Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, is undoubtedly the top tourist destination in the country. But because of its popularity, the city center is packed with hundreds of thousands of tourists. So, if you want to enjoy the traditional side of Japan without being surrounded by strangers, visit Mt. Hiei, located on the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture. And the great news is, getting there isn’t hard!
So, we will go through how you can visit the mountain recognized as one of the Three Holiest Places in Japan. At the end of the article, there is a link to our Mt. Hiei article that introduces you to all the attractions scattered across the vast precinct of Enryakuji Temple.
Table of Contents
- Getting to Mt. Hiei by Train/Bus + Eizan Cable Car + Eizan Ropeway from Kyoto’s City Center
- Getting to Mt. Hiei by Train + Sakamoto Cable Car from Sakamoto in Shiga Prefecture
- By Bus from Kyoto
How to Get to Mt. Hiei
Because Mt. Hiei is at the border of two prefectures, you can head up the mountain from Kyoto and end your visit at Shiga Prefecture, or vice versa. That was the approach we took when we visited Enryakuji previously, as the plan was to explore Shiga Prefecture after visiting Mt. Hiei.
You can refer to our itinerary HERE!
Getting to Mt. Hiei by Train/Bus + Eizan Cable Car + Eizan Ropeway from Kyoto’s City Center
If you base in Kyoto, take a Keihan train to Demachiyanagi Station (出町柳駅). From there, take the Eizan Electric Railway’s Eizan Line and get off at the terminal station – Yase-Hieizan-guchi Station (八瀬比叡山口駅).
Tip: Consider taking the sightseeing train, Hiei, to Yase-Hieizan-guchi Station! Refer to HERE for more details!
Then change for Eizan Cable Car ( 叡山ケーブル) at Cable Yase Station (ケーブル八瀬駅).
The first two photos in the Instagram post were taken at the Yase-Hieizan-guchi Station. After leaving the station, follow the main road to the National Highway. Please make a right turn and keep walking. You should see the bridge in the 4th photo. Cross the bridge and get to the Cable Yase Station in the 5th photo.
Tip: You can pre-purchase your return ticket from klook so you can pay by debit/credit card and other popular payment modes, including PayPal!
You can also take a bus to get to Cable Yase Station. Bus services bound for Kyoto Yase (京都八瀬) or Ōhara (大原) depart from Kyoto Subway’s Kokusai Kaikan Station (国際会館駅) and get off at Yase Eki-mae (八瀬駅前).
The bridge in the 4th photo is just across the road from the bus stop. Watch for ongoing traffic and cross the road.
At Cable Yase Station, you can purchase tickets for both Eizan Cable and Eizan Ropeway. If you plan to visit Garden Museum Hiei (ガーデンミュージアム比叡), a discount set ticket, including the transport and the admission fee, is available.
Taking the Eizan Ropeway to Enryaku-ji
Once you reach Cable Hiei Station (ケーブル比叡駅), head to the Eizan Ropeway (叡山ロープウェイ) next door to board the ropeway from Rope Hiei Station (ロープ比叡駅) to Hieisancho Station (比叡山頂駅).
Around Cable Hiei Station, there are a few lookouts for the view of the surrounding mountains. When the sky is clear, you can see as far as Kyoto and Osaka’s cityscapes.
Tip: For the best view, stand/sit in front of the side facing the foot of the mountain.
If you didn’t get to stand close to the window, that is okay. The scenery from Hieisancho Station is the best!
From Hieisancho Station (比叡山頂駅), you can either get to Enryakuji Temple’s Tōdō (東塔) area on foot or by taking a shuttle bus. The bus stop, Hiei Sancho (比叡山頂), is close to Garden Museum Hiei (ガーデンミュージアム比叡).
Refer to HERE for more information about Mt. Hiei’s shuttle bus.
Below the map HERE, you will find the timetable for the cable car and ropeway.
- The first column represents the hours and the second column indicates the minutes.
- If it is still hard to read, translate the webpage with Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
How Much Does it Cost to Board the Eizan Cable Car
How Much Does it Cost to Board Eizan Ropeway
☛ Eizan Cable Car and Ropeway don’t operate during winter from January to mid-March.
☛ Extra charges will be incurred if you carry big luggage with the sum of length, width, and height exceeding 250 cm (550 yen for the cable car and 350 yen for the ropeway). Please purchase the hand-carrying luggage ticket (手回り品きっぷ) from the ticket machine. Also, they may not allow you to carry the luggage if the cable car/ropeway is full.
