Home > Suggested Itineraries > 3-Day Model Trip > Kansai > 3-Day Model Trip Day1

3-Day Model Trip Day1

3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Kansai / Otsu - Ishiyama-dera Temple - Mii-dera (onjo-ji) Temple - Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji Temple - Kyoto

Otsu was a seat of the government called Omi-Otsu-Kyo from 667 to 672. It thrived as a post town for the travelers by Tokaido Highway that connected Edo and Kyoto during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Due to its long history, there are numerous temples, shrines and other historic sites. This time I decided to tour through famous temples.

First I visited the Ishiyama-dera Temple, or a rock mountain temple, founded by the imperial order of Emperor Shomu in the mid 8th century. When I climbed up steep steps in the precincts, a huge rock where the temple's name derived from towered in front of me. This was a peculiar sight for a temple. As I climbed further up on the stone steps, I reached the main sanctuary designated as a national treasure. This is the oldest structure in Shiga. There is "Murasaki-Shikibu Genji-no-ma" where Murasaki Shikibu wrote Genji-Monogatari ("the Tale of Genji") in the 11th century. The Tahoto tower that enshrines Shaka Nyorai and Taho Nyorai is the oldest temple tower constructed in 1194. This is also a national treasure. It has such an elegant figure that it was selected as a design on a postal stamp. There are flower gardens in the precincts with the area of 12,000 m2 where you can enjoy cherry blossoms, Japanese plum blossoms, Chinese peonies, camellias and other flowers that bloom in different seasons. It is thus has a nickname, a flower temple, with the atmosphere pleasant especially for women.

I headed for another famous temple in the southern lakeside, Mii-dera Temple. Its official name is Onjo-ji Temple, but it is commonly called Mii because there is a sacred spring called "Mii" from which water for the first bath for the newborn was dedicated to three emperors, Tenji, Tenmu and Jito who reigned in the late 7th century at their births. I passed through the Important Cultural Property, Niomon Gateway building with images of guardian gods on both sides, and climbed up stone steps. I was overwhelmed by the national treasure Kondo, or golden sanctuary, three-story pagoda that enshrines an image of Buddha with two attendants on both sides, and other solemn, magnificent buildings. The temple bell is famous as the "evening bells of the Mii-dera Temple", one of the eight scenic beauties of the southern coast of the Lake Biwa-ko. It is also one of the three famous bells in Japan with its plaintive tone. Another must-see is the scenery of the Lake Biwa-ko viewed from the Kan'non-do that enshrines Nyoirin-Kanzeon-Bosatsu at the southernmost area of the precincts.

I took Keihan Densya to Sakamoto, and a cable car toward Mt. Hiei-zan. This cable car is the longest in Japan, connecting Sakamoto at the foot of Mt. Hiei-zan and the Enryaku-ji Temple at the mountaintop. The station building has not changed since it was built in 1927, and is designated as an important tangible cultural property. Its high ceiling gives off retrospective atmosphere. The view from the cable car is also spectacular. I could not help leaning forward at the sight of the Lake Biwa-ko and waterfalls on the mountain slopes. It takes 11 minutes to the mountaintop.

The Enryaku-ji Temple was founded in 785 and has a long, eventful history. It was designated as the World Cultural Heritage in 1994. The precincts are divided into the Toto, Saito and Yokawa districts, which are 1 to 5 kilometers apart. If you want to see everything, there is a convenient shuttle bus service (from late March to the end of November). I got off the cable car and walked on a mountain path to Toto, the birthplace of the Enryaku-ji Temple. The sight dotted with sanctuaries and towers in intense silence of the mountain gave me an impression that this is a sacred ground separated from the secular world. I was surprised to be told that there is the "eternal Buddhist flame" that has continued to burn for over 1,200 years inside the Konpon Chudo, the principal sanctuary. The Toto district seats the Daikodo, or a grand lecture hall where monks practice disciplinary and academic studies, the Monjuro, the principal gateway building, the Kaidan-in, where the monks and nuns receive ordination, as well as the national treasure hall that preserves the temple treasures. This is the core of the Enryaku-ji Temple.

The Saito located 1 km west of the Toto is surrounded by a deep cedar forest and has serene atmosphere. There are the Shaka-do, the oldest building in the Enryaku-ji Temple that enshrines Shaka-Nyorai, the Jogyodo that enshrines Amida-Nyorai, and the Hokkedo that enshrines Fugen Bosatsu and is connected to the Jogyodo by corridors. The Yokawa is located 4 km further north. It has even more sacred atmosphere. This districted has the vivid red Yokawa-Chudo that enshrines the Sei-Kan'non-Bosatsu, Shiki-Kodo that stands at the site of the residence of a high priest Ganzan Daishi, the father of a restoration of the Tendai Sect, and other sacred structures.

After I have completed the tour, I went back to Kyoto by bus. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Lake Biwa-ko from the Hiei-zan Driveway on the way.