Kibune is a mountain village nestled in a steep valley north of Kyoto that has long been used as a summer retreat for the residents of Kyoto as it is usually a full 5 degrees cooler than down below. Getting there is half the pleasure. You take the Eizan Railways train from Demachiyanagi station (the end station of the Keihan line) and take the train heading for Kurama. The trains have panoramic windows and seats that face out so you can easily enjoy the view as the trains snakes its way slowly up into the mountains. Get off at Kibuneguchi, the last stop before Kurama, and from there it is a pleasant 2 kilometre walk up the valley, or you can take the frequent shuttle bus.
The main attraction in Kibune is Kibune Shrine, an ancient shrine that was established long before the city of Kyoto. The long stone stairs flanked by vermillion lanterns are impossible to miss. The ancient Japanese religion was heavily concerned with water, many of the oldest shrines were placed at important water sources, and this is the case with Kibune. Enshrined here are the God Kuraokami no kami and his wife the Goddess Mizuhonone no kami, both considered water gods. Once the capital was moved to Kyoto the Emperor would visit here for ceremonies connected with rain. If rainfall was needed, a black horse would be offered to the shrine, if dry weather was needed, a white horse.
The main shrine, which is as far as most visitors go, is actually the lower of three shrines, and its well worth the walk up the valley a little way to visit the others. The middle shrine is small but set in a grove of huge, majestic, ancient cedars. The Upper shrines is larger and is actually the original Kibune shrine.
Legend has it that buried under the shrine, covered in rocks, is an ancient boat that a goddess used to sail up the river from Kyoto. The original meaning of Kibune is "yellow boat", and many scholars connect it with the Chinese story of a yellow boat that was used to visit the the land of the dead, a connection perhaps to the shamanic origins of Japanese religion.
The other attraction in Kibune is a unique dining experience, Kawadoko, where you eat seated on platforms suspended just above the fast flowing waters of the river. One establishment serves nagashi somen, a type of thin noodle served cold. The interesting part is that the noodles are delivered to you via a bamboo chute... you grab at the noodles with your chopsticks as they zip by.
From Kibune you can take the trail up the sacred mountain of Kurama, home to a very famous temple, and where as a young student the future Shogun Yoshitsune was trained in the art of the sword by a mythical creature known as a Tengu. Heading down the mountain on the other side you arrive in the village of Kurama, home to a famous onsen, and where you can take the train back into Kyoto.
Kyoto City Sightseeing Guide
Kyoto Rail Map
Sunday, June 04, 2006