Along the Keihan Railway is an entire treasure trove of autumn leaf viewing spots, including many towards the end of the Ishiyama Sakamoto line. There are many great value tickets which make hopping across various locations quite easy.
You can find the transport pass includes the ropeway ride if you want to visit the Mt.Hiei area. Check out various kinds of passes to find out the best one that fits your needs.
At the end of the Ishiyama Sakamoto line lies the Sakamoto area, situated on the western side of Lake Biwa, providing stunning water views from multiple vantage points. It is a quaint and leafy neighbourhood that is also home to various temples and autumn leaf spots, all easily accessible by foot from Sakamoto Station. The Hieizan Sakamoto Cable Railway is also within walking distance, providing convenient access for those who wish to transfer onwards to Mt. Hiei.
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine
After exiting Sakamoto Station, head west onto the main road which will lead you directly to Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine. The main road is lined with trees on both sides providing a nice backdrop of autumn reds as you stroll towards the shrine. After about 10 minutes, you will reach a large set of orange torii gates, marking the entrance to the shrine.Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine is a designated Japan heritage site and is the head shrine of approximately 3,800 Sanno shrines within the country. There is an entrance fee of 200 yen, but once inside you will be able to admire the well-kept temples, shrubbery and also a small monkey enclosure. In autumn there are many leafy spots where you will be standing directly under a canopy of red colours. My personal favourite was the entrance pathway which provides picturesque photo opportunities with temple backdrops. Illumination events are also held here for those who decide to venture back after dusk.
From Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, walk to the other side of the block where you will reach the Kyu-Chikurinin Garden. This was formally a Satobo, a housing residence used by priests of the Enryaku-ji Temple post-retirement. Admission is 320 yen and will grant access to their expansive grounds which reach 3,300 square metres.
The highlight of the Kyu-Chikurinin are their gardens, which were designed in a circuit style with a central pathway leading you through the garden allowing you to view it from all angles. There are not many autumn colours here compared to the surrounding areas, but the garden is well thought out, providing picturesque photo opportunities from within the garden and from the main building which has 180 degree garden views. Inside the garden is also a tea house where you can enjoy some green tea and wagashi, traditional Japanese confectionery.
Situated a bit further out in the area is Saikyo-ji Temple, a 20 minute stroll from the Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine and Kyu-Chikurinin Garden areas. Saikyo-ji Temple is the headquarters of the Tendai Shinsei Sect, which encompasses more than 420 branch temples which are located all throughout the country.The admission fee is 500 yen which is slightly higher than the other neighbouring spots but is well worth it – in return you are able to enter all the structures and view all the gardens.
The temple areas are large and expansive, and I found that the autumn colours here were more varied and vibrant compared to other areas. There are countless photo opportunities including the entrance pathway which is lined with trees on both ends, and the inner side of the temple grounds which house golden trees, all feature traditional temple architecture as picturesque backdrops. In addition to all this, the temple grounds are fairly elevated providing stunning views of Lake Biwa and the greater Otsu area. Saikyo-ji Temple is definitely a highlight of the area and is well worth a visit.
Shigain Monzeki Temple
While heading back to Sakamoto Station, you can also pay a short visit to Shigain Monzeki Temple, a small temple of the Tendai sect. Admission is 450 yen and provides a rich historic experience with viewings of multiple artefacts and items housed inside. There is also a small garden situated inside featuring a stone bridge and pond. Outside the temple are also a few trees offering autumn colours.
Daniel is a Tokyo-based Australian food and travel blogger who has resided in Japan since 2015. He enjoys trying new foods in addition to exploring Japan’s natural treasures. He has particularly enjoyed Kansai’s autumn colours and temples and hopes to visit again in the future.