One of the restaurants above Kibune-gawa
The stairs to Kibune jinja
Credit: Antoine Legastelois
The roof of Kifune Jinja
Credit: Antoine Legastelois
The tengu by Kurama-dera station
Child trying to catch nagashi sômen
Kibune is a picturesque and unusual village, whose name means "precious boat". Built on a mountain, it has only one street! On one side, buildings and ryokan, and on the other, a river: Kibune-gawa.
To get to Kibune from Kyoto, you have to take the Eizan Kurama train line. Getting on this train is an experience in itself. Made up of a single car, you sit on chairs facing the windows, and thus can easily admire the scenery. The urban landscape quickly evolves into natural greenery with a feeling of pronounced relief. It's a treat in any season.
Get off at Kibune-guchi Station (貴船口駅), the penultimate station on the line. From there, you can ride a small shuttle bus, or opt for a fifteen minute walk to finally reach the village.
What makes Kibune so original, and such a tourist attraction, is the presence of numerous restaurants located above the river.
It's a great experience to find yourself on tatami mat at a table just a few centimeters above the water. You can watch the river, listen to the rush of water flowing down the slope, and savor delicious Japanese dishes, surrounded by water and vegetation. What could be better?
It is essential to eat nagashi somen (流しそうめん), thin noodles you must catch yourself using your chopsticks, as they flow before your eyes in small packets on a water slide made of bamboo.
Popular with the Japanese - especially when it is very hot - Kibune may soon be overflowing with visitors, but for now the village remains a charming destination.
Shrine in the mountains
Kibune is also renowned for the beautiful Shinto shrine found on its main street. You'll have to climb a lot of steps (84 to be exact) to enjoy Kifune Shrine (貴船神社), but it's just the price to pay to pray the Shinto deity of water, revered in this place.
Here, the omikuji (おみくじ), fortunes that you choose from a box or dispenser at random, appear written on the paper after you dip it into holy water. Playful and clever!
Originally, Kifune Shrine was at the end of the "Main Street" of Kibune. Today you can still find a shrine here named Kibune Jinja-okumiya (貴船神社奥宮, "the shrine at the bottom of Kibune").
Take a hike
If you're in the mood for a short hike, cross the little bridge over the river near Kifune Jinja, and enter a beautiful mountain forest. Please note that the slope is quite steep, but perhaps you will feel the mystical and spiritual energy that reigns in these places, and get some extra energy?
The trail will lead you to Kurama-dera (鞍馬寺). This temple was founded in 770 by a Gantei monk, who came from Nara and belonged to the Tendai Buddhist school. Today, with some of its atypical practices and revered triad, the temple has a distinct status in Japanese Buddhist schools.
Many believe the temple has a strong mystical energy.
When the day comes to an end, to return to Kyoto go down the mountain path. It will lead you to Kurama Station (鞍馬駅), the terminus of the line. In front of the station, a huge tengu (天狗, benevolent Shinto deity) with an impressive nose wishes you a safe return.