Daimonji 大文字

The hilly outskirts of Kyoto provide ample opportunity for hikes so short you could even call them just vigorous strolls. The many paths are easily accessible from residential areas along the edge of the city. They wind above the shrines and temples, and through old graveyards, providing glimpses of the city beyond the trees. The air is fresh and full of evergreen scents of the surrounding forest.

Perhaps the most impressive view comes from Daimonji-yama, which is more famous for its role in the Gozan no Okuribi festival, where the sides of five mountains in Kyoto are lit by huge bonfires to form Chinese characters and simple shapes. The entrance (you can’t really call it a trailhead) lies down a street that runs left when facing the entrance to Ginkakuji. Just before the torii (shrine gate) at the end of the street, turn right and the ascent begins.

The woodlands are well cared for by forest workers and streams along the path trickle lazily over stonework. Local residents out for exercise frequent the path, much of which is actually sturdy concrete sidewalk and stairs leading to the summit. Along the way, hikers will see piles of wood gathered for the annual bonfire. Quite suddenly, the view becomes expansive and the city shimmers far below. The many hearths for the bonfires built on the steep hillside are equally impressive to see, and alternative paths descend through them.

The hillside is off-limits on the night of August 16th, when it lights up after 8pm for about 30 minutes. During that time, you’ll probably want to watch from below anyway.





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