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Mount Hiei
Sakura MtHiei.jpg
The view from Kyoto with Cherry blossoms. (April 2005)
Elevation 848.1 metres (2,782 ft)
Location Honshū, Japan
Coordinates 35°4′0″N 135°50′18″E / 35.066667°N 135.83833°E / 35.066667; 135.83833Coordinates: 35°4′0″N 135°50′18″E / 35.066667°N 135.83833°E / 35.066667; 135.83833
Topo map Geographical Survey Institute 25000:1 京都東北部, 50000:1 京都及大阪
Listing List of mountains and hills of Japan by height

Mount Hiei (比叡山 Hiei-zan ?) is a mountain to the northeast of Kyoto, lying on the border between the Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, Japan.

The temple of Enryaku-ji, the first Japanese outpost of Tendai sect of Buddhism, was founded atop Mount Hiei by Saichō in 788. Both Nichiren and Honen studied at the temple before leaving to start their own practices. The temple complex was razed by Oda Nobunaga in 1571 to quell the rising power of the Tendai's warrior monks (sōhei), but it was rebuilt and remains the Tendai headquarters to this day.


Mount Hiei in folklore

Mount Hiei has featured in many folk tales over the ages. Originally it was thought to be the home of gods and demons of Shinto lore, although it is predominantly known for the Buddhist monks that come from the temple of Enryaku-ji.

Marathon monks

John Stevens wrote the book "The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei," chronicling the practice of walking long distances (up to 52 miles) in a single day to attain enlightenment in the monk's current life. These monks were known as the Kaihōgyō.


While the mountain is a popular area for hikers, a toll road provides an easier access by automobile to the top of the mountain. There are also two routes of funiculars: the Eizan Cable from the Kyoto side to the connecting point with an aerial tramway to the top and the Sakamoto Cable from the Shiga side to the foot of Enryaku-ji.

External links



Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : East Asia : Japan : Kansai : Shiga : Mount Hiei
Amida-do Hall, Enryakuji
Amida-do Hall, Enryakuji

Mount Hiei (比叡山 Hiei-zan), [1] a mountain that lies to the northeast of Kyoto, Japan, has an extensive temple complex near the summit. The district of Sakamoto (坂本) in Otsu lies at the base of the mountain on the Shiga Lake Biwa side. The town of Yase (八瀬) lies at the base of the mountain on the Kyoto side.


The temple of Enryakuji, the first Japanese outpost of the esoteric Tendai sect of Buddhism, was founded atop Mt. Hiei by Saichō (Dengyō Daishi) in 788. The temple complex was razed by Oda Nobunaga in 1571 to quell the rising power of the Tendai's warrior monks, but it was rebuilt and remains the Tendai headquarters to this day.

Get in

There are several ways to reach Sakamoto and Mount Hiei.

By train

From Kyoto, take the Keihan Main Line to Demachiyanagi and transfer to an Eizan train to Yase-Hieizan-guchi (八瀬比叡山口). From here the Eizan Cable Car makes the trip to the top of Mount Hiei for ¥530/1040 one-way/return, every 30 minutes daily from 8:30 to 17:30 (or longer, schedules vary a bit depending on the season). The last leg of the trip to the summit is a 3-minute ride on a ropeway, which departs at intervals of 10-20 minutes between 9 am and 6 pm.

Alternatively, you could also take the Keihan Line to Sanjo Station and transfer to the Tozai Line bound for Hamaotsu Station in Otsu. From Otsu, you can take the JR Kosei line or Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto line to Sakamoto, although the Keihan station (the last station on the line) is more centrally located. The Hiyoshi Taisha shrine and the cable car to Mt. Hiei are about 15 min away on foot, both fairly well signposted.

By bus

There are occasional direct buses from Kyoto station directly to the top, taking about 1.5 hours and all departing in the morning. Schedules are severely curtailed in the winter.

Get around

Both Sakamoto and Mt. Hiei are best covered on foot. For going between the two, you can use the Sakamoto Cable Car, which costs ¥840/1570 one-way/round-trip and runs daily from 8 AM to 5 PM once every 30 minutes. At over 2 km, this is the longest cable car in Japan and takes about 11 minutes for the journey. This cable car line was built in 1927 and refurbished in 1993. The European style cars have large windows with wonderful views of Lake Biwa.

