Mount Hiei

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Mount Hiei
比叡山
Sakura MtHiei.jpg
The view from Kyoto with Cherry blossoms. (April 2005)
Elevation 848.1 m (2,782 ft)
Listing List of mountains and hills of Japan by height
Location
Location Honshū, Shiga Prefecture, Japan
Coordinates 35°4′0″N 135°50′18″E / 35.06667°N 135.83833°E / 35.06667; 135.83833Coordinates: 35°4′0″N 135°50′18″E / 35.06667°N 135.83833°E / 35.06667; 135.83833
Topo map Geographical Survey Institute 25000:1 京都東北部, 50000:1 京都及大阪
The view from Takaragaike Park in Kyoto

Mount Hiei (比叡山 Hiei-zan?) is a mountain to the northeast of Kyoto, lying on the border between the Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, Japan.

The temple of Enryaku-ji, the first outpost of the Japanese Tendai (Chin. Tiantai) sect of Buddhism, was founded atop Mount Hiei by Saichō in 788. Hōnen, Nichiren, and Shinran all studied at the temple before leaving to start their own practices. The temple complex was razed by Oda Nobunaga in 1571 to quell the rising power of the Tendai's warrior monks (sōhei), but it was rebuilt and remains the Tendai headquarters to this day.

The Imperial Japanese Navy 19th Century corvette Hiei was named after this mountain, as was the more famous World War II-era battleship Hiei, the latter having initially been built as a battlecruiser.

Mount Hiei in folklore[edit]

Mount Hiei has featured in many folk tales over the ages. Originally it was thought to be the home of gods and demons of Shinto lore, although it is predominantly known for the Buddhist monks that come from the temple of Enryaku-ji.

Marathon monks[edit]

John Stevens wrote the book The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, chronicling the practice of running long distances – up to 52 miles (84 km) a day for 100 straight days, in an effort to attain enlightenment. The practice of running is known as the kaihōgyō.

A 2010 US National Public Radio report described the sennichi kaihōgyō (thousand-day kaihōgyō) as

...1,000 days of walking meditation and prayer over a seven-year period around Mount Hiei. [The 13th disciple since WWII to complete the cycle] walked 26 miles a day for periods of either 100 or 200 consecutive days — a total distance about the same as walking around the Earth.

Attractions[edit]

Beyond the mountain itself, its forests, and the views it affords – of Kyoto, of Ohara, of lake Biwa and Shiga – the main attraction is the temple complex of Enryaku-ji. The temple complex spreads out over the mountain, but is concentrated in three areas, connected by foot trails. There are also more minor temples and shrines.

Unusually, there are also a number of French-themed attractions – the peak itself features the Garden Museum Hiei, which is themed on French impressionism, featuring gardens and French paintings, while there is also a French-themed hotel, "L'hotel de Hiei" (The Hiei Hotel). The mountain is busiest during the daytime, but has some visitors in the evenings, for light-up displays and to see the night view of the surrounding towns.

Access[edit]

The mountain is a popular area for hikers and a toll road provides access by automobile to the top of the mountain; there are also buses that connect the mountaintop to town a few times a day. There are also two routes of funiculars: the Eizan Cable from the Kyoto side to the connecting point with an aerial tramway ("ropeway") to the top, and the Sakamoto Cable from the Shiga side to the foot of Enryaku-ji.

The attractions on the mountain are quite spread out, so there are regular buses during the daytime connecting the attractions. The center for these is the bus center, in front of the entrance to the main temple complex at Tō-tō (東塔?, "East Pagoda").

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]