Today we took the 1.5 hour trip from Kyoto to Kurama Onsen. We stopped for a quick breakfast in a little café inside Kyoto station. Had hamburger patty (more like meatloaf) with soft poached egg over rice and small salad with a coke and shrimp bisque soup with black coffee.
The Onsen is one of those places that makes you feel like you’re really out of your element, but in such a good way. The people there were kind and helpful even though they really don’t speak any English. They have hot springs both indoors and outdoors, and we chose the outdoor one. In case you’re wondering, they are completely nude (segregated of course) and like most of Japanese society, it helps to know a bit of etiquette beforehand. It is very inappropriate to get into the water without washing up first. Once you’re in, the water is super warm and relaxing and because it is outside you get to enjoy the forest and the sounds of birds and the stream nearby. Plan on spending at least an hour. Bring your own towel because they charge extra to use one of theirs, and bring plenty of change as everything is cash only by way of vending machine, including the tickets to the Onsen.
After a nice soak, we chose to walk downhill back into the town of Kurama where we found the start of the rail system back to Demachiyanagi. The interesting thing about this train is it has no conductor. It is completely automated. From Demachiyanagi we were able to switch back to one of the bigger Kyoto lines back to Kyoto station.
Back at Kyoto station we had a look around Porta, which is a nice underground mall with shops and restaurants, all attached to the train station. We had seen a restaurant called Touyoutei which is always packed and specializes in Japanese style western food – specifically Hamburg Steak. There are so many great restaurants inside the station and Porta so if there is a long line, I would suggest try something else.