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Traveling to See Japan's Natural Beauty

From Kyoto to Mount Hiei, holy land of Japanese Buddhism, to Lake Biwa, Japan's greatest lake

map Shaka-do Minemichi Restaurant Ninai-do Yokawa Chu-do Konpon Chu-do Shiki Ko-do Enryaku-ji Kaikan Ichigu Kaikan Garden Museum Hiei Yase-Hieizanguchi Sakamoto Cable Saikyo-ji Temple Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine Kyu Chikurin-in Temple U'n Hôtel de Hiei Yumemi-ga-oka Shiga-in Monzeki ruins The landing for the Michigan Biwako Hotel

Garden Museum Hiei

Today, when people in Japan hear the word "mountain," Mount Fuji most often comes to mind, but back in the days when Kyoto was Japan's capital, Mount Hiei was the first thing that came to mind, a special mountain that was the cradle of Japanese Buddhism.
Mount Hiei is a holy land dotted with the structures of Enryaku-ji Temple, a World Heritage Site surrounded by thick cedar groves that is the headquarters of the Tendai sect, and also offers picturesque scenery such as the view of old Kyoto from the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures, and a gorgeous, sweeping view of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. We would like to suggest a sightseeing itinerary centered on Mount Hiei, starting in Kyoto and ending in Shiga.
Please note that the times indicated below are for weekday schedules from the end of March until the start of December. Schedules are subject to change on weekends and holidays due to the increases in the number of travelers. Some routes may run less often or not at all in winter. For details, refer to the time schedules for the individual routes.
http://www.hieizan.gr.jp/ - Japanese

Travel Schedule

9:07 Ride all the way to the top of Mount Hiei on the Eizan Electric Railway, Eizan Cable and Eizan Ropeway.

Ride all the way to the top of Mount Hiei on the Eizan Electric Railway, Eizan Cable and Eizan Ropeway.
Connecting with Demachiyanagi Station, the terminal station of Keihan Electric Railway, Eizan Electric Railway is a sightseeing line dotted with locations known for their harmonious balance of nature and the old capital such as Ohara, Kurama and Kibune. After departing for Mount Hiei from Demachiyanagi Station, the train arrives at Yase-Hieizanguchi Station in about 15 minutes. The Yase area has beautiful spring growth and autumn colors, and nearby Ruriko-in Temple has special openings in spring and fall.
From Yase to the top of Mount Hiei, enjoy the 15-minute ride, starting on the Eizan Cable Car, the steepest ride in Japan, followed by a transfer to the ropeway all the way to the top of the 840-meter summit. The summit is about six degrees Celsius cooler than downtown Kyoto, so it may feel cold at the top. map

Admission: Demachiyanagi Station to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station (Eizan Electric Railway): Adults: 260 yen, children: 130 yen
Admission: Eizan Cable Car: Adults: 540 yen, children: 270 yen
Admission: Eizan Ropeway: Adults: 310 yen, children: 160 yen
Eizan Electric Railway timetables: http://eizandensha.co.jp/densya/daiya/timetable.htm- Japanese
Cable car and ropeway timetables: http://www.keifuku.co.jp/cablecar/timetable.html- Japanese
Arrow 9:07 – Depart from Demachiyanagi Station on the Eizan Electric Railway
9:21 – Arrive at Yase-Hieizanguchi Station
9:50 – Get on the Eizan Cable Car
10:02 – Transfer to the Eizan Ropeway
10:05 – Arrive at the summit
10:00 Surrounded by the scents of flowers and herbs in Garden Museum Hiei

Surrounded by the scents of flowers and herbs in Garden Museum Hiei
When you get off the ropeway, the west gate of Garden Museum Hiei welcomes you, a museum created around the theme of French impressionist paintings. Covering 1.7 hectares, the garden museum is excellent for a stroll to see the gardens and landscapes created in the style of French impressionist paintings, such as Monet's The Water-Lily Pond. The grounds include locations with excellent views of Lake Biwa and the Kyoto cityscape, as well as a café and gift shop. map

