The Kyoto Trail Hike: Day 2

Kyoto Trail – Kitayama-East Day 2
Ohara to Kurama

After a delicious and substantial Japanese breakfast at our B&B and a pleasant chat with a friendly owner couple, we headed for Sanzen-In, another magnificent temple in Ohara.

Apparently Sano-san had soar muscles from the previous’ day 10km hike and may be due to his general lack of training : -( Of course, he had no other choice than to tag along with me on this 2nd day.

The path went through a peaceful mountain village and along vegetable fields, finally leading to the temple.  The Sanzen-in temple is famous for its rustic moss garden and its adorable mossed stone Jizo. The temple has a huge compound and so we wandered around the garden for almost an hour.

It is a wonderful place where I could linger longer, but Sano-san reminded me that we have quite some distance to cover!


We left the temple, walked to the south end of the village and stood at today’s trailhead.  The first part of the trail was an asphalted road, but the area still had a tranquil country feeling.

After a narrow tunnel we came to another village and saw a small shrine, the Shizuhara Shrine. The shrine was in preparation for its New Year decoration. I prayed for our safe hike today.


Soon we entered into the rather dense forest with fallen trees everywhere. The recent typhoon made a significant impact here and made the place look quite ominous.  A part of yesterday’s path was however similar, so we did not worry too much.  We kept going, amazed by the disastrous power of mother nature, and suddenly the forest path came to a dead-end, completely blocked by fallen trees.

We knew that the pass was not far and we tried to brave through, making our way under and above the fallen trees.  After one hour of struggle the situation did not improve.  The path was invisible and utterly unpassable. We could not advance, it was too risky. We gave up and turned back.


Backtracking our path for 20 min or so, we came to the fork and we realised that we missed the Kyoto Trail signage earlier to turn sharp left!  We did not see it at all and just followed the forest path straight… Later, after consulting our map again, we figured that the wrong path we have taken was indeed a dead-end.

By this time we were full of mud and sweat. But our final destination Kurama was only 2km away and we just needed to go over one more pass.

The idea of taking a bus back to Kyoto came to our mind,  but I did want to reach Kurama.  We agreed to make an attempt for the last stretch.

The path toward the Yakkozaka Pass (薬王坂) was steep, but the trail was solid and good.  At the beginning of the slope several abandoned log cabins were scattered around in the dense and humid forest. It was rather spooky and I was happy not to be there alone.

In half an hour we reached the Yakkozaka Pass (375m) from where it went down straight to Kurama. It was a relief to see the village of Kurama full of tourists!


Luckily Kurama had a hot spring. By the time we got out of our well-deserved bath, clean and refreshed, we could laugh about our little adventure and mishap.

The Kyoto Trail Hike: Day 1

A two-day hike on the Kyoto Trail (the Kitayama East section) with my mountain buddy Sano-san.

Since I have heard of this trail in Fushimi Inari a couple of years ago, the Kyoto Trail was on my hiking to do list.

I love Kyoto and I have visited it more than 20 times, but walking on the trail will be a different approach to understand this culturally and historically rich region.

The first day: the Kyoto Hitayama-East Trail from Hiei-zan (Hiei Mountain), 690m to Ohara, 215m, Around 10 km

After a one-hour bus and mountain rail ride from the Kyoto central train station, we arrived at the Hiei-zan Ropeway in the north-east of Kyoto. We were the only two passengers on the Hiei Mountain Rail. I felt very far away from the bustling Kyoto, deep in the mountains.

The sky was grey, but I was happy to stand on the trailhead with a good friend of mine. After enjoying a sweeping view of the Kyoto city from the Ropeway station, we started on the mountain path and followed well-marked Kyoto Trail signposts. No other hikers were in sight, probably due to the not-so-great weather.


Several temples were scattered along the path and we made a short visit to two peaceful temples.


The most part of the trail was well-maintained but we could see significant damage on the trail, caused by last year’s typhoon.  The steep uphill path to Mt.  Yokotaka (767m) was particularly damaged and zigzagging through the fallen trees and the landslide was not an easy task.  We then missed the turn to Mt. Mizui (794m) and instead ended up walking on a completely muddy forest path 😦


Finally getting out of the sludge with our heavily soiled shoes, we came to the fork and there left the Kyoto Trail for today’s destination, Ohara.

The path (Tokai Nature Path) to Ohara was also destroyed by the typhoon. So we had to dodge fallen trees and were relieved to finally get out of this forest to the village of Ohara.


Ohara is a quiet rural village with several well-known temples, such as Jakko-in and Sanzen-in. These temples are nestled in the mountains and have an isolated and spiritual feeling, very different from the ones in the Kyoto city.  This is my favorite area in Kyoto.

Checking in a friendly Minshuku (Japanese B&B) and putting our backpack down, we made a visit to Jakko-in.  As it was Tooji (the special winter day), we were treated with a bowl of cooked pumpkin in a beautiful room!

After this nice surprise, we walked around the wonderful garden and the temple compound and listened to a part of the epic tale of Heike which belongs to this temple.

We both enjoyed our first-day walk combined with history!


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