Thursday 26th July 2012
The Lonely Planet book states that Kurama is a retreat for Kyotoites who need to get away from the pressures of the city. The receptionist at J-Hoppers Hostel in Kyoto said that it would be a lot cooler there, and indeed it was: the higher altitude (Mount Kurama rises to 1,916 feet) in an area of little congestion allowed us at least a little respite from the overwhelming heat of Kyoto that has tormented us since we've arrived.
The train weaved the 12 kilometres north-west through dense forest to the small rural town of Kurama. You can understand why the residents of Kyoto City like it so much. For one thing, the train provides a transition from big city to small rural town that is as soothing and restorative as any journey I've ever experienced. The vast green borders that the train cuts through allows the traveller - Kyoto resident or otherwise - a much-needed period of reflection before the real recuperation begins.
|Sōjōbō (literally "high Buddhist priest") is King of the Tengu, who were minor deities that inhabits the mountains and forests of Japan. A rather scary sight as we stepped off the train!|
|A bridge over soothing waters.|
I cannot recall seeing one westerner as we made our ascent towards the peak. Once we got slightly beyond the main hall of Kurama-dera Temple, we turned around and made our way back down. Andy and I opted to take a free bus up to Kurama Onsen (Japanese for hot spring - apparently it's the only one within striking distance of Central Kyoto). Matching Andy's relentless hiking pace had taken its toll, so a dip in the outdoor spring was just what the doctor ordered. Again, the greenery played its part: the spring looked out on lush green woodland - the most natural of relaxants. Our time in the hot spring was broken up with a dip in the smaller cold spring. We felt the rather seismic shift in blood vessel dilation as our bodies adapted from one to the other.
Before leaving Kurama, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant where I sat down for a bowl of chicken and egg with boiled rice as we reflected on the day's events. The portions were bigger than we had been given in Tokyo and Kyoto, so my energy levels were fully-restored by the time I'd finished. The spirit had been satisfied followed swiftly by the stomach. A brilliant day out and perhaps my most enjoyable day of the whole trip.
|A panorama of Kurama-dera Temple.|
And the reason why I know for a fact that Andy (seen below, right) likes men? Men is Japanese for noodles.
|Me (left) and Andy relaxing in the restaurant after the hike and the hot spring.|
|A dish best served warm.|