Hiking from Kurama-dera to Kifune-shrine, Mountain Power Spots in Kyoto


This Kurama-dera Temple to Kibune-jinja Shrine hiking route is my favourite places in Kyoto, and I always visit when I come to Kyoto.

There are two ways to explore this are from Krurama station to Kifune or the other way around. But I recommend from Kurama to Kifune, just because less climb up the hill and close to the Kurama station to start hiking.

Also, there are so many cafes and restaurants in Kifune area, so that you can have lunch after hiking.

Then I believe this area is probably the most potent power spots were the source of spring water for Kyoto’s underground water, where Ryujin (Dragon or water god) is enshrined.

Let me introduce this erea with not only ordenary guide book information, but a bit of myth and legend what I research in Japanese books too.

Details for Kurama to Kifune Hike

This Kurama/Kibune area is called Okukiza(back room) in Kyoto. As Kyoto’s most energetic power spots, it’s famous for a Japanese tourist site to get blessed for love, fortune and natural powers.

The hiking route is through Kurama Temple and Kon-do Hall (main hall), then climb up to Kibune Shrine, is a place that you can have refresh mountain air.

The distance is about 2 km, and it takes about 2-3 hours.

Relatively low in height, even beginners can easily climb up. During the summer, Kifune area is a lot cooler than Kyoto city, so that there is Kawadoko (riverbed) which local restaurants set up the floors just right top of the river for all customers to get cool down.

Then in autumn, you can enjoy magnificent, beautiful autumn leaves in many different colours.


Kurama-dera Temple

For this hiking, you have to get the train from Demachiyanagi station, Eizan rail way. Kurama station is the end of that rail line anyway, but it’s only takes 30 minutes.

Then when you get off the station, you will see the Tengu stature which is ancient mountain sprites associated with Shugendo.

Kurama Station. Photo credit: Eizan rail way website
Tengu spirits for Shugendo religion

Mt. Kurama is a unique sacred area that has many different aspects of mountain religions such as;

  • Animism Shinto, Onmyodo (way of Yin and Yang; occult divination system based on the Taoist theory of the five elements)
  • Shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism-shamanism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts).
  • The legend of Tengu (long-nosed goblin). That and it has become a unique sacred place.

I attach the bit some info from Wiki for Kurama to refer its history and details here;

The temple was founded in the 8th century AD. Its origins are historically unclear, but it is said that the Chinese monk Jianzhen initiated a disciple into the Buddhist path, who saw in a dream in 772 that Mount Kurama had a spiritual power and built an esoteric temple to concentrate and control this power.

It was burned down many times throughout the medieval era but the Buddhist statues and treasures inside it were always rescued and are today National Treasures. It is still believed today that tengu and other mountain spirits live in this area.

Kurama-dera from Wikipedia

Kurama-dera Temple is a Shugendo temple, so Shugendo has a Tengu (long-nosed goblin), so the big Tengu greets you when you get off the Kurama station.

Mount Kurama is about 580m high. It only takes a few minutes’ walk from the station to get to Nio-mon gate of Kurama-dera Temple.

This Nio-mon Gate is considered to be the boundary between this secular world and the holy precincts of the temple.

From Nio-mon gate, you can use a cable car, but just only approximately 160m hight, if you can, I recommend to walk up slowly from this gate.

Nio-mon entrance gate of Kurama-dera Temple
Kurama-dera Sando (Path)
Yuki Jinja

The Rokubosei is one of the strongest power spots in Kyoto

Photo credit:「inariage.com」(Daisuke Hiroi)

Walking through the gate, you will reach Kurama-dera Temple’s Kon-do (main hall). There are two tigers; Ko and Aun no Tora. They are the guardians of Bishamonten (Vaisravana) who is the deity of Mt. Kurama. They sit both sides of the main hall.

The tigers are enshrined instead of Komainu (guard dogs for temples and shrines).

the guardian tiger (usually a dog)

In front of this main hall, there is a Rokubosei (six-rayed star) star calls Kongotoko (Diamond spot). This mark on the ground imitates the waves of Sonten (universe), and it is supposed to be the strongest power spot in Mt. Kurama.

And it integrates with the universe then you can gain power, but it is not supposed to stand on this triangle. Well, don’t ask me why!

There is also a legend that a god descended from Venus to Kurama-dera Temple 6.5 million years ago.

From the back of the Kon-do Hall of Kurama-dera Temple, there is the path leading to Oku-no-in Temple, where you can enjoy the mountain hiking path to Kibune-jinja Shrine.

Kurama Okuno-in, Mao-do

‘Goho Maoson,’ is enshrined in the small hall called Mao-do, who governed the world as the spiritual king of Earth from Venus about 6.5 million years ago. And this deity is for the creation and destruction of the earth.

My favourite on the Mount Kurama hiking trail is this “Kinomichi.” There is a somewhat mysterious atmosphere here, partly because of an anecdote that Yoshitsune practised jumping when he was a boy.

You’ve got to Be careful not to step on this root when you walk.

Further down the stone steps, they enter the area of Kibune-jinja Shrine. You may notice if you cautiously focus on feeling the sign of changing atmosphere when you crossed the border of Kurama-dera to the water god’s shrine area.

You can feel like the air has been sharpened. It’s really hard to say, but my husband could notice that too (he is an even atheist!).

After you pass the west gate, then you cross the Kibune River that will reach to the main shrine of Kibune-jinja Shrine.

You can see the famous red-coloured lanterns that you can’t help but feel like taking many photos.

Kifune shrine path to the main hall

The Kifune-jinja Shrine, Ritual Praying for Rain in ancient times

The exact history of this shrine is too old to be defined. However, there is a written record that this shrine had already existed during the Emperor Tenmu era(about 1,300 years ago).

