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Mount Hiei

Tradition meets history and natural beauty on Kyoto’s sacred mountain.

Home to the Enryaku-ji Temple UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Hiei straddles the border between Kyoto and Shiga prefectures.

The mountain is not only known for offering a spectacular view of Kyoto, but it’s also famous for its legendary “marathon monks,” who attempt to complete “kaihogyo,” a 1,000-day marathon challenge to reach enlightenment.

To reach the summit of Mount Hiei, visitors have a couple of options. Cable cars run from both the Kyoto and Shiga sides of the mountain. If you’re coming from Kyoto, you can take the Eizan cable car—the steepest in Japan—most of the way up and then transfer to the ropeway for the final part of the ascent. The whole journey takes about 15 minutes.

mt hiei

Photo by: Shibuya246 Mt. Hiei ropeway view.

On the Shiga side, the Sakamoto cable car will get you to the top in 11 minutes. It has a great view of Lake Biwa, and with a length of  two kilometers, it’s the longest cable car ride in Japan.

Let’s hike!

Alternatively, you can hike the 848-meter summit of Mount Hiei in about three hours from Kyoto’s Shugakuin Station. The walking trail takes you through a dense forest, which then gives way to towering cedar trees.

Keep an eye out for wildlife as you make your way up!

The path is steep and narrow in some places—particularly at the start—but it shouldn’t be much of a challenge even for inexperienced hikers. This is s a popular route for local climbers, but it isn’t too crowded on weekdays.

Mt Hiei

Photo by: YU-JEN SHIH Walking trail on Mt Hiei

Whichever way you decide to take, when you reach the summit, you can enjoy the panoramic view, the fascinating history, and the beautiful architecture of Enryakuji.


Enryaku-ji Temple

A mountainside temple with a splash of mystery and stunning autumn leaves.


Things To Know

Cable Car Info

The two cable cars are run by different companies. If you want to go up one route and down on the other, you’ll need to buy two single tickets rather than a round-trip. Also, be aware that the Eizan cable car and ropeway do not operate from early December to mid-March.

How To Get There


Oku-hiei Drive Way, Ōtsu-shi, Shiga-ken 520-0116, Japan

By foot

There are several hiking routes up Mount Hiei. The trail discussed here begins about a 15-minute walk from Shugakuin station, which is on the Eizan line. Head east from the station and follow the canal towards the mountain to get to the trailhead.

Another way is using the Eizan cable car, which leaves from Yase-Hieizanguchi station, also on the Eizan line. You need to transfer to the ropeway on route to the summit. Both run approximately every 15-20 minutes. The Sakamoto cable car departs twice an hour from Cable Sakamoto station, which is about a 15-minute walk from Sakamoto train station.

Where To Stay

The Prince Kyoto Takaragaike
  • Kiyototakaragaikepurinsuhoteru, Kyoto-shi Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8505 Japan
  • ¥22,010 - ¥317,072
  • 4.28/5 (2,147 reviews)
  • 4.9 km
Ryoso Chatani
  • 160 Ohara Kusaocho, Kyoto-shi Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 601-1248 Japan
  • ¥6,440 - ¥6,440
  • 4.75/5 (373 reviews)
  • 5.5 km
Ryokan Yumotokan
  • 2-30-7 Noka, Otsu-shi, Shiga, 520-0102 Japan
  • ¥36,100 - ¥72,200
  • 4.27/5 (576 reviews)
  • 5.6 km
Ogoto Onsen Yunoyado Komolebi
  • 2-30-1 Noka, Otsu-shi, Shiga, 520-0102 Japan
  • ¥18,200 - ¥18,200
  • 4.45/5 (329 reviews)
  • 5.7 km
Ogoto Onsen Dantokan Kikunoya
  • 6-1-29 Ogoto, Otsu-shi, Shiga, 520-0101 Japan
  • ¥36,540 - ¥68,040
  • 5.9 km

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