Shogunzuka Mound: hiking up to one of Kyoto’s best viewpoints

Heian Shrine viewed from the Shogunzuka trail

Looking towards Heian Shrine from the Shogunzuka trail

Shogunzuka (将軍坂) – literally, Shogun Mound – is an excellent viewpoint in Kyoto’s Higashiyama hills, which along with Daimonji-yama I rate as the best viewpoint of the city. This is said to be the vantage point from where Emperor Kanmu surveyed the area and made the decision to build his capital in the valley below (marking the start of the Heian Period, in 794 AD). See the informative Japan Guide page for more of the historical background and legends associated with the place. For my write-up of how to hike up to Shogunzuka, read on – though if you’re not of a hiking bent, Shogunzuka is also the best Kyoto viewpoint you can easily access by car. If you come out of Keage station and grab a taxi on Sanjo-dori (go out of exit 1 to be on the correct side), it’s a short ride up the hill to the viewpoint – as it happens, the taxi will also take you past my old apartment building partway up the hill (best apartment I had in Japan – the forest started immediately beyond my my balcony!)

Shogunzuka route

Route from Keage station to Shogunzuka

The hiking trail I’m describing here is part of the Kyoto Isshu Trail, so if you do the Kyoto Isshu Trail section from Fushimi Inari to Keage it will include this hike; according to the Japan Guide page, there are also trails up to Shogunzuka from other points but I haven’t done these.

You could start this hike from Higashiyama station, but I recommend doing it from Keage station so you can also take in the Keage Incline (immediately behind the station if you come out of exit 1) and perhaps Nanzen-ji temple which is a short walk from there.

Keage Incline at full bloom

Keage Incline at full bloom in spring

Autumn leaves in front of the Nanzen-ji aqueduct

Nanzenji aqueduct in autumn

There’s a neat back route along the watercourse from the top of Keage Incline to the aqueduct at Nanzen-ji; see map below, and see my Biwako Canal hike page for more detail on these.

Route to Keage Incline and Nanzen-ji

Keage Incline and Nanzen-ji routes

After coming out of the station and spending whatever time you wish checking out the Incline and Nanzen-ji, get over to the south / west side of Sanjo-dori (you can also go back through the station and come out of exit 2 then turn left) and head west past the Westin Miyako hotel.

Shogunzuka route map

After walking for seven or eight minutes keep your eyes open for a red gate on the left with some hanging paper lanterns, and a stone torii shrine gate just beyond that (see pic). Also if you note the wooden post just next to the gate, that’s a Kyoto Isshu Trail board (Higashiyama 29) which you can use as a navigational aid – it has a little schematic map (not to scale!) fixed on top to point you in the right direction.

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

Kyoto Isshu Trail Higashiyama trail board 29

Turning left and passing through these two gates, you’ll go up a side street and see another stone torii at the end.

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

This is the entrance to Awata Shrine, but there’s no way through the shrine to the trail as specified by this sign:

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

From there take a right and then an immediate left where the next Kyoto Isshu Trail board is (Higashiyama 28; also if you happen to be doing this during blossom season, there’s a nice cherry blossom tree there).

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

Then walk up the road as it narrows and zigzags its way to a pretty little temple called Sonshou-in (尊勝院), which also has some lovely cherry blossoms on the grounds:

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

Sonshou-in temple

After you pass the temple you’re into the forest and you just need to follow the trail to the top.

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

How to find the Shogunzuka trailhead

Higashiyama trail board 27’s just beyond Sonshou-in

Shogunzuka hiking route, satellite view

Shogunzuka hiking route

Once you get up to the top (a short, steep climb from Sonshou-in – should be about 30 minutes) you’ll find a temple complex and a large car parking area. I’m always bummed to find that much concrete at the top after hiking up a hill, but if you cross to the south side of the car park you’ll find the Shogunzuka viewpoint. That’s free, but if you pay to enter the temple there’s another, nicer viewpoint in the grounds. The free one gives you a good view across southern Kyoto and, if it’s clear enough, all the way to Osaka; the one in the temple gives you the views across Kyoto to the north (unfortunately my pics from these view points are presently stuck on a broken hard drive).

If you keep following the Kyoto Isshu Trail further south, you can hike for a few more hours all the way down to Fushimi Inari – see here for a description of that route. Or you can go down the way you came up – or you can try and find one of the other trails mentioned here down to Chion-in and Shoren-in temples (if you do so, please add a comment and let us know how to find them!)

For more Kyoto hikes, see here

For hiking in the Tokyo area, see here

Have you been to Shogunzuka, or do you have any questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Useful Links

Search accommodation in Kyoto here. The Westin Miyako is perfectly placed for this hike.

See 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

Make sure you have a good insurance policy; World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance you can buy even if already overseas – most travel insurance companies won’t cover you if you’ve already left your country, and this can be a crucial point as I once found out the hard way in Thailand

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