods of both Buddhism and Shinto headed by a chief with a long nose and threaten emotion on the face. Visitors can meet the giant red faced Tengu with the long nose and a feather fan near the Kurama station, such a unique statue.
The journey to Kuramadera begins with Nio gate constructed by the famous sculptor Tankei as the border between the sacred area and the outside with Deva Kings standing as guardians of Buddhism. Visitors can take cable car up to the main buildings but they are highly recommended to hike up through the forest to feel the divine atmosphere mingled with peaceful breath of green cedar woods. This approach runs for about 1 kilometer from the gate with many pedestal lanterns on the both sides. It is a beautiful picture every winter when the snow covers all these lanterns and stone steps like a shelter of the old monk deep inside the snow mountain. Shorter the distance to the temple is, the more marvellous you feel along with the scent of incense indistinct in the fresh air. After many times being burnt down, the main hall and the pagoda now have the structure of concrete with familiar architecture of vermilion beams and pillars. The main hall dominates a courtyard from which you can get the breathtaking view of surrounding mountains.
The way out of Kuramadera down to the mountains
Also on the ground of Kurama temple, there is a Shinto shrine called Yikujinja built in 940, sitting on a winding slope Tsuzuraoi. The shrine is famous for the fall festival of Kurama Fire held on every October 22nd.
From 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (Last entry is 4:00 pm)
Treasure Hall: from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Treasure Hall is closed on Mondays and from December 12th to February 1st.
Cable car: 100 yen
-Adult: 200 yen
-High school student and younger: free