Known for its stunning autumn scenery, Rurikoin Temple is one of the most visited temples in Kyoto. This magical place only started to receive attention in 2015 and is only open twice a year during spring and autumn to preserve its cultural beauty. Just outside, the journey from the entrance gate is already a breathtaking one – showing a display of trees dyed in autumn hues. In spring, it transforms into lush greenery with two Japanese-style gardens having their own unique ambience. The more notable garden is Ruri-no-Niwa, where the whole ground is carpeted in luscious green moss. With an open view of the entire garden, the second floor is also nothing short of amazing, as thanks to a lacquered black table and flooring reflecting the richly coloured maple trees making this experience an even more surreal one.
The temple is located in Yase, which means “arrows in the back”, referring to the famous Emperor Temmu who injured his back during the Onin Civil War in 1467 who travelled to Yase to heal his injuries. Since then, it has become a famous place for healing and relaxation.
It is only a 5 minutes ride away by local train station and 7 minutes on foot from the nearest bus stop. Due to its popularity, please note that the wait sometimes take 2-3 hours. They are open from 10:00 – 17:00, and the admission fee will set you back by 2,000 yen.
In a quaint town in Gokayama, gassho-style houses can be found. Gassho means to fold hands together in prayer, which resembles the triangular shape of the thatched roofs. These thatched roofs were made to withstand heavy snow, so it has been preserved until now. Its popularity has gained it a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
The teeming nature, fields, and stone walls create a nostalgic and peaceful ambience that lets you disconnect from all your troubles. Part of its culture, specifically its folk songs, are considered Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan that are still performed to this day. There are also many traditional workshops that you can experience firsthand when you visit, including creating washi (Japanese paper) or sasara (traditional Japanese instrument).
Despite being in a remote area, you can easily reach Gokayama on a seasonal bus from JR Takaoka Station in an hour.
Kamishikimi Kumanomimasu Shrine
Witness an ethereal shrine situated in Takamori Town, Minami Aso, filled with an abundance of flora and lined with historical stone lanterns. The whole forest ground is carpeted in rich moss from the shrine steps, gate, and nearly 100 lanterns leading up to the shrine. This out of this world scenery was even featured as the backdrop in a popular manga which was made into an animated film in 2011.
The most accessible way to reach the shrine is by renting a car, but you can also take the Takamori-go bus from Kumamoto City. Once you arrive in Takamori Town, you can either take a taxi, rent a bicycle, or enjoy a leisure walk from the station. Getting to the shrine may be a little tricky, but it is definitely worth the visit.