Kibune (貴船) is a small town in a forested valley in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, which developed around Kifune Shrine. According to legend, a goddess traveled in a boat from Osaka all the way up the river into the mountains north of Kyoto, and Kifune Shrine was built at the site where her boat journey had come to an end.
Kifune Shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain and believed to be the protector of those at sea. Here you can obtain a unique type of fortune written on paper slips (omikuji) that reveal their messages when dipped into water. Okunomiya, the inner sanctum and original site of Kifune Shrine, lies about one kilometer further up the valley. It has a large rock, known as the boat stone, which is said to be where the goddess' yellow boat is buried.
The rest of the town is made up by traditional styled ryokan and restaurants that line the narrow road for a few hundred meters parallel to Kibune River. It is a popular retreat from Kyoto's famed summer heat, but is also well visited in autumn when the leaves change.
From June to September, Kibune's restaurants build covered platforms out over the river where visitors can enjoy a meal as the water flows beneath them. Known as kawadoko, dining on the platforms is a relaxing experience and an excellent way to escape the summer heat. Most restaurants serve kaiseki meals that range in price from 3,000 to 20,000 yen per person. Reservations are recommended in the evenings and on busy days. Japanican offers online reservations in English for one of the restaurants.
A hiking trail to Kurama-dera, a mountain temple in neighboring Kurama, starts from Kibune on the opposite side of the river from the road. Visitors must pay a small entrance fee (300 yen) at the trailhead as this is the rear entrance to the temple. From here it is about a one hour hike up the occasionally steep trail to Kurama-dera's main buildings, and a further 30 minutes to the town below.
Kibune is connected with central Kyoto by Eizan Railway. The one way trip along the Eizan Kurama Line from Demachi-Yanagi Station to Kibune-guchi Station takes 30 minutes and costs 420 yen. Trains depart every 15-20 minutes. From Kibune-guchi Station, it is a further five minute bus ride (160 yen one way, departures timed to the trains) or a 20-30 minute walk up the road to Kifune Shrine.
The fastest way to reach Demachi-Yanagi Station from Kyoto Station is by taking the JR Nara Line to Tofukuji Station (140 yen, 2 minutes), where you can transfer to the Keihan Main Line to Demachi-Yanagi Station (270 yen, 10 minutes).