Hikone & Kurama Trip (last updated on 2011/05/28)

map by google

To Hikone (6:45am at Nishi-Akashi, 8:50am at Hikone )

I went to the station to buy Summer 1 day pass for Kansai area last night so I was very much ready. I left home at 6:20am and walked toward the station. Bought breakfast (a couple rice balls and a bottle of green tea) at a convenience store and walked to a platform. Get on a Special Rapid train bound for Nagahama leaving Nishi-Akashi at 6:45am, and the train which ran passed Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, passing famous Kusatsu hot spring, then arrived to Hikone station at 8:50am. It was about two hours ride, but I found out that the special rapid train is not suitable for a long ride, since it does not have a pull out table or drink holder.

A one day ticket for the trip. 2,900 Yen.

A special rapid train arriving to Nishi-Akashi Very much countryside near Hikone

Since I learned that special rapid trains run only 4 times every hour, it is crucial to coordinate the schedule to fully utilize the time given. I thought about spending afternoon at Kyoto, so I should be leaving here around 10:30am. After checking the time table, I picked the one leaving at 10:26am. Walked out from the station and headed west, toward the castle. I had no map with me so I just look up for the signs and walked along the major street, usually they have government offices and police stations. I walked for about 10 minutes and walked into the area where seems to be a part of castle, but it was a Yasukuni shrine.

Checking timetable I can see the main building of the castle far away

Hikone Castle

I kept walking and arrived at the admission office. The ticket was 600 Yen.

Walking into the castle property. The defense is still good even today

Walking up the hilly stair way...

Admission ticket

There is a pathway going up right next to the office so I proceeded as the sign says. After going up hill for few minutes, I reached to an open space, I see the entrance gate above and actually I had to go around to get on the bridge before I go in. I have to agree this is a well made defense. There was a couple of stores around the corner before turning toward the entrance, trying to reeling people to buy stuffs like, well, ice creams...

You have to walk around to pass the bridge to enter The same bridge, finally I can enter.

After walking cross the front gate, I was able to look inside of the guard house. certain portions of wall is thickened, meaning that it is providing additional protection against modern weapons like rifle bullets. Kept walking, passing another gate which is right at a corner with very small opening.

In the war time, I will be fully exposed while turning the corner The gate access is very limited.

 Finally I arrived to the Tenshu, the central building at 9:20am. Took a tour inside for about 20 minutes, which I had to take my shoes off. The hallways are very small and stairs are crazy steep. Squeezing myself is no joke during the tour. Once I reached to the top floor, the view was pretty good, except for the hazy sky. The amazing thing about Japanese architect is to use the natural products as they are. The ceiling beam of the building is curved. No to forget to mention about the hidden compartment.

Tenshu, the central building where ruler lives Stair is very steep, the castle is for defense, not convenience...
Twisted but assembled in artistic way. Can you see the hidden compartment?

I bought a couple of postcards which I intended to send out to friends at gift shop. Then headed down steep hills to a Japanese garden under the sky with increasing clouds. I crossed a bridge and then entered a Japanese garden. The sky was getting cloudy, but some positions I could get a good reflection of the castle on the quiet pond. People says Japanese garden is a small scale of the world.

Walking out from the castle Japanese garden Japanese garden with the castle on the back

It's about 10 O'clock, I'd better leave. I left the castle, walked back to the station. It's a familiar look now, saw Hikonyan statue on the way. Came back to the station around 10:10am, bought snack at a convenience store inside the station. Passed the gate and walked down to the platform.

Hikonyan Oumi railway

To Kurama

I took a Special Rapid train leaving Hikone at 10:26am and rode to Kyoto. The sky is getting more clouds but still sunny weather. Good weather can turn to bad one easily in mountain area during the summer. I determined to go to Kurama to spend my afternoon there.

Back in Kyoto

Kyoto -> Tofukuji -> Demachi-Yanagi -> Kurama

Arrived to Kyoto at 11:19am, I had to go to Tofukuji station to switch to Keihan line to go to Kurama. I checked the direction at JR station and determined that I should take a Nara line to Tofukuji. When I get down to the platform, a train was getting ready to leave so I jumped in. It was a short ride and got off at the next station at 11:27am. At Tofukuji station, I exited from JR gate once and walked around to switch to Kehhan line. I stopped by at station office to pick up a ticket.

