Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Kyotamba – The Black Beans, the Chestnuts and the Sceneries

Kyotamba is a quiet town in the central part of Kyoto Prefecture with abundant nature. With large temperature differences between daytime and nighttime, the town is renowned for its black beans and chestnuts production. When the part of Kyoto Jūkan Expressway (京都縦貫自動車道) was finally completed for the Kyotamba section, the town became one of the local’s favorite natural destinations for a weekend getaway.

The “tan/tam” in Kyotamba means red, and the “ba” has a meaning of wave. According to one theory of how the town got its name – the bright warm colors of autumn leaves in the mountains reflected off the lake’s surface at sunset, giving it a magical glow. While there aren’t many lakes in the area, there is certainly some awe-inspiring fall scenery waiting for you to discover!

Here is a list of our recommended spots to drop by when you come to Kyokamba Town. Remember, in October, you can enjoy the freshly harvested black beans. And from late October, the super delicious chestnuts will start filling the shops in the town (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Kyotamba Town’s Bike Rental

For those who enjoy the cool breeze while cycling, you can head to one of the below spots first for bike rental. For just 700 yen, you can cycle for the whole day around the attractions in Kyotamba Town. A 1,000 yen deposit is required but will be refunded once you bring the bike back.

Kyotanbacho Sightseeing Information Center (京丹波町観光協会)

  • As the number of bikes available is limited, you can email them at [email protected] to reserve one in advance
  • You can choose from mountain bikes and normal bikes
  • The information center is open from 9 am to 4 pm. Please return the bike before it closes
  • To get to Kyotanba-chō Sightseeing Information Center (京丹波町観光協会) by public transport, you can take the Kytotamba Communicty Bus (京丹波町営バス) below and get off at Tanbamakesu (丹波マーケス)
    • Tamba Hiyoshi Line (丹波日吉線) from JR Goma Station (胡麻駅) or JR Hiyoshi Station (日吉駅)
    • Tamba Wachi Line (丹波和知線) from JR Wachi Station (和知駅)
    • Kōgen Shimoyama Line (高原下山線) from Shimoyama Station (下山駅)
  • The number of services is limited so refer to HERE for the timetable to plan ahead. The timetable is in Japanese only, so you will need to use the Japanese name of the bus routes/stops to read where it is going.

Roadside Station Nagomi (道の駅 和)

  • The bikes here are all electric-assisted bikes, making it easier to go up the hills
  • You can rent it between 9 am and 5:30 pm except for Tuesdays

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Koto Falls (琴滝)

Not too far away from Roadside Station Tanba-Ajimu-no-Sato, Kyotamba Town’s iconic scenic spot is Koto Falls. Streams of water elegantly cascade down the 43 meters high rock surface.

Ⓒ 森の京都DMO

As the contrast of the white streams of water against the dark rock looks like the 13 strings on a Japanese harp, the waterfall is named “Koto”. If you listen carefully, the sound of water echoing in the forest might just sound like the melody from a koto (^_-)-☆.

Because of the beauty of the waterfall, quite a few movies have shot scenes at the picturesque Koto Falls.

The natural surrounding of the Koto Falls is maintained as a part of Kototaki Park. Especially in autumn, hiking upstream along the lush promenade that is adorned with the bright autumn foliage around Kotaki Pond (小瀧池) is one of the must-do activities when you visit Kyotamba!

If you are interested in castle ruins, the promenade in the park will also lead to the Shuuchi Castle Ruins (須知城跡) that fell under attack from Akechi Mitsuhide (明智 光秀) when he took down Tamba in 1579. The stone wall of the castle ruin is as tall as 3 meters in parts, so it must have been a mighty battle!

The required travel time to the castle ruins is around 30 minutes. From here, you can get a wide view of the surrounding rural landscapes.

Whether it is to the Koto Falls or the Shuuchi Castle Ruins, the slopes aren’t too steep, making the park a great place for a family trip (=゚ω゚)ノ.

How to Get to Koto Falls

To get to Koto Falls by public transport, take the JR West Bus from JR Sonobe Station (園部駅) east exit bound for Fukuchiyama (福知山) or Hiyama (桧山) and get off at Kototakimichi (琴滝道). It will then be around a 30-minute trek.

For the service’s timetable, please refer to Tamba Winehouse’s access information.

