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December 22, 2019 - Otsu to Nagahama - Shiga Prefecture
For my third day in Japan, I jumped on a Shinkansen from Shin-Kobe station and made my way to Otsu - the gateway to Lake Biwa (ko standard for Lake in Japanese). I then picked up a car for 4 days and will make my way to Nagahama on the North East coast of the Lake.
Located reasonably close to Kyoto, Onjo-ji (or Mii-dera) is head temple of the Tendaijimon sect of Buddhism. Itfs Kondo hall is seen as a National Treasure and the temple was first founded in 672 over a dispute related to imperial succession. Since then, the temple has been in the middle of political intrigue over the centuries due to the growing power of temples located around Mt Hiei.
Onjo-ji temple costs 600 yen to enter and is spread over a large space which includes many different buildings. Due to this - expect the visit to take around an hour for those who tend to move at a slightly brisk pace. English signage is lacking in many places but there is a QR code brochure found in multiple languages at the front of the temple.
For those who like buddhist statues, there are some reasonable statues including some from the Heian period in the first main building (no photography allowed). There was also a treasure house which I would expect houses the best of these but I gave it a miss on this occasion.
Onjo-ji temple is nice to visit any time of the year, but the large number of maple trees would make this place spectacular around late November. As it's not in Kyoto, it will be less frequented compared to the best temples in Kyoto.
One site I was hoping to visit today was the Otsu City History Museum but unfortunately it closed 2 weeks early to renew their permanent exhibition.
My second stop for the day was Omi Shrine which is only a few kilometers from Omjo-ji temple. There is also a train line which follows these sites if you want to come here by public transport.
Located in outer Otsu City, the Omi-Jingu Shrine is large and imposing and looks as though it has been here for centuries. However, it is a reasonably recent shrine first built in 1940 to celebrate Emperor Tenji. It used to also be a former Imperial Shrine of the first rank which suggests that it used to be of high importance.
My next stop today was Chikurin-in Temple which costs 330 yen to enter and is a former residence of a retired priest from Enyrakuji Temple. The site boasts a nice traditional residence, good quality garden and two tea houses.
The garden was quite spectacular but it's fair to say that winter does not make it look it's best. However - the moss was out with vengeance which is a good thing. Note that this site also allows for people to hire kimonos or samurai gear which seems to be of better quality than what you may hire from the highly touristy areas in Kyoto and such.
Located right next to the last temple, Hiyoshi-Taisha Shrine has a sprawling grounds which includes one of the few shrines which has an entry fee - 300 yen. This shrine is famous for monkeys along with fall colors which seems to be a trend or pattern in this area.
This shrine has over 40 individual shrines, all of differing size and importance. It's also home to a Noh stage which is starting to become less prevalent at present
My last stop for the day was Shirahige Shrine which is famous for it's water gate found on Lake Biwa. Note that it's often called Lake Biwako but I have a difficult time writing Lake Biwa Lake.
To view the gate - you need to cross a reasonably busy road which can be quite dangerous. Keep this in mind if you visit this site especially with smaller kids.
Today was much more pleasurable than Kobe and would make a great and relaxing day away from Kyoto for those who have not got their fix of temples of shrines yet. There is also plenty else to see which I missed. For tomorrow, I'll be visiting Chikubu Island which is in Lake Biwa.
Ono-ji Temple (http://www.shiga-miidera.or.jp)
Otsu City Museum (http://www.rekihaku.otsu.shiga.jp)
Omi Jingu Shrine (http://oumijingu.org)
Hiyoshi-Taishia Shrine (http://hiyoshitaisha.jp)
Chikurin Temple (http://kyuchikuriin.web.fc2.com/)
Shirahige Shrine (http://shirahigejinja.com)