It is located on the western side of the city, not far from Arashiyama. Atago is close to Mount Takao and the great hiking in that area.
The mountain serves not merely as relief from the concrete and crowds; it is also a pilgrimage route. At the top of Mount Atago is Atago Shrine, which is considered divine.
The Shrine was originally founded by Taicho, who summited the mountain, cleared an area, and founded it more than 1300 years ago at the beginning of the eighth century C.E.
Today, there are a total of three shrines. The main shrine is said to house five sacred beings.
This area of Kyoto is an important area of worship for several groups of Mountain Ascetics, the Shungenja and Yamabushi. They practice a mix of Buddhism, Shintoism, and Animism.
Moreover, on the night of July 31, Mount Atago witnesses a huge number of pilgrims. On that night, from roughly 9 pm, Mount Atago plays host to “Sennichi Tsuyasai,” a festival that is all about fire, both good and bad.
It is a holy and profound and magical night not to be missed.
The origin of the festival derives from the hope for a thousand days of flame (cooking, heating), and also for a thousand days without home-wrecking fire. From top to bottom, the hike is roughly four kilometers. Hikers gather in the village of Kiyotaki at the base of the mountain around dusk. To guide them, the city strings up lights from Kiyotaki to the very top at Atago Shrine. Families, couples, older people, and groups make the hike up a crowded and sociable affair. Once at the top, pilgrims can purchase good luck charms that are said to ward off fire and bad luck.
Sennichi Tsuyasai roughly translates as one thousand days all night festival. As hikers ascend the mountain, they call out “O kudariyasu” (on your way down) to those descending. In reply, one says “O noboriyasu” (on your way up).
What to Bring and Wear: light clothes and something heavier (the temperature can be quite chilly at the top), water, snacks, a small towel, some cash, sneakers or light hiking boots, a flashlight.
Getting to the Starting Point
Kyoto Bus: From JR Kyoto Station: Bus stop No. C6 Bus No. 72. From Hankyu Arashiyama station: Bus No. 62 or 72. From Keihan Sanjo station: Bus stop No. 14 Bus No. 62.
For those cycling (on July 31), ride to Adashino Nenbutsu Temple and park in this area. Continue past the temple and there will be parking on the left. From there it is a 15-minute walk to Kiyotaki. At any other time, follow the map below to the village of Kiyotaki. The trailhead is in the village.
From the starting point in Kiyotaki, follow the crowds and lanterns.
Total Hiking Time
Three to five hours hiking time from the base of the mountain to the peak.