Sometimes we like to do things backwards.
The funicular cable car ride up Mt Hiei is a popular Kyoto attraction. It goes up and down the mountain over twenty times a day. And almost everyone takes it up. A few then walk (or mountain bike) down, though almost everyone rides the car back down. But after four days in Kyoto walking amongst crowds of people, the forested mountain slopes surrounding the city were beckoning and we felt energetic enough to do a steep climb.
Which it was. From the Shugakuin station (where a kind older gentleman, seeing us staring at Google Maps on our iPhones helped direct us to the trailhead) on the Eizan Electric Railway Line that runs through the northern part of the city, we gained over 2,000 ft in about two miles. The lack of switchbacks, combined with the antiquity of the path, meant that some sections were so heavily eroded that you were at the bottom of a deep V-shaped trench.
Early in the ascent we passed two local men who were clearly surprised to see us, but also delighted. After about a mile the grade decreased and we were on a small ride, out of the trench, which I found disconcertingly restrictive. This small stone Bhudda had lost its hands and head, so someone substituted a little stone instead!
Groves of Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) provided cooling shade on a hot day. They grow ramrod straight and can be over 100 ft tall. We have three in our back yard at home, but the dwarf variety, Nana gracilis.
The route was thickly forested with only occasional glimpses of the city below.
After a leisurely lunch, which we had brought with us, and some time relaxing in our favorite Helinox collapsible chairs (aluminum frame, only 20 ozs.) we took the Keifuku Cable down the mountain. The 1,841 ft vertical interval it traverses is the greatest of any cable car in Japan.
Next post about our Kyoto trip >>> The Emperor’s Gardens