27th of October 2017 6:17, waiting for the bus near my share house, 40 km south from Osaka. The sun is up, the bus already full of sleepy salary-men.
3 hours and 5 means of transport later, arrival at the foot of Mount Hiei, a holy mountain northeast of Kyoto, home of the Enryakuji monastery.
9:35, the Eizan cablecar starts climbing the very steep flank of Mount Hiei. 561 m vertical interval in only 1,3 km, very impressive! I'm glad I didn't try to walk up...
From the top station, a ropeway brings me to the summit of the mountain.
10:00, the walking path to Enryakuji is blocked by fallen trees, aftermath of the last typhoon. I have to wait 30 min. and take a bus, grr.... Today isn't a trekking day, it's a transport odyssey!
10:40, after more than 4 hours, I arrive at last in Todo, the main area of the monastery!
I'm a little disappointed. The main hall of Enryakuji is undergoing renovations and covered by scaffolding, the Amida Hall is almost new and crowded with stupid tourists playing with a bell, I excepted more of this place...
I leave Todo behind and take a trail to Saito (west area), enjoying for 20 minutes the beauty and silence of the giant forest. Saito is much more interesting, especially a Zen temple with its rocky garden.
On the contrary, Shaka Hall, the main attraction of Saito, is a tourist trap, you have to pay 500 Yen to listen to a boring esoteric speech of a monk in Japanese and can only see 4-5 statues in the dark...
After wasting my money on Shaka, I return to the forest and hike for 3-4 km on a difficult path (thank you typhoon number 21...) to the last big area of Enryakuji, Yokawa.
This site is simply beautiful, especially the Central Hall partially built on pillars amidst a canopy of splendid maple trees. It reminds me of the Kyomizudera in Kyoto, but without thousands of tourists!
For me, the Yokawa area and the primal forest are the real highlights of Mount Hiei!
From there, I take a bus back to the main area (Todo) and travel down with another nice old cablecar to Sakamoto, a small town near the shores of Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan.
14:15, arrival in Sakamoto. Searching for the nearest train station, I meet a young photograph living in Ôtsu, a big city nearby. Boarding the same train, we talk a lot and following his recommandation I stay on the train until the end of the line, Ishiyamadera.
The temple of Ishiyamadera is only 10 min. on foot from the station, but after more than 10 km hiking in Mount Hiei, my legs feel so heavy!
Arrived at the temple grounds, the fatigue is forgotten. It's such a beautiful and peaceful place! Not only home to a simple temple, it's a big park built on many levels, with huge rocky cliffs (Ishiyama = stone mountain), a pagoda and a gorgeous little waterfall.
Sadly, I can't stay very long. It's already 16:00 and it will take me about 3,5 hours to get back to my accommodation!
It was a long and tiresome day, but I can fell asleep content, the head full of new and beautiful landscapes!
As a conclusion, here a gallery with other visual impressions of Mount Hiei and Ishiyamadera.