Every summer, during the Bon Festival, the Dai is lit up with bonfires at night, as a sign for the deceased ancestors. It must be a very impressive sight which I unfortunately have not yet been able to witness in person. This is where we were headed for. After about an hour of walking uphill, we reached a clearing affording a good view of Kyoto. A lot of fellow walkers were resting there. I noticed a number of stone structures on the ground, but it took me a while to realize that I was actually standing in the very center of the Dai! These structures presumably serve to contain the fires during the festival.
Another hike that is easily accessible from Kyoto is the trail up Daimonji-yama, starting behind Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion.
Daimonji-yama deserves an explanation up front. Located on the North-Eastern edge of town, it is visible from far. It is notable for the large deforested patch near the top that bears a giant 大 (Dai), the kanji for big.
After passing the Dai, the trail continues uphill for some more time, following the ridge of the mountain. After reaching the top, which again features a good view of the city below, it continues further along the ridge and gently slopes downhill, ending behind the big temple complex of Nanzenji. Of all mountain trails we have done so far, this one was definitely the most benign. The track is well used, very easy and well signaled, and undulates pleasantly along the wooded ridges, sometimes with view of the town, sometimes with views of the surrounding hills. It is also described in Lonely Planet’s Hiking in Japan. Having gone after a night of rainfall naturally made the path somewhat slippery and muddy at times.
Shortly before reaching Nanzenji, one passes two very small cascades with Shinto shrines (see top picture), both lovely calm places nestled in the side of the hill, and yet very close to town.