Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Ruri Valley – The Most Stunning Valley in Kyoto

At the southwest of Nantan City in Kyoto, the Ruri River Valley Natural Park (京都府立るり渓自然公園) in the 4 km long Ruri River Valley (or Rurikei Gorge) is a designated National Place of Scenery Beauty. The valley has a delicate landscape with a 530-meter-tall plateau. The upstream of the valley is made of granite, whereas the downstream area is made of quartz trachyte. Uniquely shaped rocks, waterfalls, and an abyss scattered along the Ruri River accentuate the scenery.

At the uppermost part of the valley is the artificial Tsūten Lake (通天湖), which has tourist and recreational facilities close by. It attracts many nature lovers who are astonished by the views as they spend a relaxing weekend here.

How to Get to Ruri River Valley Natural Park

From JR Sonobe Station’s (園部駅) west exit, take Keihan Kyōto Kōtsū’s (京阪京都交通) route 40 – Hatta Sonobe Nōgei Line (八田線・園部農芸線) and get off at Hatta (八田). From there, change for Gururin Bus (ぐるりんバス) and get off at Rurikei (るり渓) or Rurikei-bashi (るり渓橋) or Tsūtenko (通天湖) depending on which attraction you want to go first. For Rurikei Onsen, please get off at Okururikei (奥るり渓).

  • Please refer to page 73 (weekdays) and page 74 (weekends and public holidays) of the timetable HERE for the bus service between JR Sonobe Station and Hatta.
  • Please refer to HERE and click the 1st PDF for Gururin Bus’s timetable.
    • Instead of Hatta, the bus stop on the Gururin Line is called Minami Hatta (南八田).
    • You can get on and off Gururin Bus. Just wave to the bus driver.
    • 月~金 means weekdays.
    • 土日祝 means weekends and public holidays.

Tip: As most services only drop off customers at the Rurikei stop, you can walk to the Rurikei-bashi stop to board the bus, as it is just a few-minute walk away.

HERE is the area’s trekking map for your reference.

Meibaku Falls (鳴瀑)

When you get off the bus at the Rurikei bus stop, the symbol for the Rurikei River Valley, Meibaku Falls, is less than 200 meters away.

When you follow the directory sign, you will start to hear a roaring sound that gets louder and louder as you get closer to the waterfall. For the size of the waterfall, the splashing sound it produces seems to be disproportionately loud. Apparently, it can produce such a blasting sound because it is hollow behind the waterfall.

Even if you aren’t tired enough for a rest, we suggest you head to the rest area in front of the Meibaku Falls. The view of the waterfall is just too superb not to stop and take it in!

Important: In summer, if you want to get wet in the river, there is a narrow riverbed just below where the bus stop/parking lot is. But just be really careful, as there can be random torrents here and there.

Trekking Your Way Up to Tsūten Lake

Heading back to the bus stop, you can now trek upstream to the stunning Tsūten Lake. This is especially recommended in autumn when the entire promenade is most vivid for the year.

Including the Meibaku Falls, the 3 km trail has a total of 12 scenic spots waiting for your discovery!

Note that taking a bus up isn’t quite an option due to limited services running for the route. Obviously, if you have a car, you can drive your way up. But just note the two car parks on both sides of the track have limited capacity.

Tsūten Lake (通天湖)

Tsūten Lake got its name because of its location. At the top of the plateau, people in the past saw the lake as being so close to the sky that it reached all the way to heaven. The lake is a dam lake. But unlike the Hiyoshi Dam close by, Tsūten Lake is just a reservoir.

Besides the gorgeous scenery from the lakeshore, the highlight of this dam lake is actually the 12.5 meters wide water curtain created by the excess water falling from the dam (=゚ω゚)ノ.

It goes without saying, but with the huge volume of water pouring into the river, entering the river to chill out in the hot summer is definitely a no, no.

From Tsūten Lake, you can hike your way up to the summit of Mt. Miyama (深山). From the trailhead beyond Rurikei Onsen, it is around a 3 km hike. From the Rurikei-bashi bus stop, it will be an 11 km one-way hike.

As the temperature doesn’t exceed 23 degrees even on a hot summer day, it is one of the best spots in Kyoto to escape the summer heat!

Rurikei’s Flowering Calendar and Mountain Autumn Foliage Season

  • Cherry trees along the valley usually blossom from early to mid-April.
  • From late April to early May, the mountain azalea around Tsūten Lake will be blooming beautifully.
  • The autumn foliage season usually starts in late October each year and peaks around mid-November.

Rurikei Onsen for REST RESORT (京都るり渓温泉 for REST RESORT)

Just as its name suggests, Rurikei Onsen is a resort with accommodation facilities such as villas and glamping sites, barbecue areas, hot springs, and other leisure facilities. It is also known as the largest illumination venue in Kansai.

To many shy international tourists, the best thing about Rurikei Onsen is that most of the resort’s onsen pools require guests to wear swimmers to enter, which is rare in Japan (´▽`*).

If you just finished trekking Rurikei River Valley, head to the Lantern Terrace (ランタンテラス). This part of the resort is divided into several zones for guests to relax in various ways.

You can easily spend the whole afternoon lolling around at the facility with capsules to lie down and have a snooze, tent-shaped hammocks, and bedrock baths.

They even have an “enzyme bath” where you will be covered with natural rice bran mixed with about 5,000 kinds of enzymes. The rice bran that naturally emits heat is said to be able to stimulate your metabolism and enhance your immunity. You can even expect a detox effect from a session of enzyme bath!

Of course, spending time in Lantern Terrace will cost some money. The price list can be found HERE. You can use the Google Translate function at the right of the address bar of Google Chrome to read.

For more photos of their different types of accommodation and to book for your stay, please refer to HERE!

Kyoto Illumination Synesthesia Hills

The quality of the lighting shows in Japan is just extraordinary. But most of the shows only take place in winter, around Christmas.

If you want to see a Japanese illumination show at other times of the year, drop by the Kyoto Illumination Synesthesia Hills, a part of the Rurikei Onsen. Excluding the maintenance days, the lighting show is on every night, even if it is rainy!

For more information, such as opening hours and admission costs, please refer to their website HERE. Again, use Google Chrome to translate the website if you don’t read Japanese.

How to Get to Rurikei Onsen for REST RESORT

As a resort’s guest, you can utilize the free shuttle buses doing pick-ups from the two stations below.

  • Nose Electric Railway (能勢電鉄)’s Nissei-chūō (日生中央駅).
    • Please head to the parking lot to board the bus.
  • JR Sonobe Station (園部駅)
    • Please head to the bus stop at the station’s west exit close to the police station.

HERE is the timetable for bus services. It is in Japanese, but it shouldn’t be hard to read if you refer to the name of the bus stop we have written above. If you still have issues reading it, can contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.

Discover Other Stunning off the Beaten Track in Nantan City

Click the photo to find out more about this gorgeous spot!

Obviously, Ōno Dam isn’t the only amazing natural attraction in Nantan City. In fact, the city houses one of Japan’s few thatched-roof house villages and a stunning valley throughout the year!

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

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