Approach stairsFor my first full day in Kyoto I decided to… leave Kyoto.  I took a small, suburban railway up to Kibune Guchi then walked uphill for about half an hour to reach Kifune Shrine in Kibune.  Apparently the spirit enshrined there is not exactly the spirit of water itself, but rather the provider of water to others (as in rivers, rainfall, and so on.)  Anyway, I bought my oracle, which came on a piece of paper with blank boxes.  Soaking it in the provided trough revealed my fortune, which according to a Japanese man I asked was “middle lucky.”  He was unhappy – his was bad.

After the shrine, I took a pleasant walk through the hills to reach Kurama.  On the way were awesome views and beautiful mountainside temples and shrines – take a look at my photos for a small taste :)

I had an extremely tasty bowl of tempura ramen at one of the two open restaurants in Kurama, with a cup of amazake afterwards.  This is a sweet, non-alcoholic drink made from fermented rice.  Then I headed to Kurama Onsen, a hotspring resort about 10 minutes walk out of town, and soaked in the water for about 2 hours while the sun set over the hills.
After all that, I finally headed back to Kyoto for more ramen then sleep.

Geiko, making teaThe next day I had the chance to experience a different kind of beauty in the form of a tea ceremony at Gion Corner, a local centre dedicated to preserving and promoting Japanese traditions.  I am sadly not well versed in tea ceremony protocol, but this one was geared towards tourists and they explained everything in Japanese and English.  The best part was that the tea was prepared by a Geiko (Geisha) and served by a pair of Maiko (apprentice Geisha.)  Geiko and Maiko are breathtakingly beautiful in a way that is impossible to show in photos or, really, describe.  Also the way the Geiko prepared the tea was amazing in the perfect way she moved – everything exactly right, lots of steps, but no wasted motions.

All in all, a wonderful couple of days :)