Friday, 23 October 2015

The Eizan Main Line: Access to the Holy Mountain

Electric car Eiden 700 series arrives at Demachiyanagi Terminal on the Eizan Main Line

Hiei-zan (848.3 m) is a mountain that straddles the eastern part of Kyoto and the western part of Shiga Prefecture. It faces Japan's largest lake, Biwako, on the Shiga Prefecture side. Hiei-zan is known as the holy mountain, since the famous Buddhist temple, Enryaku-ji, is located there. It is a large Tendai monastery founded by Saigyo (767-822). The precinct yard, which is composed of three areas in Mt. Hiei, is very large. Each area has many halls, such as Konpon-chudo (the main hall) of the National Treasure.

To get to this holy mountain, there are several access routes from Kyoto and Shiga prefectures. I took a train from Kyoto city to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station and transferred to the funicular and the aerial tramway. My vehicle was a small electric car, the Eizan Electric Railway (Eiden) 700 series. This tiny car was launched in 1987 to respond to the introduction of the ATS (automatic train stopping) system, air-conditioners and driver-only operation (train operation without a conductor on board).

The 700 series is a 15.7 meter-long car operated as a single-car train. It is lovely and popular among tourists. The mechanical and electrical equipment of the 700 series is rather old, but this classic car matches the historical Kyoto streetscape and the deep green forest in the foot of Mt. Hiei.

I am going to report the connecting funicular and aerial tramway line in my next post. To be continued...

Konpon-chudo (the main hall) is shrouded in a morning mist