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Getting from Kyoto to Otsu the long way…

I love Kyoto. I'd be happy to write a post that only said that. Usually when I'm in Kyoto, I'll either be found at the Railway Museum (actually, it's been twice now and I haven't visited it since it has been renovated!) or up at Mt. Kurama via the Eiden (Railway). This time, I was on the Eiden, but I veered right.

Demachiyanagi Station to Mount Hiei

Hiei-zan is the mountain range to the north-east of Kyoto and forms a dividing range between it and Otsu. As with all mountains in the Kyoto area, Hiei-zan has multiple shrines, multiple temples and multiple transport methods for conquering it. Fortunately, one of those is the famous Eizan Dentetsu (shortened to Eiden) which starts at Demachiyanagi station and ventures to the base of the mountain. Of course, Eiden also heads of north-west towards Mt Kurama and I recommend this trip too.

Anyway, back to tackling Mt. Hiei. Our journey starts at Demachiyanagi Station. We got here from Temmabashi in Osaka via Keihan which has a subway station right across the road.


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The trip to the base of Hiei-zan is quick and you'll end up at Yasehieizanguchi station in around 20 minutes. The track splits at Takaragaike; left takes you off to Mt Kurama and right to Mt Hiei. Make sure you turn right :)

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The garden around the station is also picturesque! Autumn was a great time to come. Turns out I was there a week before the snow.

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The autumn colours were so very different from the colours experienced in Nichinan a few days earlier!

Hiei-zan Cablecar

After hopping off the train, we're off to the cable car. This is a standard vertical mountain climber, like the peak tram in Hong Kong. It passes the opposing car half way and offers amazing views the whole way!

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There's enough seats, but I'd recommend getting up as high as possible. It'll give you a better view out the front.

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The view out the side isn't bad either!

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At the top, the attendants will politely ask you all to get off as quickly as possible... please follow their instructions and do this!

Hiei-zan Ropeway

Are we at the top yet? Not quite. There's one more mode of transport to go! Let's just take in that view first.


That's north-east Kyoto in the left of that picture above. The loop hanging in the foreground is a target. Buy some rocks for 100yen and throw them. Make a wish and it'll come true if your lobbed rocks make it through the middle. Anyway, back to the mountain climbing.


Welcome to the Ropeway! This is a suspended cabin that'll take you to the very top of the mountain.

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You've made it! You're at the top of the mountain! How crisp is that air? It's now a short walk to the bus stop... so enjoy the scenery. Don't worry about the main building of the ropeway machinery, it's perfectly structurally sound.

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Follow the signs and you'll end up at a bus-stop/carpark/kiosk/garden-museum.

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If you head right once you're at the carpark, you'll find the toilet and a great view of Otsu city.


Heading then to the other side of the kiosk, you'll see a nice view of Lake Biwako to the north.

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Follow the bus timetable and work out when the next one is. They're about 30mins apart. If you have time, grab a frankfurt with sauce from the kiosk. Yum!


Notice that set of white lines on the right of the image above? That's actually where you are meant to line up! We followed the tourists in front and lined up in the wrong spot! Either way, the bus is uneventful and you're going to want to get off at the first stop.

Sakamoto Cable Car

From here, there's only one mode of transport down. You'll hear it a few times, but it's only one method because it's the longest cable car in Japan. There's even tunnels! Before that though, there's a 20min walk to get to the station. Check out Enrakuji while you're up here!

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Jump into the station and buy a ticket... but don't forget to check out the surrounds!

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There's a cool display on the second floor of the station. The stairs up are inside.

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Check out the times and line up prior to departure, you'll want a good seat!

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The view down is fantastic and mainly out the left. There are a few bits to the right too though.

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The last picture above is of the road through to JR Hiei-zan Sakamoto Station. After exiting the station, turn left and follow the road. It'll curve right and then head straight down towards Lake Biwako. The station is about 20mins down the road. (So are a few good places for lunch!)

JR Hiei-zan Sakamoto Station

This is a suburban raised station along the lake, north of Otsu. It's appropriately named as it is the closest JR station to the Sakamoto Cable Car. Some freight trains come through here, but most travel down the other side of Lake Biwako. The JR West Thunderbird express runs through this station.

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A total of around 35 minutes was spent on the platform. This saw 3 local trains (green), a freight loco hauling a diesel and a Thunderbird express.

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From here it was a quick ride home via Kyoto.

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