Kurama-dera – 鞍馬寺
Today we are going to talk about Kyōto’s Kurama Buddhist temple, Kurama-dera!
What’s special about Kurama-dera?
Kurama-dera is located in the very heart of Kurama-chō, in Northern Kyōto. This town is a tourist spot since the amount of hotsprings around. There are many open-air baths and the visitors staying at Kurama’s ryokan and hotels can enjoy all the facilities for free! For those not staying overnight at these facilities an entry fee is required.
Since the time of its foundation, this temple belonged to the Shingon Buddhist school. Now it belongs to a school which got separated from Shingon.
There are also some National Treasures in the temple. There are two ways to get to it, by foot or by cable car.
If you decide to walk, the up-hill stroll takes about 30 minutes.
Otherwise you can climb the hill for free by cable car. The price to enter the temple is 100 yen (which covers the cable car service; if you go by foot you’ll have to pay 100 anyway).
How to get to the Kurama-dera
If you want to visit Kurama-dera you have to get to Kyōto first. You can take a Shinkansen from Tōkyō: travelling on the Nozomi, the shortest journey takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes and costs 14.000 yen. Remember, however, that if you use the Japan Rail Pass, you may not take the Nozomi, but have to ride on the slightly slower Hikari or Kodama services.
At Kyōto Station, take the Nara Line (which is a JR line covered by the over mentioned pass): once you reached Tōfukuji Station you can take the Keihan Main Line. Ride to the final stop, Demachiyanagi Station, where you have to transfer on the Eizan Railway. Get off at the last stop Kurama Station. The journey from Kyōto station to Kurama station costs 830 yen.
My impression on Kurama-dera
I visited Kurama-dera in March, travelling on the Eizan railway. Departing from Demachiyanagi station, the train rides on the road for a part of the journey, I could enjoy the unusual trip (actually, the Eizan Railway is a train-tram system, so a tram running mainly on a reserved section without too much interference with car lanes).
In no time, the landscape changes from the city area to the tranquil countryside.
When I arrived at the final stop the humidity level was incredibly high, since it had just rained. The hollow sky gave combined with the heavy fog leaning on the surrounding mountains gave me a little a gloomy sensation..
There are several shops and ryokan in Kurama and signs located here and there lead you to the temple. I chose to take the cable car, I spared a lot of time! From the cable car window I could see a landscape made of trees and lanterns.
In the temple area there are temples, shrines and lanterns with vermilion red basis. The contrast between the stone floor and the trees was beautiful. Even if during the visit it started to rain again, the humid Kurama-dera is located in a unique landscape.