The mountains surrounding Kyoto on three sides are home to a 70km hiking course named Kyoto Isshu Trail (Kyoto Circuit Trail), consisting of four legs which I’ve covered in detail here. Since I wrote that post, however, a new hiking course (the Fushimi Fukakusa course) has been appended to the Fushimi end of the Isshu Trail, south of the Higashiyama course. Fushimi Inari Station’s still the official start/end of the Kyoto Isshu Trail proper, which runs north from Fushimi Inari, but now there’s also the Fushimi Fukakusa course running up to Fushimi Inari from the Momoyama area to the south.
On my last visit to Kyoto I discovered this new course existed and immediately altered my plans to hike it (from Momoyama to Fushimi Inari i.e. south to north) and write it up here. The rest of the Kyoto Isshu Trail’s covered board-by-board on a couple of other sites (which I’ve linked to from my main Kyoto Isshu page), but this course isn’t so I made sure to photograph all the boards and have posted most of them here. For that reason the format for this page is a bit different from my main Kyoto Isshu page, so rather than alter that page I’m posting this course separately.
It’s more of a slightly hilly suburban hike than a hilly (sometimes mountainous) forest hike like the rest of the trail, and to be honest not nearly as nice, so if you’re intending to pick out a section or two of the Isshu Trail to hike, don’t make it this one – the others are better. However it does have some significant points of interest for Japanese history buffs, and especially if you’re living in the area it makes for a good bit of hybrid hiking/urban exploration.
Momoyama’s a small mountain in southeast Kyoto and was the site of a famous castle built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1594. Following Toyotomi’s death, the Tokugawa clan defeated the Toyotomi loyalists and Ieyasu Tokugawa declared himself shogun of a unified Japan. Momoyama Castle was dismantled in 1623, and remained that way until the modern replica was built in 1964. This ersatz ferroconcrete reconstruction stands there still today, shuttered and desolate, testament to the folly of an attempt by the Keihan railway company to run a historical theme park there (though it did struggle on until 2003, apparently). It seems the walk up the hill from the Keihan Line’s Fushimi Momoyama Station was too much for it to be a viable business, so now this sizeable castle structure just stands there doing nothing, forlorn & shabby at close quarters but actually looking pretty impressive when seen from a distance – there’s a clear view of it from the roof of Kyoto Station, and you can also catch glimpses of it across the valley from the trains on the JR line to Osaka.
As well as that, on the flanks of Momoyama you can also visit the mausoleum of Emperor Meiji. Although his spirit was enshrined as a deity at Tokyo’s famous Meiji Shrine, his physical body was buried here in Kyoto. You can’t go inside or really do anything much, but it’s a peaceful spot (being barely on the tourist radar at all) approached along a forest path with nice views over the plain to the south towards Nara.
As with the rest of the Isshu Trail, you navigate using numbered trail boards mounted on wooden posts along the route, and you can (and should) buy the official Kyoto Isshu Trail map for this section from the big Maruzen bookshop on Kawaramachi-dori (as per here); the relevant map is the Higashiyama course which covers both the Fushimi Fukakusa and Higashiyama courses, with the Fushimi Fukakusa course being marked with trail boards F1 to F35. The course is 9.5km long and should take 3 or 4 hours depending how long you stop at the castle, mausoleum, etc
Trail board F1 stands immediately outside Fushimi Momoyama Station on the Keihan Line, but you can also start from Momoyamagoryo-mae Station on the Kintetsu Line (just down the road from the Keihan station) or Momoyama Station on the JR Nara Line (located near board F3).
Between boards F1 and F2 (in front of the police box) there’s the fairly large Gokonomiya Shrine which is worth a look in, then at board F3 you cross the JR tracks and start the climb up Momoyama.
After you leave the road and get onto the wide footpath through the forest, you’re on the approach path to the Meiji mausoleum. The trail turns up the side path to the left before you reach the mausoleum, but if you want to detour to see it just keep on going straight for another 5 minutes and you come round the corner to the mausoleum.
Once you’re done there double back to turn up the side path, and follow it up to the road and Momoyama Castle Park. As noted above the castle itself is a bit sad, but the grounds are still tended and it stands in a large recreational park with sports fields and a running track so you’re likely to see a few people up there chilling or training.
From the castle keep following the boards down the other side of Momoyama and through another urban park. At this point it’s not clear which path to take:
…but they both go to the same place. Right branch to walk along the stream, left branch to stay under the shade of the trees if it’s hot. Then you get back on to the roads again, passing through the Fukakusa suburbs:
Watch out for board F15 (where you turn right) as it’s facing away from you as you approach it:
I sailed right past and wandered through the neighbourhood for a while before backtracking to find it!
After that you’re into a bamboo forest, the shade of which is blissful in summer but don’t stand still in there – the mosquitoes are legion and vicious, and when I stopped for a snack my bare calves and ankles got thoroughly snacked on before I knew it. The itching was pure fire for days…
The trail boards here are shared with the Fukakusa Trail (another local hiking route, which the Fushimi Fukakusa course is partly composed of), so the numbers to pay attention to are those on the white boards (not the ones on the posts):
It’s actually a vehicle road you follow through the forest and there’s a solar power plant up there, be ready to stand aside for the large trucks which may come squeezing through the narrow lane.
A short way further up past the solar plant you reach board F18 at the Mt Oiwa viewpoint, at 166m the highest point on this segment of the Isshu Trail.
From there you descend through the forest along a path lined with some interesting and clearly seldom-visited little shrines, before another stretch of bamboo:
At board F21 you’re suddenly at a main road and back in suburbia again, eventually giving way to more bamboo from F29 onwards:
At this point you’re at the foot of Mt Inari, home to the famous Fushimi Inari shrine. When you reach this sign (at board F34):
…you can turn left to complete the Higashiyama Fushimi Course (it links up with the Higashiyama Course in Fushimi Inari at Higashiyama board 2-2), or you can turn right to head directly up to the top of Fushimi Inari – it’s a steep trail up past some cool sub-shrines with a fairly big waterfall off the trail to the right, which brings you up to the summit loop trail at the top of Fushimi Inari (see here for more on that).
Turning left takes you past a few neat Fushimi Inari sub-shrines, jumbles of torii gates, foxes, and other statutes, before meeting the main trail up Fushimi Inari at trail board 2-2 of the Higashiyama Course:
Turn left here to get to the main Fushimi Inari shrine and Inari Station (JR) or Fushimi Inari Station (Keihan), or turn right to head up Fushimi Inari. For more detail on Fushimi Inari see my Fushimi Inari guide.
Check out my quick guide to Kyoto
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See my hiking in Tokyo & hiking in Kyoto pages, and the excellent Hiking in Japan and Ridgeline Images blogs for further inspiration; if you’re also heading to Korea or Taiwan, check out my pages on hiking in Seoul and hiking in Taipei
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