1 day ticket Train to Demachi Yanagi station

Took a train leaving Tofukuji at 11:32am, the train went underground until it gets to Demachi-Yanagi terminal at 11:49am. I stepped outside and decided to go eat after checking the timetable for the train to Kurama. Usually the places with many visitor have higher prices on everything. I found a Lotteria at the terminal, so I went inside. Fast food should be easy on my wallet. There is a guy from Dutchland who needed help on ordering the meal. Stayed there until 12:07pm, and I walked to the platform.

Getting on a train toward Kifune

Train at Demachi Yanagi

The train bound for Kurama was operated by a single person, meaning that we have to pay the fare to the driver of the train. The train left the station at 12:15pm, with many people packed inside, I see some foreign visitors, discussing about their plans at Kifune. After passing Takaragaike station, the train headed to mountainous area. The track now has many turns and the grade becomes higher. I checked on the net, and it say the maximum slope is 50 permil, meaning that there will be 50m gain in altitude while going 1,000m. The breeze coming from the slit of windows feel a lot cooler and fresh since the both sides of the track is surrounded by trees. The bad thing is that packed train condition did not improve at all since almost everybody in the car is going to Kurama. The train arrived at 12:45pm.

The train at Kifune terminal One step outside the station
Tengu welcomes visitors

Trail walk: Kurama -> Kurama-Dera -> Kinone-Sando -> Kifune Shrine

There is a path through the Kurama mountain toward the Kifune shirine. I stared to walk up the path, and passed a gate called Nio-mon. Then toward Yuki-Jinja. The path was quiet but decided to call my dad since it is around noon. He sounded okay. I kept walking up the mountain. Surrounded by many trees, some are told older than 1,000 years old.

Stairway to the entrance, Nio-mon
Some trees are 1000 years old...? Walking in a path surrounded by magnificent trees

After walking up hills on stairways and unpaved road, I reached to Kurama temple Honden, which is the main building. I did not see the point of lining up and pay some money to make a wish, I just kept going.

Back breaking stairs? Honden, people lining up to make wishes.

On the way up, I found a water station which you can drink water out of dragon?!

Dragon water?!

View of mountains

After taking a short break looking the surroundings in the middle of mountains, I kept going. In some places the roots of tree popped up on the surface and kind of tricky to travel. I reached to Fudo-do.

Trail continues Kinone, where you can see the roots of trees.


About the half of trail is covered, now I started to see some down hills. Walking in hard to travel condition, reached to Mao-den. There is a legend of some asteroid fell around here. Going down the hill and I now start hearing of car running, the exit is near.

Tricky terrain continues Maoden

Going downhill to Kihume

Kifune Shrine

Kufune Shrine is also known as the god of matching, you will get good luck on your partner?! The place have many restaurants, and some are known for Kawadoko, where you can eat at a staged floor above river. It's chilly and soothing. I walked on the street among with many cars.

So many people, so many cars Entrance to the honden
Walking up stairs The main building

A kawadoko

After stopping by at the main building, I decided to go to the Okuno-miya. Which is located far from the main shrine. The name Kifune, contains a charactor meaning of a boat, and the Okuno-miya is told that the boat is buried.


Okay, I guess it's time to go home. I have to walk a 30 minutes long walk down toward Kifune-guchi, The street is packed with many cars and they are sometimes blocking pedestrian's path because the road was too narrow.

Coming home

Train to go back, pretty much packed

Taking Keihan train back to Tofukuji station

Going back to Kyoto station

Arrived to Kifune-guchi station at 3:00pm. The place is packed with tourists and I also see many more at outside of the station waiting for a bus toward the Kifune shrine. I guess summer is the worst time to visit here but at the same time, the summer is the best time to visit to feel the cool air. Pass through the gate and went to the platform to wait for a train back to Kyoto. It came at 3:06pm. This was another packed ride of 30 minutes. All people stand and simply cannot move much. I saw an elderly person standing all the way and felt a bit sorry. The train finally reached to Demachi-Yanagi station at 3:37pm, then I walked down to Keihan line station for the transfer. A local train departed at 3:46pm, and arrived at Tofukuji in 5 minutes. I walked out from the platform and changed back to JR line so I can go back to Kyoto. The train was one of the old looking one, it was widely used when the railway was still a part of Japan National Railway. Just a short hop to Kyoto station, and I changed the ride to a Special Rapid train leaving Kyoto at 4:29pm. The train stopped at several big locations but arrived to Sannomiya okay. I stepped outside and went for shopping but I could not find one I wanted so I took a train back to Nishi-Akashi. I was at home by 6:30pm. Cooked dinner while doing another load of laundry. I took all the washed cloths to a local Laundromat and dried them. I think I will take things easy tomorrow.

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