Itinerary includes a sightseeing train, shrine visit, and a meal to remember!

This summer, Central Japan Railway is inviting people to visit Kyoto with a special “Souda Kyoto Ikou” (“That’s right, Let’s go to Kyoto!”) campaign. The campaign includes a number of special “Kyo no Ryo Sagashi” (“Search for Cool in the Capital”) programs created in conjunction with local shrines and temples, which provide visitors with new ways to stay cool while sightseeing in the notoriously hot city, while also offering never-before-seen gifts and benefits.

One shrine taking part is the beautiful Kifune, which remains a top destination for travellers, and JR Central has a suggested itinerary that our reporter Egawa Tasuku recently tried for himself. He says it made for one of his most memorable travel experiences he’s ever had, so let’s follow along and see what made his daytrip to Kifune so special.

▼ The day started at Demachiyanagi Station, where Egawa waited to board a train north to Kifune on the Eizan Electric Railway line.

Egawa felt the sweat trickle down his neck as he waited for the train, as it had been hot and humid since the early hours of the morning. Just as he began to wonder if sightseeing in Kyoto during the heat of summer would be worth it, he became distracted by an approaching train, which looked unlike any other he’d ever seen before.

This was the Hiei train, the newest train on the line, which runs from Demachiyanagi to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station. Japan loves a good pun, and Hiei sounds similar to “hie”, which means “coldness” or “chilliness”, making it especially perfect for the “Search for Cool in the Capital” promotion.

Unfortunately, Egawa’s ticket didn’t include a journey on the Hiei, but visitors interested in boarding the train can book a different tour in the program, which allows visitors to ride the train while listening to Japanese ghost stories told by a Buddhist priest.

▼ Egawa’s journey would involve a different train, the “Kirara”, which is currently enjoying a tie-up with Manga Time Kirara.

▼ On the outside, the Kirara might look somewhat plainer to the Hiei sightseeing train…

▼ …but as soon as you step inside, you’ll realise this is no ordinary train.

The windows are large and the seats on one side face outwards, allowing you to fully enjoy the passing scenery, which at times makes you feel as if you’re flying through the treetops.

After around 26 minutes, Egawa alighted at Kibuneguchi Station and switched to a local train for the four-minute journey to Kifune shrine and its famous stone stairs, which often appear on Instagram posts.

The stone stairs are usually one of the highlights of a visit to the shrine, but from 14 July to 31 August, there’s another reason to visit, as cooling wind chimes and pinwheels are on display as part of the Souda Kyoto Ikou campaign.

Surrounded by large trees, Kifune shrine is noticeably cooler than the centre of Kyoto, making it a pleasant site to visit in summer.

Plus, you get to try out the unusual “Water Fortune Mikuji“, a paper fortune that floats on water and reveals the level of fortune you’ve acquired.

▼ Kifune shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain.

Once you’ve enjoyed visiting Kifune shrine, you can round off the trip with a meal at a long-established inn/restaurant called “Hiroya“, which is located just a stone’s throw from the shrine.

Selected by Central Railway Company as a recommended stop on their suggested route, this restaurant may not be as well-known as the waterside eateries along Kyoto’s Kamo River, but that’s what makes it so special.

▼ Diners here are able to eat their meals right above the water!

There isn’t even a guard rail between diners and the side of the platform, making you feel totally at one with nature.

The river flows fast, providing a cool accompaniment to the meal. And what a meal it is, filled with local summer specialties to keep you cool in the heat and provide you with just the right amount of sustenance for the journey home.

Egawa’s daytrip to Kifune shrine is one he’ll never forget, and by the end of his trip, he felt fully recharged and ready to take on the rest of whatever summer has in store for him.

If temples are more your thing, though, you can always take part in this program at Kennin-ji Temple, where you can lie on the floor and admire the dragons on the ceiling!

Images provided by JR Central
Photos © SoraNews24
Related: Souda Kyoto, Ikou, Kifune ShrineHiroya

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