Shogunzuka Mound: hiking up to one of Kyoto’s best viewpoints
Shogunzuka (将軍坂) – literally, Shogun Mound – is an excellent viewpoint in Kyoto’s Higashiyama hills. 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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Turning left and passing through these two gates, you’ll go up a side street and see another stone torii at the end.
This is the entrance to Awata Shrine, but there’s no way through the shrine to the trail as specified by this sign:
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).
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:
After you pass the temple you’re into the forest and you just need to follow the trail to the top.
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.
The trail boards are useful navigational aids (when climbing up to Shogunzuka from Keage you’re following them in descending order):
Towards the top you’re walking along the temple’s perimeter fence:
The car park and viewpoint are along this road in front of the temple:
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 viewing deck on the grounds (the free one gives you a good view across southern Kyoto and, if it’s clear enough, all the way to Osaka, while the one in the temple gives you the views across Kyoto to the north):
The view in the other direction from the car park, across Kyoto’s Yamashina ward:
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 descend this way to Maruyama Park near Gion by taking the branch path from board 23:
Last time I did this hike there was some crazy typhoon damage still being fixed up:
The path eventually comes out at the back of Maruyama Park:
If you want to do this in the other direction starting from Maruyama Park, it’s a bit tricky to find the trail. Start by walking up through the park, and you need to cross over the stream there and then head up the steps to the road:
A short distance up the road you come to this small shrine:
With this little hobbit toilet to the right:
And these steps going up behind the toilet:
Go up the steps and keep following the path:
This here is the start of the hiking trail – the stone marker reads 将軍塚道, Shogunzuka-michi (michi means road or path):
The sign means ‘Higashiyama summit park’:
Once you get to the top you can then follow the trail boards down to Keage.
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.
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