Autumn in the Kyoto Hillside
Aside from the well-known "old charm" feel that Kyoto has, the surrounding countryside can be an experience that many miss because there are so many other wonderful sights to see. My suggestion is that you make every effort to try and not to miss it!
Kyoto in the Autumn (or Fall) starts to change its colours as the colder weather descends.
Our journey today takes us to the foothills of Mt Hiei and to the mountain itself - said in times past to be the home of the gods and demons of the Shinto religion and which is still the site of the Enryaku-ji buddhist temple complex today.
In this particular case, an express train on the Keihan line from Osaka (or even the Gion district in Kyoto) can take you to the town of Demachiyanagi where you can then find the quaint local Eizan Railway with a single carriage train that takes you to our first destination: Yase-Hieizanguchi.
As part of our destination's name suggests, we will be at the foot (well the "mouth" or "entrance") to Hiezan (Mt Hiei). But don't rush to catch the cable car up the mountain too quickly. The final train stop at Yase-Hieizanguchi presents us with our first glipmse of the hillside with a walk along well-worn trails and over wooden and stone footbridges. The water is so clear, you can see the bottom of the river as you take time out from the busier tourist trails and experience some of the more serene moments Kyoto and Japan have to offer.
Once you have taken in some of the local village shopping spots it is time to catch the cable car up to the top of Mt Hiei itself. A single trip costs 530 JPY (return for 1040 JPY). There are two cable cars that go up the mountain on different sides by different companies. So if you plan to go up by one and down by the other, you should get a single trip ticket for each.
At the top of the mountain you can find the temple complex collectively known as Enryaku-ji. It is the headquarters of one of the Buddhist sects founded in Japan during the Hieian period and there are many buildings to visit of various sizes and designs. Because it forms such a significant part of Japenese history it is listed as a World Heritage Site. There is so much more history to Mount Hiei, the warrior monks. and the fuedal wars around the efforts of Oda Nobunaga to unite Japan, than this short article can cover. I recommend you take the time to research a little further for yourself and be surprised by what you discover.
The cost to enter the temple complex is 550 JPY per adult. The price is less for children and there are also large group discounts. You can also pay an additional fee to visit the museum within the grounds.
Ending the day off with a trip back down the Eizan cable car, and the single-carriage railway to Demachiyanagi, can see you enjoying a picnic afternoon tea on the banks of the Kamo River - just opposite the Keihan Railway station - before your final trip home.
It is a different diversion from the well-visited tourist attractions that Kyoto is generally most famous for but well worth the planning.