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!
More on the Kyoto Trail: