Ohara 大原 is a rural town in the mountains of northern Kyoto, about 20 km or one hour from Kyoto Station. Ohara is best known for Sanzen-in Temple and is one of the most popular places to visit in mid November – December during the autumn leaf season. It is a beautiful valley surrounded by mountain backdrop. Ohara retains some of the rural Japan charm that many people like me yearn for, after a busy hectic week.

Ohara is a popular autumn & winter destination for the stunning red of its maples and onsen hot springs. I went to Ohara in the first week of November last year, but leaves hadn’t started changing color then. But I am sure that it would be very beautiful in the peak autumn season. Anyway, Ohara is one of the most beautiful areas of Kyoto any time of the year. Ohara is a little cooler than Kyoto, so this is a great place to go if you want to cool down in summer or wanting to see snow first in winter. If you want to experience old Kyoto, stroll amongst quiet gardens, breathe in the Zen while enjoying green tea, definitely stay at one of the ryokans to experience the peace and rejuvenate yourself. Another must do it to eat the famous miso nabe (hot pot), served by almost all ryokans.

The most famous place in Ohara is Sanzen-in Temple, which is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms, autumn colors and moss. It has two beautiful gardens, called Juheki-en and Yusei-en, that are said to be the best sights in the Rakuhoku area, a northern part of Kyoto. Sanzen-in Temple itself has large temple grounds and a variety of buildings, gardens and walking paths. It belongs to the Tendai sect of Buddhism and was founded by Saicho who introduced Tendai Buddhism to Japan in 804. Also, it is a Monzeki temple, one of only a few temples in Kyoto whose head priests used to be members of the imperial family. It is surrounded with stone walls like a castle, and several buildings are in the temple grounds. There are various walking trails in this complex and it is cover with beautiful moss gardens and cute statues!

The approach from Ohara bus stop to Sanzen-in Temple is lined with shops and restaurants selling all sorts of teas, snacks and traditional goodies to temple visitors. About a 10 minute walk from Sanzen-in Temple, you can find beautiful Otonashi Waterfall amongst the forest.

Jikkou-in is a small temple located just north of Sanzen-in. This temple is famous for various plants in its Japanese garden, which are beautiful in all seasons. The admission fee to this temple includes Japanese tea and sweets. Unfortunately I was in Ohara for just over 2 hours and couldn’t visit this temple. Guess I need to go back for tea and sweets!

Access:
From Kyoto Station, Kyoto Bus number 17 provides a direct connection from Kyoto Station to Ohara. It takes about 60 minutes and 600 yen. There is a bus every 20 minutes.

Things to do in Kyoto: Ohara 大原

Vivalahighstreet

Things to do in Kyoto: Ohara 大原

Vivalahighstreet

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