If you are driving, Koto Falls is just a 5 to 10-minute hike from the nearest car park.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Gyokuunji Temple (玉雲寺)

On your way to Koto Falls, remember to make a detour to Gyokuunji Temple. It is a Zen temple with a long history dating back to the ancient samurai warrior -Akechi Mitsuhide. It is also a little-known spot for the beautiful fall foliage.

The first thing you will see when you visit is the stone stairs covered by green moss. If you go from mid-November, you will find yourself walking on a brightly colored carpet made from the falling autumn leaves!

The quiet atmosphere of the temple and the solemn power emanating from the tower gate will certainly make you feel and revere the long history of Gyokuunji.

The temple was initially established in 1416, closer to the waterfall catchment basin of the Koto Falls.

Consistent with those brutal ancient times, it was burnt down when Akechi Mitsuhide took down the Shuuchi Castle in 1579. Out of respect for Zen Buddhism, he rebuilt the precinct 1,500 meters southwest of where the temple used to be.

From spring to summer, Gyokuunji’s garden will be packed with seasonal flowers such as azaleas, hydrangeas, and Japanese anemones.

And for all the cat lovers out there, look for the cat priest when you visit!

The leaves will start changing the color in early November. You should have all the way until early December to adorn the breathtaking scenery.

Tip: To avoid the crowd, come before 9 am or after 2 pm in autumn.

How to Get to Gyokuunji Temple

From the bus stop – Kototakimichi (琴滝道), it is around a 20-minute walk. From Gyokuunji Temple to Koto Falls, it is also a 20-minute walk.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Roadside Station Tanba-Ajimu-no-Sato (道の駅 京丹波 味夢の里)

Roadside Station Tanba-Ajimu-no-Sato was newly opened in 2015. It is a facility that many would inadvertently find themselves wandering around for longer than intended. Even if you just drop by for a toilet break, you might also find yourself leaving the station with a couple of the local specialties (´▽`*).

This temptation is all thanks to the wide and interesting range of products on display. You will find a lot of fresh produce and processed products with the famous local specialty, black beans, as one of the main ingredients.

With a restaurant and a big food court, it is also a great place to recharge your energy levels after exploring the attractions in Kyotamba Town.

Also, the roadside station is just next to the Shiotani Kofun Park (塩谷古墳公園). The park with a couple of tumuli burial mounds is perfect for a leisurely stroll after lunch. The 12 ancient tombs were from the 5th and the sixth centuries. Two shine maiden clay dolls were excavated from the largest tomb in 1989 and are now designated as important cultural artifacts of Kyoto Prefecture.

And if you are wondering where else to spend the rest of the day, head to their tourist information center for some ideas!

Roadside Station Tanba-Ajimu-no-Sato’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The local specialty corner Kyotanba Marushe (京丹波マルシェ) opens from 6 am to 9 pm
  • The tourist information center opens from 9 am to 6 pm
  • The restaurant Tanba Satoyama Restaurant Bonchi (丹波里山レストラン Bonchi) opens from 11 am to 8 pm (the last order is at 7:30 pm)
  • The food court opens from 10 am to 8 pm (the last order is at 7:30 pm)
  • Toilet facilities, including a breastfeeding room open from 7 am to 8 pm
  • To get to Roadside Station Tanba-Ajimu-no-Sato by public transport, you can take the Kyotanba Municipal Bus (京丹波町営バス) routes below and get off at Ajimu-no-Sato (味夢の里)
    • Tamba Hiyoshi Line (丹波日吉線) from JR Goma Station (胡麻駅) or JR Hiyoshi Station (日吉駅)
    • Tamba Wachi Line (丹波和知線) from JR Wachi Station (和知駅)
    • Kōgen Shimoyama Line (高原下山線) from JR Shimoyama Station (下山駅)
  • The number of services is limited so refer to HERE for the timetable to plan ahead. The timetable is in Japanese only, so you will need to use the Japanese name of the bus routes/stops to read

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Tamba Winehouse (丹波ワインハウス)

For all the wine lovers, drop by Tamba Winehouse for some wine tasting and maybe even join their winery tour!

On their massive 60,000 square meter vineyard, there is a total of 48 different types of grapes growing from spring to autumn. In winter, the white snow decorates the landscape, making the otherwise boring scenery more delightful.

While most of the dishes are meat-based in their Vineyard Grill restaurant, there are a few vegetarian side dishes that go well with their wine if you are hungry. There should be staff who can speak English. However, if you ever have any issues in communicating with the staff, you can always utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to order.

Tip: The raisin butter sold at the shop is really delicious!

