The Golden Pavilion & Hiking in the Japanese Mountains

Arashiyama was beautiful and only fed into my desire to see more nature. I always feel so much closer to God when I’m in nature. There isn’t much to dazzle you and distract you from real life.

I started my day a little later than I wanted. I had intended on visiting a garden near the Golden Pavilion first, but ended up at the Golden Pavilion just before opening. I figured that since I was already there, I’d change my plans.

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The Pavilion was much smaller than I imagined, but still quite nice. The only thing to ruin the magical experience were the crowds. Thankfully, there weren’t too many people there. However, I did meet one guy who was on a tour with G Adventures, the same tour company I went to Thailand with! I was actually really excited about this.img_0457 img_0452 img_0459 img_0465 img_0468 img_0475

After the Pavilion, I decided to take a short bus ride to a beautiful temple nearby.

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The temple is famous for being peaceful and having a zen rock garden. Honestly, it was nice, but I didn’t fully comprehend why it was so beautiful to stare at a bunch of rocks.img_0491 img_4317 img_0488 img_0517 img_0501

I pretty much rushed through the small temple. But the gardens surrounding it were stunning. I am definitely a fan of Japanese gardens.

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After walking through this temple, I started looking for a place to eat lunch. This turned out to be a lot more work than I thought it would be. I ended up walking through a small residential area instead of the main street. Fortunately, I did manage to find an udon/ramen place on some random street.

Ordering the food turned out to be quite an ordeal because EVERYTHING was in Japanese. I literally pointed to something with a reasonable price and said, “Hai” (meaning “yes”).

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After lunch, I walked to the train station. I guess I chose the long way, because I did SO MUCH WALKING. Why do I do this to myself?

Then came the main event: Hiking.

I was SUPER pumped to go hiking in the Japanese mountains. What’s more adventurous than being a lone wanderer through the woods? I thought more people would be going to the same location, but the train to the village was not at all crowded.

I originally intended on starting my hike in Kibune, but made the last minute decision to start it from Kurama-dera. Truthfully, I thought the name “Kurama-dera” sounded cooler than “Kibune.” Plus, when I prayed about it, I felt more peace about starting in Kurama-dera.

The train ride to my destination was an adventure in itself.

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The train was almost empty at the final stop. When I got off, the streets were mostly deserted and I decided to eat a little snack before my hike.

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And thus began my first stop: Kurama-dera. A beautiful temple greeted me at the entrance to the hike.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I was in the right area. I just chose to walk through the temple to see what there was. I didn’t know how long it would take to the reach the other side at Kibune.
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I know it may seem brave of me to just walk through a temple with no idea if you’re in the right area, but trust me when I say that I did not feel brave. The bear warning at the entrance did not help calm my fears.

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I was a little intimidated, especially since there weren’t a lot of people around. But I figured that this MUST be the entrance to the right hiking place because what else could there be?

The scariest part for me was knowing that once I started the climb, there’d be no backing down. There would only be one way to get to the other village of Kibune, and that was by moving forward. What a great metaphor for life!

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The first part of the climb was really fun and mysterious. I know you cannot tell from pictures, but it felt really spooky. I was surrounded by trees and fog. The recent rain provided a cool, crisp air. Add this on top to the fact that I was actually in a temple and your mind can imagine what I was feeling. Though I am a Christian, I can see how people believe in nature as a god. The entire temple felt very regal and strange. The people at the entrance also gave me a pamphlet with some sort of Buddhist prayer on it. But instead of praying to Buddha or whomever, I just prayed to Jesus. I most assuredly prayed myself up to the top, reciting verses to myself and hoping I wouldn’t encounter a bear.

I also read that this temple was opened in 770 AD. So though I don’t believe in nature as a god, there is one thing I believed — this place was OLD. So old. And to be walking through it? Wow. What a world.

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The first half of my trip finished when I arrived at some other sort of temple. It was also weirdly nice.

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Then came the fun part — the descent!

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I am SO glad that I started hiking upwards from Kurama-dera, because I’m pretty sure the train actually took me up part of the hike. It seemed like I was going down more of the mountain than I climbed. There were also more people that I encountered on the way down.

After about an hour or two, I finally arrived in Kibune. That wasn’t so bad!

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I read online that the temple in Kibune was supposed to be lovely, but I actually thought it wasn’t as regal as the one in Kurama-dera.

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I walked through the town of Kibune, which looked bigger than Kurama. There were more tourists here and more to see.

Also, how cool is it that I worship a God that cannot be enshrined in a temple? So cool!

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I walked around for about an hour, stopped for tea along the way, and then made my way back to the station.

I arrived back in Kyoto around 6 pm, just in time for dinner.

Dinner this night was probably one of my most favorite dinners on my trip. I walked into some very random restaurant, which seemed to have only exactly 1 English menu. When I walked in, the cook behind the counter had a baby strapped to her chest and was frying things from a fryer. Everyone in the joint looked at me like I was a lost puppy. I just sat down and ordered only God knows what.

It was such an adventure!

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What do you think?