Mt. Kurama

Cantering along the forested hiking trail up Mt. Kurama, on the outskirts of Kyoto, Aunt Hisako and I keep out of sight as the sun descends in the sky. We ensure no one’s watching, bow before quickly ducking under a hidden torii gate just outside the tiny town named after the mountain, and lope into the realm of the sacred. Why didn’t we take the path to the temple?
Umeji Tatsuya narrating Chapter 1 of Guardian

  Located only about a half hour drive or 1.5 hour train ride from central Kyoto, Mt. Kurama is a secluded peak sheltered by distance from the big city hustle and bustle.   This mountain is where the healing art of reiki started and the location of Kuramadera, a Buddhist temple and considered one of the power spots of Japan.   To get to the Kuramadera temple complex and trail over the ridge you can climb the steep stone stairs for a good 30 minutes or take the tram that goes up the steep hillside then walk the short trail around the side of the mountain.  
by Freepik
The mountain is home to Soujou-bou (king of the Tengu) and his castle complex. But exactly where his majestic home is located remains a mystery. Legends don't give its precise coordinates and hikers and satellite data haven't revealed the site.  

Geography

Mt. Kurama is located north of Kyoto and west of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. It's slopes are steep and sometimes the cedars that grow seem like they go straight up into the sky. A crystal clear river runs along the west-side valley floor and follows the highway farther into the mountain forest.  

Rumors and Legends

Rumors of tengu on the mountain still circulate, though they've died down over the last century.   Minamoto no Yoshitsune, one of the most famous samurai, is said to have been trained here by Soujou-bou, himself.  

Tourism vs. Sheltering the Local Residents

It's not as popular a destination as say, Fushimi Inari. But the mountain hosts Kuramadera, a hiking trail that leads to Kibune (a small town on the opposite side of the mountain from Kurama) and the associated shrine of Kifune.   It's protected from overtourism by Soujou-bou's magical wards that distract and drive away those seeking him, unless he gives them permission to visit. He and the locals value the mountain's tranquility. Though he tries to strike a balance in allowing visitors, because he understands the residents of the little tourist town of Kurama town need to make a living.
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View from Kuramadera by Amy Winters-Voss
Landsat 9 satellite image of Mt. Kurama area
Landsat-9 image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
Alternative Name(s)
Kurama-san, 鞍馬山
Type
Mountain / Hill
Location under
Included Locations
Owner/Ruler

Appears In:


Liminal Chronicles Series bookcover art by Odette.A.Bach and text by Amy Winters-Voss. Short story bookcovers by Amy Winters-Voss


Cover image: by AWV, David Emrich, cube29

Comments

Author's Notes

Mt. Kurama and the delightful little town at its base are a real world places, north of Kyoto. They may not be listed as the "top" tourist destinations, but I think many of the "top" ones are over rated. If you get a chance, Kurama (the town) and Mt. Kurama with it's lovely Kuramadera temple are definitely worth a visit. I had the privilege of visiting there in March of 2023 and share some of my experiences here and in my travel blog for that day.   Here are a few tourist info links, if you're interested.

  • Kurama and Kifune (Japan Travel)
  • Kurama (Japan Guide)
  • Mt. Kurama (Trip Advisor)

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    Disclaimer

    As with all the locations in Liminal Chronicles, when I include the places in my worldbuilding they are lovingly and respectfully based on real world locations, myths, and folklore. I try to be as accurate as I can. But I don't live in these areas, so I can't fully portray them.   I also sometimes choose to deviate a bit from them because I write urban fantasy. Shinto and Buddhism are real world belief systems. I want to do my absolute best to respect that. So my deviations are sometimes for story and worldbuilding reasons, sometimes it's simply out of respect for the inhabitants and religious beliefs because crazy things happen in my books.


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    Jul 11, 2024 12:30 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

    It looks beautiful. It's so fun that you actually got to visit here in real life.

    Jul 11, 2024 21:46 by Amy Winters-Voss

    Thank you! On each trip to Japan, I try to visit a something fun and myth/folklore related. :D

    Author of the Liminal Chronicles urban fantasy series | Author Website
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