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last entry at 5 p.m.)
Admission: Adults: 1,030 yen, Children: 515 yen
URL: http://www.garden-museum-hiei.co.jp/- Japanese
11:00 Take the shuttle bus to World Heritage Site Enryaku-ji Temple

Take the shuttle bus to World Heritage Site Enryaku-ji Temple
Right outside the east gate of Garden Museum Hiei is a shuttle bus loading zone. The shuttle bus departs from the Mount Hiei summit about once an hour, visiting the East Pagoda (To-do), the Enryaku-ji Temple Bus Center, West Pagoda (Sai-to), Mine-michi and Yokawa. Throughout these areas are structures belonging to Enryaku-ji Temple.
Enryaku-ji Temple was constructed on Mount Hiei by Saicho (also known as Dengyo Daishi) in 788. Some 150 temple buildings dot the mountain temple grounds, which cover 500 hectares. Divided into the three areas referred to as the Eastern Pagoda (To-do), the Western Pagoda (Sai-to) and Yokawa, each with its own central temple. Some of the attractions are introduced below, but please note that it would take a full day to see everything, so we recommend picking out what you would like to see in advance.

Admission: Adults: 160 yen, Children: 80 yen
Shuttle bus day pass for Mount Hiei: adults: 800 yen, children: 400 yen
Shuttle bus timetables: http://www.hieizan.gr.jp/common/images/heizan_jikoku.pdf- Japanese
Arrow 11:00 – The shuttle bus departs from the Mount Hiei Summit bus stop
11:06 – Enryaku-ji Temple Bus Center bus stop
11:10 Konpon Chu-do

Konpon Chu-do
The central temple of the East Pagoda, Konpon Chu-do, is also the main hall for all of Enryaku-ji. Completed in 1642, the current building enshrines the fumetsu no hoto, an eternal Buddhist light that has never gone out since it was first lit when Enryaku-ji Temple was established 1200 years ago. map

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (times may vary according to area and season)
Admission: Pass to To-do, Sai-to and Yokawa in Enryaku-ji Temple: adults – 700 yen, junior high and high school students – 500 yen, Elementary school students: 300 yen
URL: http://www.hieizan.or.jp/pdf/english.pdf

Lunch at Ichigu Kaikan Lunch at Ichigu Kaikan
Ichigu Kaikan is a resting place for visitors and there is no entrance charge. Inside visitors can find a 3-D model of Mount Hiei, and a video that introduces Enryaku-ji Temple. There is also a soba shop Tsuruki Soba (10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) downstairs for lunch.

Other sights near the Enryaku-ji Temple Bus Center
Mount Hiei Kokuho-den Mount Hiei Kokuho-den
national treasure storage building
Kokuho-den stores a great number of cultural treasures, including Buddhist statues, pictures and writings that make up a part of the heritage of Enryaku-ji Temple. National Treasures, Important Cultural Properties of Japan, temple treasures and other cultural properties are exhibited here. map
Enryaku-ji Kaikan Enryaku-ji Kaikan
Enryaku-ji Kaikan is operated by the temple administration and provides accommodations. Lodging offerings include a program for people who wish to participate in Buddhist practices. Meals are available to the public, but reservations are required at least two days in advance. Enjoy traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine in a restaurant that looks out over Lake Biwa. map
Arrow 12:06 – Leave the Enryaku-ji Temple Bus Center
12:19 – Arrive at the Yokawa bus stop
12:19 Take the shuttle bus to Yokawa

Yokawa Chu-do Yokawa Chu-do
Located about four kilometers from Sai-to is Yokawa Chu-do, the main hall for the Yokawa area. The building was reconstructed in 1971 in the stage-like butai-zukuri style with a brilliant, impressive vermillion lacquer finish. map

