Friday, 15 April 2011

The Only Gaijin in the Village

After a day`s jetlag we were all ready to stretch our legs, and what better way than a good hike up a mountain? Kurama is a small town north of Kyoto - not too far away but far enough to feel that you are out of the city and in the sticks. Kyoto is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and Kurama lies on the slopes of one such mountain.
We started at Kuramadera temple, a huge complex with mini shrines and temples dotted all the way up to the top of the mountain. As our ascent began, we stopped at each temple long enough to rest our legs ready for the next stage of the climb. There seemed to be a bit of a fetish for dragon ornaments...
And, err, oddly shaped monuments.
Although the temple is the home of a particular Buddhist sect, there were also Shinto shrines, which you can easily spot from their bright red `torii` gates.
There was even a teeny tiny torii gate that someone had left in 2007 and was still there!
Buddhist temples are usually dark wood, and often have wooden thresholds that you step over to enter them.
The main hall was extra-gorgeous with all the cherry trees in full bloom. We were lucky because there were very few people around and we were the only gaijin (foreigners) we saw all day. Sad though, that it`s the main tourist season and it`s so quiet.

We were part-way up the mountain at this point, and next came the aptly named Path of Never Ending Stone Steps...fortunately respite came in the form of a museum. Guilelessly, we paid the entrance fee and went in...

Now, there`s only one thing that terrifies me in this life and that`s cicadas. After a nasty experience in Kyoto last year, I am truly petrified. And guess what? This museum we`d so blindly stumbled into turned out to be a cicada museum!!! At least they were dead and pinned behind glass, which made them slightly more bearable, but still. Honestly. Other fascinating exhibits included dead beetles, rocks and mushrooms in jars. Worth 200 yen of anyone`s money, I`d say.

On we continued up the Never Ending Stone Steps...until they ended at the top of the mountain and we began our descent down the Path of Never Ending Wooden Steps. And finally, into the lovely village of Kibune for lunch.
Oh, and we randomly spotted a baby deer while we waited for a train, so here`s the obligatory cute shot.

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