Go on a Pilgrimage Aboard This Unique Sightseeing “Lens” Train in Kyoto

  • KYOTO
  • TRAVEL
  • You might have already heard about cool, unique-looking trains in Japan. Some of them course through the air at exhilarating speeds, some make you feel like a royal with luxurious facilities, and some take you sightseeing in undiscovered places. Amongst all of them, there is one particular train that takes you on an amazing pilgrimage in the heart of Kyoto. Its special design includes a captivating green exterior and a ginormous “lens” in front.

    Eizan Electric Railway

    In Japan, there are many private companies that provide train services, one being Eizan Electric Railway, located in the Sakyo Ward of the historic city of Kyoto. Eizan is a well-known railway with two electrified tracks. It is a part of a much bigger company, namely Keihan Electric, which mainly operates between the two major cities of Osaka and Kyoto. In fact, Keihan is the first transportation company to ever lay down electric lines between these cities.

    Kyoto, being the center of religion in Japan, has more or less the same number of tourists as Tokyo. It has several attractions that one would definitely want to visit such as Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and so on. Most of the important and awe-inspiring places one would come across in Kyoto are either temples or shrines.

    Mt. Hiei is one such place that has popularity like no other, as it has been the center of Tendai Buddhism since 8th century AD and a captivating scenic spot known for its gardens. If you would like to explore Mt. Hiei and go on a sightseeing spree, you should take Eizan Electric’s “HIEI,” a special train with an unusual concept.

    The HIEI

    Named after the destination itself, the HIEI is a uniquely wonderful train with everything oval in its design – from its windows to the front motif. It can be compared to any sightseeing tram because of its small size and the path it takes in the middle of the beautiful woods.

    Running to bring tourists to the famous Enryakuji Temple, where you can get to know about the monks who did/do the epic pilgrimage that continues for nearly three years at a stretch, the HIEI has become a very popular train service in the entire region of Rakuhoku.

    If you wait at Demachiyanagi Station on any day of the week irrespective of festivals (except on Tuesdays), you can take this train that shows you the hypnotizing beauty of the area and leaves you at Yase-Hieizanguchi Station, from where you can take the cable car operated by Eizan itself to go atop the mountain where the temple is actually present.

    The HIEI has cushy seats and gentle lighting that puts passengers in a good mood the moment they get on. It is also very disabled-friendly as it has enough space inside for wheelchairs and strollers. The destination sign on the train’s exterior is displayed in multiple languages as well so tourists need not worry.

    As for the train’s design, it is said that the oval shapes are symbolic of the place’s mysticism and dynamism. The outer green color represents the rich flora of the region, while the stripes represent the fog. However, to others, the train might look like a sci-fi buggy with a huge “zoom lens” attached in front.

    The Sightseeing Experience

    The HIEI train takes you through several attractive spots in Kyoto such as Ichijoji, a popular ramen-filled place where food lovers unite, and Shugakuin, an imperial area known for its amazing architecture and gardens.

    You can see how much it costs to use Eizan’s train services here (Japanese only). If you have a JR Pass, you might not be able to use it for the HIEI as Eizan has it has its own set of passes, discount coupons, etc.

    Do not miss this unique sightseeing experience that the HIEI offers and visit Enryakuji in Kyoto to offer your prayers. Since the inception of the “lens train,” needless to say, the number of tourists has gone up.

    Eizan’s HIEI Train Website

    Would you like to stay in Kyoto? Check out all the hotels in the area here!

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