In Kyoto’s west, towering above the small village of Kiyotaki, lies Atago-san, Kyoto city’s tallest peak at 924 meters. A holy mountain for over a thousand years, once a year pilgrims come here to hike to the top during the night. By doing so, one shows reverence to the fire diety and gains 1,000 days protection of their homes from fire. On the weekends it’s a popular spot for hikers. On the weekdays, the trail is nearly empty.
An 800 meter change in elevation over just four kilometers keeps the crowds away from the top. The way hardly relents except for a brief portion where hikers can see an unrestricted view of Kyoto city. A large black gate known as the Kuromon signals the summit is nigh. At the top a wooded park awaits visitors and offers a splendid view of the countryside. The temple itself lies at the top of series of stairs.
Most turn back here, but a trail links Atagosan to the town of Takao just a few kilometers away (3 hours relaxed hiking). This spacious temple feels open and free even on the most crowded days. During the weekdays it’s especially good to visit, as there are even fewer visitors.