By Yomiuri Shimbun
Wakayama, Japan – Kimiidera temple in Wakayama, which sits at the top of a steep 231-step stairway, became more easily accessible last week with the launch of a cable car that also provides a spectacular view along the way.
The temple’s cable car started operating on Tuesday to provide easier access for elderly visitors and those with disabilities. Kuramadera temple in Kyoto has a similar service, but it still remains rare across the nation.
The cable car starts at the gate at the foot of the mountain and ends just below the temple hall that houses the large Kannon Bodhisattva statue, a distance of 170 steps of the stairway over a vertical rise of 31 meters. It completes the run in about 70 seconds. There is no driver; users operate it by pushing a button.
The car has large windows, offering a scenic view as it climbs the mountain. It has nine seats and a maximum capacity of 18, but the temple limits the number of passengers to 10 as a pandemic countermeasure.
The main hall of the temple has long been accessible by car, but visitors without their own transport had to climb the 231 stone steps. The installation of the cable car was planned as a project to commemorate the 1 250th anniversary of the temple's foundation in 2020.
Construction started in September last year using funds raised through donations and subsidies from the Japan Tourism Agency. As the temple is designated as a tsunami evacuation centre, the cable car is expected to serve in times of disaster as well.
The one-way fare is 200 yen (about R23) for adults, and 100 yen for school pupils and those 70 or older.