Wine Tasting at Tamba Winehouse

Quite often, the Winehouse offers free wine tasting for a few different kinds of wine. If you don’t see a corner with “無料試飲ワイン” at the counter, you can check with the staff to see if any wine can be tasted at no extra cost.

On the other hand, if you join one of their wintery tours, the cost of wine tasting is included. But note advance booking is required. For more information, please refer to their website HERE. If the webpage doesn’t automatically switch to English, please do it manually by changing the language setting at the bottom right.

Important: The tour is in Japanese only. You can, of course, tag along to see how a Japanese winery differs from those in your country.

In early April, remember to check out the cherry blossoms that line both sides of the road leading to the winery!

Tamba Winehouse’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The shop opens from 10 am to 5 pm daily except Thursdays
  • The restaurant opens from 11:30 pm to 4 pm on weekends and publics holidays
    • The last order is taken at 2:30 pm
  • Tamba Winehouse is closed between the end of December to the beginning of January and from Tuesday to Thursday in January to February
  • To get to Tamba Winehouse, you can either
    • Take the JR West Bus from JR Sonobe Station (園部駅) east exit bound for Fukuchiyama (福知山) or Hiyama (桧山) and get off at Tanbatakahara (丹波高原) or Kutejinja-mae (九手神社前). It will then be around a 10 to 15-minute walk
      • HERE is the timetable for services departing from JR Sonobe Station
      • HERE is the timetable for services departing for JR Sonobe Station
  • From Ajimu-no-Sato (味夢の里), take Kyotanba Municipal Bus (京丹波町営バス)’s Tanba Hiyama Line (丹波桧山線) and get off at Shinkitagaichi (新北垣内)

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Michi-no-Eki Mizuhonosato Sarabiki (道の駅 瑞穂の里・さらびき)

Another roadside station in Kyotamba Town is the Roadside Station Mizuhonosato Sarabiki.

Although it is smaller in scale, it is definitely a popular spot in the area to drop by. Here’s how it differs from the Roadside Station Tanba-Ajimu-no-Sato.

  • The soba noodles in the restaurant are made from 100% locally harvested buckwheat
  • Black bean ice cream is sold here exclusively
  • It is directly next to Green Land Mizuho, which is an accommodation facility with sports grounds attached

If you would like to stay in one of the lodges close to the roadside station, please refer to the official website HERE. Currently, you can only book by making a phone call at +81-771-88-9050. You can translate the webpage by using the Google Translate function at the right of the address bar of Google Chrome.

In autumn, just like many shops in Kyotamba, the station will be filled with the delightful aroma of freshly roasted Tamba Chestnut and other chestnut desserts!

From late October, the leaves of ginkgo trees that line both sides of the road leading to Roadside Station Mizuhonosato Sarabiki will start turning yellow. And by mid-November, in addition to the golden leaves above you will also be walking on a golden carpet! Try to resist skipping down the road singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” or they might think you had too much to drink at the winery (≧▽≦).

Michi-no-Eki Mizuhonosato Sarabiki’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The shops open from 9 am to 6 pm
  • The restaurant opens from 10:30 am to 3 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 4:30 pm on weekends and public holidays
  • The road side station is closed on the 2nd and the 4th Thursdays and between the end of December to the beginning of January
  • It is better to get to the roadside station by car. But if that isn’t an option for you, then you have to take a bus to Hiyama (桧山). From there, take the Ono Kamadani Line (小野鎌谷線) and get off at Michi no Eki Sarabiki (道の駅 さらびき)
  • Refer to the timetable at the left on page 3 for this service
  • To get to Hiyama (桧山), you can take the below bus routes running by Kyotanba Municipal Bus (京丹波町営バス)
    • Shitsumi Line (質美線) from JR Shimoyama Station (下山駅). The timetable is the on left table on page 2
    • Hiyama Wachi Line (桧山和知線) from JR Wachi Station (和知駅). The timetable is the lower right table on page 2

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Shizushi Limestone Cave (質志鐘乳洞)

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Just like us, you might find it really surprising that Kyoto has one and only one limestone cave. And it will provide you with a totally unexpected thrill!

The Shizushi Limestone Cave is in the mountainous area of ​​central Kyoto, surrounded by lush greenery. The cave is located up on the hill of Shizushi Limestone Cave Park (質志鍾乳洞公園). So from the bus stop, there is around a 15-minute hike through the pleasant forest, which still isn’t too bad in summer.

