Ohara (大原, Ōhara) is a rural town nestled in the mountains of northern Kyoto, about one hour from Kyoto Station, but still technically located within Kyoto's city limits. Ohara is best known for Sanzenin Temple and particularly popular in mid November during the autumn leaf season, which typically occurs about one week earlier than in central Kyoto.
Sanzenin Temple is located part way up the forested mountains in the east of Ohara. It is a large temple with a variety of buildings and gardens, and was established in the early Heian Period (794-1185) by the great monk Saicho, who founded the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. The path from the town to the temple is lined with numerous small shops. One of the local specialties on sale are aisu kyuri, cucumbers pickled in seaweed flavored ice water and served on a stick.
Shops along the main approach to Sanzenin
Aisu Kyuri (Ice Cucumbers)
The temples surrounding Sanzenin also belong to the Tendai sect. They are quite small, and typically have only a couple of buildings or a garden. If you follow the walking trail behind the temples further into the forested mountain, you will eventually get to Otonashi Waterfall.
There are also a few attractions on the hillside on the opposite side of the valley, although there is generally less to see in this area. Jakkoin Temple, another temple of the Tendai sect, is the area's main attraction. The temple has a long history, but unfortunately suffered serious damage from a fire in 2000 in an act of arson. The area has a few shops, but not nearly as many as around Sanzenin.
In 2004 drilling took place in Ohara that allowed the town's ryokan (Japanese inns) to access hot spring water from over a kilometer deep within the earth. There are two ryokan near Jakkoin and one near Sanzenin where visitors can stay overnight, enjoying hot spring water baths after a day of sightseeing. For travelers with less time, the baths are also open to day trippers in combined lunch and bath sets.
Minor Temples and Sights