Shiki Ko-do (Gansan Daishi-do)
Take the shuttle bus to Yokawa Shiki Ko-do was the residence of the monk Ryogen (912-985), known also as Gansan Daishi. It is said that he is the one who initiated the practice of o-mikuji, written fortunes with predictions of good or bad luck that are so common in Japan today. Regardless of who first began the practice, however, Shiki Ko-do is where this tradition was born. A talisman for warding off evil spirits depicting Ryogen (known also as Tsuno Daishi) is located here. map
Notes. Here are some additional sightseeing locations not part of the tour that can be found at the various bus stops. Separate from the shuttle bus, there are buses that run regular routes between Mount Hiei and the urban Kyoto area (Kyoto Station, and Sanjo Station and Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway). These buses stop at the following locations in the Mt. Hiei area: Yumemi-ga-oka, Un Hôtel de France, the Enryakuji Bus Center, To-do and Mount Hiei summit. They share three of these stops with the shuttle bus: the Enryakuji Bus Center, To-do and the Mount Hiei summit.

Near the Sai-to bus stop Shaka-do Shaka-do
Located about a kilometer north of To-do, Shaka-do is the main hall of the Sai-to area. map
Ninai-do Ninai-do
Ninai-do is composed of two identically shaped halls connected by a corridor, and its name means "borne temple hall," and comes from a legend that the buildings are carried, using a pole, on the shoulders of the warrior monk Benkei, known for his marvelous strength. map
Near the Mine-michi bus stop
Minemichi Restaurant Minemichi Restaurant
A restaurant that boasts of its fine panoramic view of Lake Biwa. Enjoy a light lunch or tea. map
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Menu: http://www.hieizan.co.jp/restaurant/menu.html- Japanese
Near the Yumemi-ga-oka bus stop
Enjoy the beautiful view of Lake Biwa from here, halfway up Mount Hiei. map
URL: http://www.hieizan-way.com/guide_yumemigaoka.html- Japanese
Near the Un Hôtel de Hiei bus stop
Un Hôtel de Hiei U'n Hôtel de Hiei
A French-style inn designed by a Louis Vuitton designer. Each room features a cheerful theme based on one of five regions of France. Enjoy modern French cuisine that incorporates fresh local produce delivered from contracted farmers. Available to the public for lunch. (Advance reservations recommended.) map
URL: http://www.hotel-hiei.jp- Japanese

Sakamoto Cable Car The descent to Lake Biwa on the Sakamoto Cable Car
The line from Mount Hiei down to Sakamoto in Shiga Prefecture on the Lake Biwa side of the mountain is about two kilometers, the longest cable car ride in Japan. The ride takes 11 minutes to connect to Cable Sakamoto Station at the base of the mountain. The route includes a view directly over Lake Biwa.
Once down, the area around Sakamoto has many wonderful gardens in the section containing the satobo, or residence for monks. In times of yore, this one served as a home for retired monks who had once practiced on Mount Hiei. A 15-minute stroll through the town of Sakamoto will bring you to Sakamoto Station on the Otsu Line of Keihan Electric Railway. A two-car train takes you on a fun train ride to Hamaotsu Station. map Sakamoto Cable Car: http://www.sakamoto-cable.jp/utilities/guide.html- Japanese
Map of the Sakamoto area: http://turuya.jp/sakamoto/kankomap.htm- Japanese
Otsu Line timetable: http://www.keihan-o2.com/timetable/index.html- Japanese

