Kurama Onsen is a bit of a trek from Arashiyama, located in west Kyoto, where we'd spent our morning and early afternoon. We needed to make our way back to central Kyoto and then head up north to Kurama.
Kurama Onsen is not only an all natural outdoor (and indoor) onsen, it's also a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Staying guests can use the baths for free or day trippers like ourselves will need to pay ¥1000 (approx £6) to use the outdoor onsen. The ryokan offers its own shuttle service to and from the station, but we had just missed one as we arrived into Kurama staton.
By foot, the onsen is a pleasant 10 minute stroll along the town's only road. Kurama is a quiet town and apart from local residents living here, the ryokan and a temple, there is nothing much else.
An onsen like this can feel very intimating if you're not used to stripping off in front of loads of people but honestly, there's all shapes and sizes and out of politeness, no one looks at each other. I take a full shower to cleanse first before stepping into the onsen, and it's another shower once I'm out. I have never felt so clean!
Bathing outdoors has it's downer though. No one told me, and nor did I read anywhere that plenty of bugs will fly blindly into the onsen and you end up bathing with them! There were some mozzies around too, so had to keep most of my body submerged at times to avoid them.
10 minutes into my soak, I got quite bored since I am terrible at relaxing and doing nothing. Luckily I had my Glamour magazine with me so I went back to my locker to grab it. The onsen also got a bit too hot for me too, so I just sat and laid down the side of the onsen for a while. Sprawled naked on the side with other naked women in broad daylight was an experience I'll never forget!!
This time, we didn't miss our shuttle and we were happy to not have to walk down a pitch black road for 10 minutes! Once we were back into central Kyoto, it was time for dinner. After scoping out our dinner options, we finally settled for Yakitori at a nice looking restaurant.
There didn't seem to be too many dining options in Kyoto. We saw a lot of yakitori and kaiseki restaurants, but not much of sushi restaurant, ramen and udon bars or even sushi restaurants. Maybe we were not looking hard enough or maybe we were just missing Tokyo eating...
2nd time we've encountered yuba in Japan, and both times in Kyoto. Soft, silky and slightly chewy textures with intense soya flavours is what yuba is all about.
We literally rolled out of the restaurant clutching our swollen bellies since we didn't let anything go to waste. And it only cost ¥7000 (£40) for the both of us. If we ever go back to Kyoto, I'm hunting down this yakitori bar again. Unfortuately, not being a food blogger back when we travelled through Japan, I didn't make a note of the address, but remembered it was in the Gion area.
Late night wanderings continue in an attempt to walk off dinner...
We came across a lively club/bar area and a few dodgy looking 'male customer' only joints.
Gion by night is calm and peaceful. a stroll by the river is perfect.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Kyoto. We have a temple to visit in the morning and then it's off to Osaka in the after. We love Japan.