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KS Cover no. 77 2006 Ocober

OCT 2006 :: 077

A way less known

Mt. Takao, Kyoto

Mt. Takao lays in the far north-west area of Kyoto. During the momiji-season it is still a crowded place to visit but far less crowded than, for example, the temples along Philosopher's Path. Takao offers not only the beautiful Jingo-ji temple and autumn foliage, but is also the starting point of a serene walk along the Kiyotaki stream.

To get to Jingo-ji (The Temple of Holy Protection) find the small walkway off the main road which leads downhill to Kiyotakigawa. After crossing the bridge, a rather steep path meanders uphill toward the temple ground. A number of restaurants line the way and provide low Japanese-style tables and a stunning view of the large maple trees. Some of the restaurants serve mocha cappuccino. It is basically green cappuccino which looks a little odd but tastes really nice. The restaurants are set up to serve a large number of visitors with specialties such as momiji-mochi. During the off-season some of them hibernate.

The last couple of hundred meters to the temple gate is accessible over a demanding set of uneven but firm stone steps. The gate looms above and is partly hidden behind the dense vegetation that surrounds the temple.

Entering the temple grounds is like stepping into another sphere. The change of atmosphere from the crooked staircase and the sullen light of the forest to the flat and light plateau of the temple buildings is sudden.

Jingo-ji is a temple of the Shingon sect. It was founded in 781 by Wake no Kiyomaro shortly after Nara was abandoned by the court and Kyoto was established. Also Kukai spent 14 years here as a head priest.

The complex itself is extensive. The main hall (a modern reconstruction) sits on top of another large set of steps, It contains the statue of Yakushi — the Healing Buddha — which is listed as a national treasure.

On the temple ground, but a little bit off of the main complex, a terraced place overlooks the valley toward Kiyotaki. Here kawarake-nage (throwing little disks) can be performed. Little clay disks, which are for sale at a little stall on the plateau, can be thrown off the cliff into the valley. It is said that the disk takes bad luck away if thrown all the way down the valley. Its good fun and easy for those, who have experience with a frisbee.

Going back to the bridge over the Kiyotaki River a walk leads to the next town. Several benches and a ramshackle camping area provide a place for picnic and shelter. The stream has crystal clear water and some nice beaches — both very inviting during summer. It is a very charming walk and especially enjoyable in autumn. The hike takes about an hour. From Kiyotaki several buses leave for Arashiyama.

In order to prolong the hike and to make a demanding trip out of it, follow the sign which leads you up the mountain to Atago san.

Text: Tanja Poppelreuter • Photos: Gary Quigg

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A way less known
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Ways & means

From Osaka: Take the Hankyu Line from Umeda directly to (Karasuma) and hop onto the 8 bus to Takao. Be aware – it only leaves once an hour.

From Kyoto: Take JR Bus in front of JR Kyoto stn, bound for Takao/Keihoku and get off at Yamashiro Takao stn.

The hike is not demanding at all and could better be called a walk. However, the stone stairs toward Jingo-ji are crooked and high.
Good footwear is therefore recommended.

5, Umegahata-Takao-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Open everyday, 9am-4pm
Admission: ¥500
Tel: 075-861-1769
Fax: 075-862-0354