Kurama-dera Temple is located to the far north of Kyoto. The temple used to be a member of the Tendai sect and subordinate to Shorenin Temple from the 12th century until 1949 until it founded its own religion.
It is commonly believed to be the place where Tengu live, Tengu are long-nosed goblins. Surrounded by abundant nature, you can enjoy seasonal beauty, such as cherry blossom in spring, colored leaves in autumn and snow in winter. Originally built by Priest Gantei, a leading disciple of Priest Ganjin. The temple is also well-known for the place where Ushiwakamaru, later Minamoto Yoshitsune, tragic historical character, practiced and trained.
The principal objects of worship at the Kurama-dera Temple are Sonten, including Senju Kannon meaning Thousand-Armed Kannon Statue as the spirit of moon, Bisyamonten or Vaisravana as the spirit of sun, and Maoson as the power of the earth. The principal objects are open to the public every 60 years. A pair of a-un tigers, agyo and ungyo, inspiration and expiration are just in front of Hondokondo or the main hall. They are said to be messengers of the deity. Yoshitsunedo enshrines Shanaoson to comfort the spirit of Shanao, who was born as Ushiwakamaru and later trained as Shanao at Kurama-dera Temple. He was defeated by his stepbrother, Minamoto Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, then escaped and perished.
Since the temple is in northern Kyoto, cherry blossoms around Kurama-dera Temple reach their peak in early April, later than central Kyoto. In the precinct, Uzuzakura are cherry blossoms unique to Kurama bloom as well as, Someiyoshino is the most famous cherry blossom in Japan. You can enjoy Ukonzakura, they are yellowish cherry blossoms too. The peak is around late April.
The area around Kurama and Kibune, including Kurama-dera Temple is one of the places you can see the most beautiful autumn leaves in Japan. Autumn leaves around Kurama-dera Temple start turning colors in early-November, and reach their peak from mid-November to late-November. You can enjoy the colorful leaves at the temple earlier than in the city because of the high elevation. One of the best places for autumn leaves is near Niomon, or Nio Gate. The contrast between the deep red maple leaves and the dignified Niomon is breathtaking.
Photo Credit: aaron.michels@flickr
There is a cable car between Sanmon Station and Tahoto Station. This is the only cable car operated by a temple and it is the shortest in Japan. In addition, the drivers and clerks wear samue, a garment that a zen monk wears when he performs samu. Of course, you can go up the slope and stairs on foot. But it’s easier to ride the cable car. From the window of the cable car, you can see and appreciate the splendid panoramic view of Kyoto.
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Address: 1074 Kuramahonmachi, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto
Access: 3 minute walk from Kurama Station
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Website: Kurama-dera Temple (Japanese)