Kuramadera Temple is located in northern part of Kyoto city, on top of a mountain called Kuramasan (Mt. Kurama). Kuramasan area is known not only for the Kuramadera Temple but also for Kurama Onsen (hot springs). Mt. Kurama (about 1800 feet above sea level) is twelve kilometers due north of Kyoto Imperial Palace and can be reached in thirty minutes from Kyoto by car.
This temple is easily reachable from the center of Kyoto City by train also. The Eizan Railway train starts from the Demachiyanagi Train station in Kyoto city and ends at Kuramadera station on Mt. Kurama. The train ride to the temple from Demachiyanagi is one of the most beautiful and scenic trips in Japan. You can watch a video of this ride in my train rides section.
The Kuramadera Temple, founded in 770 as the guardian of the northern quarter of the Heian era capital city (Heian-kyo, now the Kyoto city), is located halfway up the mountain. The original buildings, however, were repeatedly destroyed by fire. The Main Hall was last rebuilt in 1971. The temple formerly belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism (see Enryakuji Temple section) but since 1949 it has been included in the newly founded Kurama-Kokyo sect as it's headquarters.
More than six million years ago, Mao-son (the great king of the conquerors of evil and the spirit of the earth) descended upon Mt. Kurama from Venus, with the great mission of the salvation of mankind.
Kuramadera Temple Seal
Since then, Mao-son's powerful spirit governing the development and the evolution not only of mankind but of all living things on Earth has been emanating from Mt. Kurama, and a priest named Gantei received this spiritual transmission. In the first year of Hoki (AD 770), Gantei, who was the best pupil of High priest Ganjin, the founder of the Toshodaiji Temple in Nara, led by a white horse, climbed up to this holy place. His soul was enlightened with the realization of Bishamon-ten (the protector of the northern quarter of the Buddhist heaven and the spirit of the sun). Following, he founded the Buddhist temple on Mt. Kurama.
Mt. Kurama is famous as the home of long-nosed goblins (mountain spirits) known as Tengu.
Large Tengu Figure near Kurama Station
Later, in the 15th year of Enryaku (AD 796), the chief officer in charge of the construction of the Toji temple, saw a vision of Senju-kannon (the thousand armed Kannon and the spirit of the moon) and built temples and pagodas on the mountain.
Mao-son, Bishamon-ten, and Senju-kannon are the symbols of the universal soul, forming a Trinity known as "Sonten" or the "Supreme Deity". Sonten is the "Living Soul", the "Supreme Soul of the universe", the "Glorious light", and the "Activity of the soul". These three are the symbols of power, light and love. The Kurama Kokyo sect worships and trusts Sonten as the composite of all the three powers.
There is a beautiful Shrine called "Yuki Shrine" on the way to the top of the Mt. Kurama and Kuramadera Temple. Among the many festivals that take place on Mt. Kurama, the Fire Festival of Kuramasan is the most famous and is conducted for the Yuki Shrine.
There is a mountain trek which starts from behind the Kuramadera Temple and ends at the Kibune shrine area. I suggest all visitors to do this trek, time permitting because it would be one of the nicest treks you would ever do. Watch out for a type of snake called "Mamushi" (rattle snake type species), which inhabits this mountain during your trek though. It is supposed to be a poisonous snake but usually stays away from any type of contact from humans.
Here is a video of the visit to this beautiful temple:
Most of the temples in Japan (except for the city temples) are located either deep inside Jungles or on top of mountains. Because of this they are very susceptible to be destroyed by fires. Most of the communities around these temples, form voluntary fire brigades to protect these temples from fires.
When I visited Kuramadera Temple, there was a quick fire drill at this temple which I captured on video. I wanted to share that with you.