At the entrance of the cave, there are sneakers for you to borrow for free in case your own shoes have slippery soles and can’t grip the surface of the cave. Just like the warning message suggests, you will be walking on some extremely slippery surfaces that can be dangerous to trek through if you don’t come prepared. But it is best to be prepared and bring your own sneakers in case they don’t have your size.

Inside the Shizushi Limestone Cave

Exploration of the Shizushi Limestone Cave begins with a steep staircase at the cave’s entrance. The cave stretches for 52.5 meters at a depth of approximately 25 meters, so you will have to go all the way down by following a series of metal staircases.

Parts of the stairwell have a slope of almost 90 degrees, so if you were to fall, you would go straight down for a couple of meters Σ(゚Д゚).

Because water drips down into the cave from the top, everywhere you stand, and everything you hold onto is likely to be wet. So take it slowly and cautiously as you don’t want any accident to happen during your Japan trip!

Note that the interesting-shaped limestones are concentrated in the area closest to the entrance. The rest of the cave is mostly for you to enjoy the thrill of being an underground explorer.

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Tips:
☛ Fossils of ancient sea creatures that existed in the Permian period about 290 million years ago have also been found in the cave. So it will be interesting to see if you can see anything similar on the surface of the cave walls!
☛ Shizushi Limestone Cave is home to a large batch of bats. If you want to spot them, stay quiet, and still, they will show up sooner than expected. And no, you won’t catch anything, and they aren’t vampire bats (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Important: As the temperature in the cave is between 12 – 15 degrees throughout the year, remember to bring a light jacket in summer.

Shizushi Limestone Cave’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The cave is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily from March to November
    • The last admission at 4:30 pm
    • In December and March, the cave is only opened on weekdays and public holidays
  • Please get your ticket at the park’s office. The admission fees are
    • 530 yen for adults
    • 310 yen for children from 3 years old to junior high school students
  • To get to Shizushi Limestone Cave, you have to take a bus to Hiyama (桧山) first. From there, take the Inohana Totsukawa Line (猪鼻戸津川線) running by Kyotanba Municipal Bus (京丹波町営バス) and get off at Shōnyūdō-guchi (鍾乳洞口)
    • Please refer to the timetable at the right on page 3
    • For how to get to Hiyama, refer to the access information for Michi-no-Eki Mizuhonosato Sarabiki

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Mt. Chōrōgadake (長老ヶ岳) and Nanairo no Ki (七色の木)

Another hiking spot in town is Kyotamba’s highest peak – the 919.6 meters tall Mt. Chōrōgadake. The mountain track here suits hikers with better physical stamina as you will be trekking through some trails formed naturally after being stepped on repeatedly and worn down by previous hikers.

Instead of a waterfall, here you have a mysterious tree named Nanairo no Ki. If you know a bit of Japanese, like us, it might pop into your head that it means a tree with seven different colors.

However, the number of colors here is actually used to describe the number of different species of trees that co-existed together. Cedar, Zelkova, two different types of Maple, Torreya, and Wisteria all dwelling on the wig tree that grew up there Σ(゚Д゚).

With so many different kinds of plants growing together, the 18-meter tall giant tree’s trunk now is as thick as 7.1 meters!

Note that a round trip to the summit will take around 4.5 – 5 hours.

Also, the road signs along the way are in Japanese only, so we include the attractions’ names in Japanese. As a general guide, you will mostly turn left to get to Nanairo no Ki.

Important: If you do bump into a bear during your hike, don’t scream. Just slowly and quietly leave the scene.

How to Get to Mt. Chōrōgadake and Nanairo no Ki

  • From JR Wachi Station (和知駅), take the Hodosu Line (仏主線) running by Kyotanba Municipal Bus (京丹波町営バス) and get off at Hodosu (仏主). From the bus stop to Nanairo no Ki, it is another 30-minute walk
    • For the service’s timetable, please refer to HERE. Hodosu Line is the table at the lower right on page 3
  • If you are driving, from the closest car park to Naniro no Ki, it is just a 5 to 10-minute walk

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kyotamba.

Head to Nantan City Next Door for Other off-the-Beaten-Track Spots

Miyama-Kayabuki-no-Sato-Autumn-Foliage-Nantan-Kyoto-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about this gorgeous place!

Just next to Kyotamba Town, there are some extraordinary rural landscapes in Nantan City (南丹市). Extend your trip to regional Kyoto and visit the village full of traditional thatched roof houses and some of the country’s most beautiful dams!

For more information, please refer to our article about Nantan City (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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