Higashiyama (Kyoto Prefecture) (東山 (京都府))

Higashiyama is a collective name referring to the mountains on the east side of Kyoto Basin. Also, the name sometimes refers to the region on the foot of the mountains.

The Range of Higashiyama

Generally, Higashiyama is defined as the area from Mt. Hiei in the north (Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City and Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture) to Mt. Inari in the south (Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City). In a narrower sense, it may refer to the southern area of Mt. Daimonji (Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City) to the south of Yamanakagoe (a main road called Shimogamo-Otsu Line toda), excluding Mt. Hiei.

"Higashiyama" means the mountains that can be viewed in the east from the central Kyoto, not a name of specific mountain range. Thus, while Mt. Yoshida, separated by Shishigatani from other mountains, is included in Higashiyama, mountains of the Hira mountain range system, located to the north of Mt. Hiei, is not. Similarly, it often excludes Mt. Nyoigadake to the east of Mt. Daimonji, whose top is hard to be identified from the central Kyoto.

Although the name 'Higashiyama' had been used in ancient time of the Heian period, it became popular since the Muromachi period.

Major Mountains

Major mountains are listed below from the northernmost one. Note that one mountain can have several names. Also, in some cases, the same mountain name may refer to a different mountain.

Mt. Hiei

Mt. Uryu

Mt. Yoshida

Mt. Daimonji

Although it is sometimes mixed up with Mt. Nyoigadake, they are in fact different mountains. In ancient times, however, Mt. Daimonji was also called Mt. Nyoigadake.

Mt. Awata

Mt. Kacho (also known as Mt. Chionin)

Mt. Maruyama

Mt. Ryozen

Mt. Toribe

Mt. Kiyomizu

Mt. Amidagamine

Mt. Imakumano

Mt. Enichi

Mt. Inari

Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo mountain range

Mountains in Higashiyama are often collectively called as 'Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo' (36 mountain range). When the name was first invented, it apparently did not point to the specific 36 mountains, but just expressed an impression that there were a chain of gently sloping mountains in the east viewed from the Rakuchu (inside the capital Kyoto), which could be seen as roughly 36 of them.

The fact that Sanyo RAI, a scholar of the late Edo period, who was well-known for his fondness for the landscape of Higashiyama, called himself 'Sanju-Roppo Gaishi' implies that the notion of 'Sanju-Roppo' presumably became common around the Edo period. The word 'Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo' can be found in 'Karaku meisho zue' (a guidebook on some scenic beauty) compiled in the end of Edo period, which was apparently the oldest material that exists today denoting that word. This 'Karaku meisho zue' states that 'the exact names of those 36 mountains are unclear,' indicating that the 'Sanju-Roppo' did not actually point to the specific mountains.

As mentioned above, before the Edo period it was generally believed that the 'Sanju-Roppo' were not specifically identified, however, there have been several attempts to identify them after the end of Edo period. The specific mountain names of 'Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo' were stated in 'Higashiyama National Forest Landscape Management Planning' compiled by Osaka District Forestry Office in 1936, which is regarded as an almost oldest material listing the specific 36 mountain names. However, the mountain names listed here were just copied from statements of 'Yamakawamon' in 'Yoshufushi' (a geographical description of Yamashiro Province), compiled in the early Edo period, thus many of those names are inconsistent with the reality. Subsequently, an article identifying 'the 36 mountains' was serialized in Kyoto Shinbun Newspaper in 1956.
Since then, in many cases, publications including books would assume 'the 36 mountains' selected by this article as 'Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo.'
The respective selections of 36 mountains by 'Higashiyama National Forest Landscape Management Planning' and the article of Kyoto Shinbun Newspaper were partly inconsistent, and today, some of those mountains cannot be confirmed to have enough height of peaks deserved to be called 'a mountain.'

Note that the name 'Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo' does not include such mountains as Mt. Kazan and Mt. Rokujo, which are able to confirm from Yamashina Basin, but are difficult to identify their peaks from Kyoto City urban area.


Higashiyama mountains had been formed by upheavals due to activities of some faults including Hanaori Fault, Shishigatani Fault, and Momoyama Fault. Many mountains do not have definitive mountaintops due to ongoing erosion. Also, an alluvial fan was formed on the western base.

Although the body of the mountains mainly consist of sedimentary rocks, granite intrusions can be found in areas around Kyoto and Shiga Prefectural Road 30 Shimogamo-Otsu Line between Mt. Hiei and Mt. Daimonji. Due to this intrusion, the soil around the peaks of Mt. Hiei and Mt. Daimonji on both sides of the road has transformed into metamorphic rocks, or hornfels. Since hornfels are rigid and resistant to weathering, these two mountains are higher than other Higashiyama mountains and thus conspicuous. Also, the Shira-kawa River (the Yodo-gawa River system) flowing from the mountain pass of Yamanakagoe was so named, meaning a white river, because white sands of weathered granite make the river look white.