Tip: During Golden Week (from the end of April to the beginning of May) and weekends and public holidays in autumn foliage season in November, arrive at the cable car station as early as possible. You can expect a long queue at the stations from late morning. You can also get to Mt. Hiei in the afternoon if you don’t plan to spend a whole day at Mt. Hiei.
Getting to Mt. Hiei by Train + Sakamoto Cable Car from Sakamoto in Shiga Prefecture
If you are based in Shiga Prefecture, visit Mt. Hiei from Sakamoto.
Take a JR train and get off at JR Hieizan-Sakamoto Station (比叡山坂本駅). You can also take a Keihan train and get off at Keihan Sakamoto-Hieizan-guchi Station (坂本比叡山口駅).
From there, change to Kōjaku Bus (江若バス) to get to Cable Sakamoto Station (坂本駅). By taking the cable car, you will arrive at Cable Enryakuji Station (ケーブル延暦寺駅) in 11 minutes.
You can also walk from the train station to Sakamoto Cable.
For Sakamoto Cable Car’s timetable, please refer to the official website HERE.
Tip: Sit on the east side of the cable car for a wide view of Lake Biwa! You can also get a panorama view of the lake from the 2nd floor at Cable Enryakuji Station.
If you plan to take Sakamoto Cable down to the Sakamoto area in Shiga Prefecture, follow the directory sign in the Tōdō (東塔) area. One of the roads is parallel to the Daikō-dō Hall (大講堂). It leads to the cable station. You will see the ticket booth in the photo first. From there, it is around a 7-minute walk.
Sakamoto Cable (坂本ケーブル) was first opened in 1927. This is why both of its cable stations have the architectural style of the late Meiji period (1868 – 1912). With a total length of 2,025 meters, it is the longest cable car line in Japan.
The current cost of Sakamoto Cable is:
- One-way: 870 yen
- Round trip: 1,660 yen
- One-way: 440 yen
- Round trip: 830 yen
Discounts will apply if you are in a group of 5 people or more.
Tip: If you are holding a Kansai Thru Pass, boarding the Eizan Railway and Hieizan Sakamoto Cable will be free.
The Two Stations Along Sakamoto Cable Car’s Track
A special thing about Sakamoto Cable Car is it has two small stations along its track. The cable car won’t stop if there are no passengers boarding or alighting. But if you have time, how about getting off the cable car and explore the small sights around the stations?
If you wish to alight the cable car at these two stations, let the conductor know by using the intercom in the cable car in advance. Intercom is also available at the two stations. Remember to contact the conductor for him to stop the cable car for you to board.
Sakamoto Cable Car’s Motate Yama Station (もたて山駅)
If you like hiking, get off at Motate Yama Station and trek the mountain trail from the station. Although the slope is steep, the area has beautiful natural scenery. From Motateyama Observation Deck (もたて山見晴台), you can get an amazing view of Lake Biwa and the townships surrounding the lake. The largest island, Chikubu Island (竹生島), can also be seen!
Sakamoto Cable Car’s Hōraioka Station (ほうらい丘駅)
There is a cave at the back of the Hōraioka Station. The cave is practically a worship hall enshrining stone Buddha statues dug up around Hōraioka Station during the construction of Sakamoto Cable Car. It is believed that these statues were made by the locals to honor those who lost their lives when Oda Nobunaga sieged Enryakuji.
By Bus from Kyoto
If you are coming from Kyoto, you can also take Kyoto Bus’s Route 51 or Keihan Bus’s Route 57 to get to Enryakuji from the city center/Kyoto Station.
Please be aware that there is only one service on weekdays and two services on weekends and public holidays heading to and coming back from Mt. Hiei. Refer to the timetable HERE and click the red button with white “時刻表はこちらから” words to plan.
- Kyoto Station = Kyoto Eki-mae (京都駅前)
- Todō = 東塔
- The summit of Mt. Hiei = Hieizan Sanchō (比叡山頂)
Important: The one-day or two-day bus/subway pass won’t cover the section from Jizodani (地蔵谷) to the summit of Mt. Hiei (比叡山頂). Extra charges will apply.
Explore Mt. Hiei (比叡山)
Mt. Hiei or Hieizan (比叡山) is one of the Three Holiest Places in Japan. The worship halls and pagodas of the World Heritage Enryakuji Temple are scattered throughout the mountain. The temple that is the headquarter of Japan’s Tendai sect has nurtured well-respected monks in Japanese history.
To find out more about this sacred destination, please refer to our article on Mt. Hiei!