Hiei-zan 比叡山 to Kōzanji 高山寺
Let's return to Hiei-zan once again. We're heading west now, through the Enryaku-ji Temple clusters of Tōdo and Saito, past Yokawa, then dropping down to Ohara. From here it is up and over Ebun-toge to Shizuhara (Stop at Cafe Millet for lunch. Reservations required), then up the steep Yakuōzaka to Kurama. Enjoy the gnarled roots and beauty of the mysterious forest of Kurama-yama, before descending to Kibune Jinja. Follow the river to the Ninose train station, then head into the hills again. The trail drops again, tracing Kyoto's western edge. There are quite a few temples here in which to take breaks. Here we part ways with the Kyoto Isshū Trail (which we, and the Hodō, have been following since Ohara) and after passing through more suburbs, arrive at Takagamine. From here, we'll once again pick up the narrative.
Miki and I descend a steep road pockmarked by circles, then follow the road below into the forest. It is a peaceful walk along a stream, leading us past a few remote homes where artists communally live and work. The concrete gives way to a path that rises steeply toward the pass. The earth is dry here, another reminder of New Mexico. At the pass, we find the Kyoto circuit trail, an intersection we reached a year ago. After the following day, everything beyond here is off limits due to the start of Matsutake mushroom season. These spores fetch a steep price and any strangers around here are looked at as theives. The city has therefore closed the trail for six weeks every autumn. They can't keep out the bears apparently, and the signs warn us of their predilection for these parts. We chat a bit louder now, passing the narrow road for Sawa-no-Ike, where Miki and I saw the filming of a Mito Komon episode, inspiring me to use it as a film location a few months afterward. There is a beautiful Fudo statue in a hollowed rock just above the road. A high waterfall drops to our left, falling powerfully and confidently due to all the recent rain. Lower down we eat trailmix above a wider river, which we then follow along a busy road. Being a weekday, the traffic is lighter and rushes at us in small and infrequent clusters. The long spaces in between allows us some peace on this sunny day, which we wind up just below the root-knotted trail up to Kōzanji.