Hiking on the Daimon-ji
What it is
The north of Higashiyama is rather famous since that’s where you’ll find the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji), the Nanzen-ji, Heian-jingu, the Path of Philosophy and many other tourist spots (most of them being definitely worth a visit). Yet the mountain that serves as a backdrop to all these places is much less known: that’s the Daimon-ji, which you’ll recognize thanks to the giant kanji 大 that can be seen on its slope.[break]
The mountain is easy to access and full of hiking trails that blend views over the city and forest walks, which make it a great spot for those interested in a walk in nature that isn’t too demanding and with a flexible duration (based on the trail you pick).
Because there are several tracks, there are also several access points. However the easiest one is to take the road directly north of the Ginkaku-ji and parallel to it. Then you just have to follow the path for about 30mn to reach an open area overlooking the city (note that the climb is a bit demanding).
Many people climb up to that open area (which actually is the kanji) and stop there to take in the view, eat a pic-nic and such. It’s definitely the best spot for that and the trip is worth it without a doubt. You can even easily climb down by walking down the slope along one of the legs of the 大.[break]
However it only takes another 15 or 20 minutes to get to the top and from there you have access to several other hiking trails. But make sure you get there during day-time to have enough daylight because the signage isn’t the best (think missing signposts at a cross-road) and the tracks can lead just about anywhere: Higashiyama (I climbed down next to the Nanzen-ji), Shiga (the neighboring prefecture) or Yamashina. Besides a big chunk of the way is in the forest and it gets dark pretty quickly in the evening (as I found out since I was once more lost in the middle of the woods while the night was falling!).