I attach Wiki’s information here to refer:

The shrine became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers were sent to report important events to the guardian kami of Japan. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines including the Kifune Shrine.

From 1871 through 1946, the Kifune Shrine was officially designated one of the Modern system of ranked Shinto Shrines (官幣中社, Kanpei-chūsha), meaning that it stood in the second rank of government supported shrines.

Kifune shirine Wikipedia

Kifune shrine enshrines a few different gods in separated halls as its deities. These gods are all related to water;

Deities of Kifune Shrine

Main Shrine (water god):
Takaokami no Kami (god); The son of Izanagi no Mikoto
Kessha Shrine:
Iwanagahime no Mikoto; sister of Konohanasakayahime no Mikoto
Rear Shrine:

  • Takaokami no Kami
  • Funatama no Kami
  • Kuraokami no Kam
  • Tamayorihime no Mikoto

Takaokami no Kami and Kuraokami no Kami are both called by different names. But they are described as the same god. In the shrine record, and are considered to be the dragon god responsible for controlling rains.

Kifune-Shrine (main shrine): water fortune-telling of the god of water

Photo credit: inariage.com,(Daisuke Hiroi)

It supposed to worship in Kifune shrine as the correct order from Honmiya (main shrine) → Okumiya (rear shrine) → and Kessha (middle-shrine).

There is an anecdote that Izumi Shikibu, who was a poet of the Heian period, visited the shrine then worshipped this shrine’s deity, Iwanagahime no mikoto, and she got back her husband’s love.

Since then, Kibune Shrine is famous as a power spot for relationships, marriage or romance, but its main shrine should be Yuino Yashiro.

water fortune telling

The natural water that springs out of Kibune Shrine is the source of underground water in Kyoto. It is treated as holy water.

In the main shrine, you can try “mizu-uranai,” fortune-telling using this sacred holy water, it is very popular.

Also, during autumn, there are many lanterns on the street amongst the spectacular red and many other leaf colours.

Kifune rear shrine’s mysterious power

going down to Kifune rear shrine from Main shrine
The gate of Kifune rear shrine

I would like you to visit Kifune’s rear shine. Compared to Main shirne, there are not many people coming to, but I like this rear shine most. Physically, it’s a bit far away from the Main shrine, maybe 10 minutes walking or so.

And perhaps I believe some people might have instincts to feel not to come here neither. This rear shrine has a distinctive atmosphere which I love but not for everyone.

For instance, my husband felt very uncomfortable, and then he was getting sick when he was getting closer to this shine area. Then, at last, he had nasty diarrhea, he looked very pale, poor thing.

Again, he is an atheist and doesn’t believe any supernatural and superstitions.

He felt like he wasn’t invited or welcomed there at all. Then we were leaving the property, and he felt getting better and better.

From Kifune shrine’s records, in ancient times, this place was the main shrine, and the rain ritual was held here.

Kifune’s Ushimitsu Curse Activity

Don’t forget to wash your hand with sacred water!

This shrine is also famous for the Ushi no koku mairi, which is cursing person since ancient times.

I’ve found Wiki that explains well :

Ushi no toki mairi (Japanese: 丑の時参り, lit. “ox-hour shrine-visit”) or ushi no koku mairi (丑の刻参り) refers to a prescribed method of laying a curse upon a target that is traditional to Japan, so-called because it is conducted during the hours of the Ox (between 1 and 3 AM). The practitioner—typically a scorned woman—while dressed in white and crowning herself with an iron ring set with three lit candles upright, hammers nails into a sacred tree (神木, shinboku) of the Shinto shrine. In the modern-day common conception, the nails are driven through a straw effigy of the victim, impaled upon the tree behind it. The ritual must be repeated seven days running, after which the curse is believed to succeed, causing death to the target, but being witnessed in the act is thought to nullify the spell. The Kifune Shrine in Kyoto is famously associated with the ritual.

Ushi no koku mairi Wikipedia

When I went to the local restaurant with my best friend, then I asked the guy who drove down to the Kufune station for us about this cursing activities. He says it is still going on and the shrine priest occasionally collects straw dolls and nails on the trees.

I have never been to Kibune Shrine in the middle of the night, and I prefer not!! But I can feel the kind of “darkness” that is also common during the day time. There is some different kind of powers out there.

You should visit the most mystic shrine in Kyoto

However, it can be an incredibly spooky place, but it’s a special place for me. Because this place gives you a sense of ancient mystery and it’s timeless. I feel like I lose my sense of time.

And it’s not artificial like any other tourist places in Kyoto.

However, for some reason, I can’t take pictures of the shrine, well, I don’t feel like taking pictures.

So I took only the entrance and a picture of where you have to purify your hand with the sacred water before you enter the shrine.

I don’t know if you like this place or not, but I recommend to visit this ancient water god shrine.

You will have very different experiences from any other place in Kyoto for sure!!

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How to Get Kurama and Kifune Area
Duration:1hr 1min.

Transfers:2 Transfers


Kyoto St. : JR Nara Line
↓ 2min.
Tofukuji station St. [東福寺] : Keihan Main Line
↓ 17min.
Demachiyanagi St. [出町柳] :Eizan Dentetsu Eizan Line
↓ 9min.
DIRECT TRAIN (Stay On the Same Train)
Takaragaike St. [宝ヶ池]: Eizan Dentetsu Kurama Line
↓ 22min.
Kurama St.



I hope you enjoyed my story of KURAMA – KIFUNE HIKING in KYOTO. Hopefully, you found it useful and make you got there too! Here are a few more interesting articles about Yoshino that I recommend you read next:

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