The Shogunzuka Mound («RË, Shōgunzuka) is located on the eastern mountains of Kyoto on the spot where Emperor Kanmu is said to have first surveyed the valley where he ultimately built the ancient capital city of Kyoto. Keeping with this tradition, Shogunzuka is perhaps best known these days for its observation decks which offer spectacular views out over the city below. The area is part of Shorenin Temple whose main buildings stand at the base of the mountain.
On the west side of the grounds stands the older West Observation Deck built on a rather unsightly structure about ten meters above ground. The west deck offers views toward central Kyoto and out as far as Osaka on a clear day; however, the surrounding trees block the views of most of the popular tourist sights around the base of the mountain.
The best views from the Shogunzuka can be enjoyed from the recently renovated, more elegant North Observation Deck from where visitors can look out over northern Kyoto all the way to Mount Hieizan. The spacious wooden deck seems to float above the trees and offers a mostly unobstructed line of sight from nearly 220 meters above the city. If you look carefully, you can pick out popular tourist spots such as the Imperial Palace, Heian Shrine and Nanzenji below.
The actual Shogunzuka Mound is said to contain a two and a half meter high clay statue of a general fully adorned in battle armor with a sword and an iron bow and arrow. The statue serves as a guardian talisman for the city and legend has it that the entire mound rumbles when the city is in danger.
Next to the mound stands the Seiryuden temple hall which houses a painting of the fearsome Buddhist deity Fudo Myoo, who is depicted holding a sword and rope, surrounded by flames. The painting is an important object of worship of Shorenin Temple and a national treasure. A reproduction is on display inside the hall.
The grounds also feature a beautiful Japanese landscape garden with maple and cherry trees that display brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange in autumn and pink cherry blossoms in spring respectively. The garden is known for its seasonal illuminations held in the evenings from late October to early December and from late March to early May. During this time visitors are also invited to see the night view of Kyoto from the observation decks.
Shogunzuka Mound is located at the top of Mount Higashiyama. The area is not served by public transportation. Instead, it can be reached by taxi in about five minutes and 1000 yen from Keage Station on the Tozai Subway Line, in about ten minutes and 1200 yen from Shorenin Temple or in about 30 minutes and 2000 yen from Kyoto Station.
Alternatively, hiking trails lead up the mountain to the Shogunzuka Mound. One trail starts around the corner from Shorenin Temple near the Awata Sanso Restaurant of the Hotel Okura while another leads up the mountain from a trailhead behind Chionin Temple and Maruyama Park. Neither trailhead is easily found. The hike up through the forest to the mound is quite steep and takes about 30-45 minutes. Sturdy shoes are recommended.