A real pilgrim would of course scoff at mechanical contraptions and climb the mountain, which is fairly easy as this isn't really more than an oversized hill. The traditional route is a convenient path of mossy steps known as Honzaka (本坂), starting from Sakamoto, but it's still 500 meters (vertical) to the top. There are also many other routes, with numerous small temples and waterfalls along the way, but watch out as signposting (even in Japanese) is lacking. You may see monkeys along the way as well.


Both the Sakamoto cable car from Lake Biwa side and the Hieizan Ropeway from the Kyoto side terminate near two broadcast towers and the Garden Museum Hiei, whose ticket booth has maps to Hiei's more traditional attractions, which can be reached by about twenty minutes' walk through atmospheric forest.

The Garden Museum features spectacular views of Lake Biwa, garden flowers, art galleries, a cafe, large outdoor reproductions of famous works of French Impressionism, and a lily pond with arched bridge that aims to replicate the Japanese garden featured in several works of Japonisme by Claude Monet. It also houses the grave of Saichō (Dengyō Daishi) the founder of Japan's Tendai Buddhism, and attracts many Japanese bush warblers (uguisu). The entrance fee is ¥1000 for adults, ¥500 for children.

The temples on Mt. Hiei are collectively known as Enryakuji (延暦寺), literally "Long Calendar Temple". The large complex is generally divided into three sections known as the Eastern Pagoda (東塔 Tōdo), the Western Pagoda (西塔 Saito) and Yokawa; neither of the pagodas actually exist any more, but the names live on. Most of the better-known temples are concentrated in the Eastern Pagoda area.

  • Konpon Chudō (根本中堂), the central hall of the temple, contains the Inextinguishable Dharma Light (不減の法灯), a fire that has been burning for 1200 years. There is always a monk assigned to tend the fire and chant sutras here.
  • Bruno Petzold Monument, [2]. There is a station near the top of the Sakamoto Cable run called Motateyama. Walking a few hundred meters from this stop will bring you to a monument which has been erected to the memory of Bruno Petzold, a German Tendai Bishop and scholar who lived in Japan until his death in 1949.
  • Kokuhoden Museum, 4220 Sakamotohonmachi, 077-578-0001. As the head temple of Tendai Buddhism, a wide variety of artwork has been produced and acquired by Enryaku-ji Temple. This museum was built to showcase some of the many artifacts owned by the temple. The Buddhist statues are particularly interesting. Open 9AM to 4PM (closes at 3:30PM in Dec.).  edit
Hiyoshi Sanso teahouse
Hiyoshi Sanso teahouse
  • Hiyoshi Sansō (日吉山荘) within the Hiyoshi Taisha shrine is a traditional teahouse in an extremely scenic little river gorge, particularly popular in fall. Food prices are quite steep (¥800 for soba!), but you can also bring your food for a ¥300 charge per head.
  • There is a small restaurant by the Sakamoto Cable Car Mt. Hiei station, serving all the usual suspects.


There is a wide range of accommodation in Sakamoto, but many visitors choose to day-trip from Kyoto instead.

  • Saikyōji Youth Hostel (西教寺YH, tel. 077-578-0013) in Sakamoto is a good but somewhat inconveniently located hostel on the northern outskirts of town, although you can take a bus from either station (5-7 minutes, get off at Saikyōji). While affiliated with and run by a temple, the building itself is modern. HI members pay ¥3255 a night plus ¥630/1050 for breakfast/dinner. As a bonus, Saikyoji is itself a Tendai temple complex worth visiting, especially because of its views of Lake Biwa and Japanese maple leaves (momiji) in autumn. There are what looks like footprints and handprints on some of the wooden slats in the roof circling the temple; these are rumored to be the old floor slats with bloody handprints and footprints from ritual suicides.
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Simple English

The view of Mt. Hiei and Sakura from Kyoto

Mount Hiei (比叡山 Hiei-zan?) is a mountain to the northeast of Kyoto city, located at the border between the Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, Japan.

Mount Hiei appeared in many folk tales in different centuries. Traditionally, people believed it to be the home of gods and demons of Shinto.

Other websites


  • John Stevens, "The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei." Boston: Shambala, 1988 ISBN 0-87773-415-1


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