Notes. Places to see near Sakamoto
Kyu Chikurin-in Temple Kyu Chikurin-in Temple
A satobo, or home for monks, in this case retired Enryaku-ji Temple monks, Kyu Chikurin-in Temple has a tea house on the 3,000 square meter grounds where visitors can partake of matcha. map- Japanese
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
URL: http://turuya.jp/sakamoto/tikurinin.htm- Japanese
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine
A National Treasure, Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine was constructed about 2,100 years ago and is the oldest shrine in Japan. Located 300 meters to the south is the magnificent Hiyoshi Tosho-gu Shrine. It is said that Nikko Tosho Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture, one of Japan's most prominent sightseeing locations, was reconstructed based on this beautiful shrine. map
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
URL: http://hiyoshitaisha.jp/- Japanese
Saikyo-ji Temple Saikyo-ji Temple map
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
URL: http://www.saikyoji.org/english.html
Shiga-in Monzeki ruins Shiga-in Monzeki ruins
Points of interest include the Anoshu-zumi style stone wall, unique to the Sakamoto area, and gardens. map
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
URL: http://www.biwako-visitors.jp/search/spot.php?id=434- Japanese
Arrow 13:30 – Depart from the Yokawa bus stop
13:44 – Arrive at the To-do bus stop and transfer to the Sakamoto Cable Car (five-minute walk)
14:00 – Depart from Cable Enryakuji Station
14:11 – Arrive at Cable Sakamoto Station
14:45 – Departure from Sakamoto Station on the Keihan Electric Railway Otsu Line
15:01 – Get off at Hamaotsu Station
15:30 A cruise on Lake Biwa on the pleasure boat Michigan

A cruise on Lake Biwa on the pleasure boat Michigan
Weigh anchor from Hamaotsu Harbor on the pleasure boat, the Michigan. Easily visible from Hamaotsu Station on Keihan Electric Railway, Hamaotsu Harbor is a five-minute walk. The 3:30 departure is a short, one-hour cruise. Taking a boat ride across Japan's largest lake is exhilarating. And don't forget to look back at Mount Hiei, which you just came down from. map

60-minute Michigan cruise: operating daily from around March 13 to November 30
Admission: Adults: 2,260 yen,
Junior high and high school students: 1,850yen,
Children: 1,130 yen
URL: http://www.biwakokisen.co.jp/english/index.html
18:00 Dinner at the Biwako Hotel Dinner at the Biwako Hotel

The largest building adjacent to Otsu Harbor, Biwako Hotel plays an important role as part of Hamaotsu A-qus, a leisure complex, and as guest lodging for Shiga Prefecture and Otsu. A-qus provides a variety of entertainment, including a movie theater, bowling alley, and shops and restaurants. All rooms in Biwako Hotel have a balcony with a view of Lake Biwa, and are spacious enough to make you feel like you're at a resort. Cuisines available in the hotel restaurants include general Japanese, teppanyaki, sushi, French and buffet. The finest ingredients are brought in from around the country, and the offerings include beef and rice raised in Omi. map

Hamaotsu A-qus: http://www.a-qus.com/- Japanese
Biwako Hotel: http://www.biwakohotel.co.jp/english/
Special ticket for visiting Mount Hiei
Mount Hiei Summit Pass
The Mount Hiei Summit Pass provides unlimited rides on the transportation needed to see Mount Hiei: Keihan Electric Railway, Eizan Electric Railway, the Eizan Cable Car and Ropeway, the Mount Hiei shuttle bus, the Sakamoto Cable Car, Kojak buses (between Cable Sakamoto and Sakamoto Station on Keihan Electric Railway), Ishiyama Sakamoto Line on Keihan Electric Railway between Sakamoto and Misasagi, and the Kyoto Municipal Subway between Misasagi and Sanjo. A ticket for admission to the grounds of Enryaku-ji Temple is also included.
The price is 3,000 yen, and the pass may be purchased at any Keihan Electric Railway station (excluding stations on the Otsu Line). URL:http://www.keihan.co.jp/traffic/valueticket/global/en/index.html
Mount Hiei One-Day Package
This specially priced package provides a round-trip ticket between a station on Keihan Electric Railway, and Eizan Electric Railway, Eizan Cable Car and Ropeway, as well as an unlimited ride pass for the Mount Hiei shuttle bus. This package may be purchased at any Keihan Electric Railway station (excluding Demachiyanagi Station and stations on the Otsu Line).
The price is 2,100 yen URL: http://www.keihan.co.jp/traffic/valueticket/ticket/hiei1day/- Japanese

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