One of my friends who used to study at Kyoto University recommended to go hiking at Mt. Kurama. Sometimes, it was overwhelming and tiring to walk in crowded Kyoto town with many tourists. In that case, we could escape from the tiredness to refreshing areas. It took only 1 hour from Kyoto Station to Kurama Station by rail.
When you arrive at Kurama Station, you will see a huge red Tengu, which is a long-nosed goblin. There is an old tale in which Tengu taught martial arts to Yoshitsune Minamoto, a hero of the Kamakura era in the 12th Century. In Japan, we have many kinds of local mascots from HELLO KITTY to Sento-kun in Nara. I believed Kurama Tengu is one of the earliest local mascots in Japan. Many licensed goods from key holders to towels were sold there. I did get my fortune told with Omikuji and got a key holder.
Mt. Kurama Hiking
It’s only a 2-minute cable car ride to go to Tahotou in Mt. Kurama, but if you wish to enjoy hiking, you should take the mountain path. The path was steep and narrow in some areas. Monks used to train themselves there. The path was not paved but was well maintained with wood and stones. Jogging shoes or flat shoes are recommended. The flowing water of the small river was so clean and the surrounding greenery was bright. Kurama is one of the best places for the forest bathing.
Kurama area was said to be where Yoshitsune Minamoto was raised and trained when he was a kid. There were old houses and temples related with Yoshistune Minamoto.
When I talked to a staff member of the Ryokan in Kyoto, she said walking shoes or flat shoes would be fine to hike at Mt. Kurama. People from Kyoto go to Mt. Kurama for mountain hiking. It is obvious because Mt. Kurama used to be a training area for mountain ascetics. I was fine with my flat shoes, but trekking shoes would be much better. Some people are taking their dogs for a walk while enjoying the green nature and clear brook.
It gradually becomes steeper and takes one and a half hours to arrive at the Kifune area from Mt. Kurama. The Kurama and Kifune areas used to be Japanese mountain ascetics fields, so you can see quiet and steep mountain scenery. We could go through to the Kifune area which is popular for Kawayuka. There is a hiking course between Kurama and Kifune with a solemn atmosphere. Some people brought their dogs for a walk. It was not so hard, but it took 1.5 hours and I was so relieved to finally arrive at the Kifune area.
I really liked the unique universal signs everywhere in Mt. Kurama, which didn’t distract from the landscape.
川床 (Kawayuka) riverside terrace restaurant
During summer, you can enjoy 川床 (Kawayuka) in Kyoto, riverside terrace cafes and restaurants along the Kamogawa and Kifune Rivers. Kawayuka in Gion is one of the attractions for tourists in Kyoto, but if you prefer a much cooler place, Kifune is a better place to visit. It is also said Kifune’s Kawayuka is much more sophisticated and the foods are better. In the Kifune area, there are several Kawayuka restaurants ranging from reasonably priced to high-end.
Floating Noodle at Kawayuka
I decided to eat Nagashi Soumen at Hirofumi Kawayuka restaurant. One bite Japanese white noodle was floating from the half tube of bamboo. We used to eat Nagashi Soumen once or twice in summer using half a piece of bamboo with flowing water from the hose. It is almost impossible to grab one bite noodle with chopsticks, so a lot of noodles were left over at the end of the bamboo. Also, people tend to be in a hurry to grab one noodle after another, so we had to drink the noodles. There was no moment to chew. Finally, kids gathered the soggy noodles accumulated at the end of the bamboo. That scene caused laughter. It was the moment to enjoy Nagashi Soumen. It is a particular event in Summer. My recommendation to eat Soumen is to boil the noodle with al dente and to drench soon after with sweet-and-salty sauce.
Hirofumi provides Nagashi Soumen, floating Japanese noodle. The restaurant was so popular with tourists. I arrived at early lunchtime, but the waiting time was 30 mins, so I walked around the Kifune area to see an Aioi-sugi, Twins Japanese Cedar. The one bite noodle is flowering from bamboo tube. If you want to take photos, there is not enough time to eat noodles. You cannot do both at the same time, so I missed the one-bite noodle as I was taking photos.
How to get there: From Kyoto Station, walk to Sichijo Station and take Keihan Line to Demachi Yanagi Station. Transfer to Eizan Dentetsu Line to Kurama Station. Alternatively, if you’re in town, there are a number of options of transportations. It takes approximately one and a half hours.