The Takano River meets the Kamo River about two and a quarter miles upstream from what most visitors think of as the center of the city. If you were to walk from Kamo Ohashi Bridge, just downstream of the fork, upstream along the banks of the Takano, you would find yourself quickly exiting the narrow lanes of Kyoto, crossing through suburban sprawl, and then eventually in the leafy, hilly territory northeast of town, with villages and temples stuck along the valleys leading between Mount Hiei and Mount Hyotankuzure.
There’s no particular reason other than time—probably two hours, including time for distractions along the way—to discourage walking all the way out to Yase, but these days, you might as well hop the train. The area, by all accounts, was fairly remote before, before the train came along in 1925, and known for mostly for the retreats of samurai and then bureaucrats and executives. From Demachiyanagi Station near the Imperial Palace, get on Eizan Railways' new Hiei Train, which runs the same route as the original tracks laid down by Kyoto Dento nearly a hundred years before.
These days, many make the trek up to Yase specifically to see Rurikoin, a villa laid out for a local executive by the nation’s most famous architects and garden designers. The villa changed hands a few times over the years and is now owned by Komyoji Temple, who open it for stretches during the spring and autumn. Even if you don’t have the time or patience to wait in the queue—or if you happen to come when Rurikoin is closed to the public, which is most of the year—the surrounding area has its own pleasures.
Louis Icart Museum
Right around the corner from Rurikoin is the Louis Icart Museum, housing the artist’s etchings, paintings and drawings. Most visitors find themselves at the museum after noticing that the admission ticket for Rurikoin includes free admission to the Louis Icart collection. Icart is a historical footnote, these days, but his work helped define the French Art Deco look and more than a few of the works will be recognizable, even if you never previously noted who first illustrated them. The museum is on few Kyoto itineraries but it makes for a pleasant distraction.
Yase Momiji no Komichi
Yase Momiji no Komichi (also rendered in English as “Path of Maple”) runs from around the cable car station and was conceived as a shorter path than other trails and hikes in the area, and it’s a great stroll after the trees have begun to change color.
- Kyoto Kyoutoshi Sakyou-ku Kamitakanohigashiyama
At the turnaround point in the loop stands the Monument to the 1100th Anniversary of Heiankyo, part of a project begun in the 1895 to help revitalize Kyoto after Emperor Meiji and the designation of imperial capital moved from Kyoto to Tokyo.
Eizan Cable Car and Ropeway
After strolling the area, hop on the Eizan Cable Car, headed up Mount Hiei. The cable car climbs a steep stretch of rail along a scenic route up the mountain, providing great views of the surrounding countryside, which are especially good in the autumn. Continue to the top of Hiei with a brief ride on a gondola (or “ropeway” in Japanese-English), and then punch your return ticket for the ride back down into Yase.