The Foot and Top of Mountains

There are numerous shrines and temples at the foot of Higashiyama mountain range. Among them are Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, both of which have older history than Heian-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Kyoto). Also, this area on the foot of the mountains were health resort catering to the Imperial family, nobility and samurai in Kyoto from the Heian period to the modern times. The Higashiyama mountain villa of Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA is especially famous (present Jisho-ji Temple, aka. Ginkaku-ji Temple). Today, in addition to the scenic beauty of Higashiyama mountain range, these temples and shrines with their gardens have become popular tourist spots.

Temples and Shrines at the Foot of Mountains

Listed from the north:

Manshu-in Temple

Shisen-do Temple

Jisho-ji Temple (also known as Ginkaku-ji Temple)

Yoshida-jinja Shrine

Honen-in Temple

Eikan-do Temple

Nanzen-ji Temple

Himukai-daijingu Shrine

Chion-in Temple

Yasaka-jinja Shrine

Kodai-ji Temple

Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku-jinja Shrine

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Chishaku-in Temple

Sennyu-ji Temple

Tofuku-ji Temple

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Other Institutions at the Foot of Mountains

Shugakuin Imperial Villa

Tetsugaku-no-michi (Philosopher's Walk)

Maruyama Park (Kyoto Prefecture)

Temples and Shrines on Mountains

Enryaku-ji Temple

Shinsho Gokuraku-ji Temple (Shinnyo-do)

Konkai Komyo-ji Temple (also known as Kurotani)

Shoren-in Temple Shogunzuka Dainichido Hall

Other Institutions on Mountains

Daimonji (Gozan Okuribi [Mountain Bon Fire])

Higashiyama Driveway

Shogunzuka viewing platform

Kazan Observatory of Kyoto University

Roads Crossing Over Higashiyama

In order to head to Yamashina Basin and Omi Basin district to the east of Kyoto, one has to cross over Higashiyama mountain range.
Available routes are as follows:


Yamanakagoe, passing through between Mt. Uryu and Mt. Daimonji, runs from Kita-shirakawa, Sakyo Ward to Shiga, Otsu City. Kyoto and Shiga Prefectural Road 30 Shimogamo-Otsu Line. This is also called Shigagoe no michi. There are residential areas at Hieidaira along the road, which branches into Hieizan Driveway heading toward the top of Mt. Hiei.


A road runs from Awataguchi (Keage), Higashiyama Ward via Hinooka to Misasagi, Yamashina Ward. Kyoto Prefectural Road 143 Shinomiya-Yotsuzuka Line. This is old Tokaido Road (present Sanjo-dori Street), under which Kyoto City Subway Tozai Line runs. In the past, Keihan Keishin Line ran on Sanjo-dori Street (for the part of mountain pass, a special track on the southern side adjacent to Sanjo-dori Street was used). The Lake Biwa Canal also goes along this route.

Higashiyama Tunnel

National Route 1 (Gojo-dori Street), Tokaido Main Line, and Tokaido Shinkansen all go through Higashiyama via tunnels from southern part of Higashiyama Ward.
The name of those tunnels are all 'Higashiyama Tunnel.'
The National Route 1 Higashiyama Tunnel overlaps with Shibutani-kaido Road (Kyoto Prefectural Road 116 Shibutani-Yamashina Teishajo Line). The pedestrian tunnel to the north of National Route 1 Higashiyama Tunnel is former Shibutani-kaido Tunnel (also known as Kazan Tunnel).


This road runs from Imagumano, Higashiyama Ward toward southeast over Higashiyama to Nishinoyama, Yamashina Ward. Kyoto Prefectural Road 118 Kanshuji-Imagumano Line. It is also called Daigodo. A very narrow road.

Inariyama Tunnel

This route runs from Kamogawa Higashi Interchange in Fukakusa, Fushimi Ward via Inariyama Tunnel (Kyoto Prefecture) to Yamashina Interchange in Nishinoyama, Yamashina Ward. This is a part of Hanshin Expressway 8 Kyoto Line (Shinjujo-dori Street).

Oiwa-kaido Road

Meishin Expressway runs through Oiwa-kaido Road (Shiga and Kyoto Prefectural Road 35 Otsu-Yodo Line) to the south of Mt. Inari to enter Yamashina Basin. This route is a part of Fushimi-kaido Road (or Otsu-kaido Road). Before Higashiyama Tunnel opened, Tokaido Main Line ran this route.

[Original Japanese]