TOP > Otsu and Japan Heritage
Lake Biwa was at the center of a religious faith
that spread throughout the region, giving birth and
sustenance to a culture that would be honored
in 2015 with a Japan Heritage designation
by the Agency for Cultural Affairs as
“Lake Biwa and
its Surrounding Waters:
The Water Heritage of Prayers
and Lifestyle”. In Otsu city,
Hieizan Enryakuji Temple,
Onjoji Temple (Miidera Temple),
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine,
Saikyoji Temple and
Ishiyamadera Temple have all been
designated as important cultural properties, registered as Japan Heritage.
Prayers for world peace and safety take place at this Tendai Buddhism headquarter and is worshipped as the Mother Mountain of Japanese Buddhism. In the year 788, Denkyo Daishi Saicho, founder of Tendai Buddhism, built the Ichijo Shikanin (the present day Central Hall and Konpon-chudo Hall), dedicated the temple to the Yakushi Nyorai and opened a path through Mt. Hiei. The long mountain range of Hiei stretches from North to South, straddling the border of Kyoto and Shiga. This gigantic mountain is a temple region, with numerous main halls, pagodas and temples located in three of the mountain's regions, Todo, Saito and Yokawa.
It is a mountain by shape and also by sacred region. Below, the clear and pure water of Lake Biwa. The sun rising from the East was considered as the appearance of Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai from the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss and worshipped with the utmost reverence.
Hieizan Enryakuji Temple HP : www.hieizan.or.jp
Old enough to be mentioned in the Japanese Kojiki, Records of Ancient Matters, and is the main one of the 3,800 Sannosan shrines throughout Japan and worshipped as the guardian of Tendai Buddhism of ancient Kyoto, Heian-kyo. The Deity enshrined in the East Main Hall is Mt. Hiei's Guardian God, Ooyamakui no Kami. The West Main Hall is dedicated to Oonamuchi no Kami, which was transferred from Mt. Miwa in Nara when the Emperor Tenchi moved the capital to Otsu. The forest around the Shrine is dotted with multiple shrine pavilions of great architectural beauty, and the property within the meandering waterways is always kept clean.
The Sanno Festival, one of the three main festivals held in Lake Biwa in Shiga, is held over a 3-day period from April 12-14. On the afternoon of the 14th, 7 spectacular portable shrines wend their way through the streets.
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine HP : hiyoshitaisha.jp
It is officially called Nagarasan Onjoji Temple and is the Tendaijimon-shu Buddhism headquarter. It earned its name Miidera Temple, which is written with the Chinese characters that mean "well" for the spring water on its property that was believed to have magical healing powers and used to bathe the three Emperors -- Tenchi, Tenmu and Jito -- as newborn babies. Onjoji Temple is comprised of many temple buildings, from Kondo Hall, a national treasure, to the Kannon-do Hall, Shaka-do Hall and Toin Hall, which are part of the 14th Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, with more than 100 items classified as national treasures and/or important cultural assets. “The evening bell at Miidera Temple” is known as one of Eight Views of Omi, and made famous also as “The bell that got dragged by Benkei, the legendary warrior monk”.
The temple, which gets busy with tourists during the cherry blossom and the fall seasons, offers various experiences (reservations needed), including the ascetic practices of mountain monks and copying Buddhist scriptures by calligraphy, which are popular with visitors.
Onjoji Temple (Miidera Temple) HP : www.shiga-miidera.or.jp
Saikyoji Temple is located between Imuro-dani, one of Mt. Hiei Santo Jurokkoku (3 towers, 16 hills), and Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, the guardian shrine of Mt. Hiei, on hilly terrain that looks down into Lake Biwa.
The Main Hall and palace have been designated as important cultural properties. The main residence for the priests, the drawing room and palace each have their own highly acclaimed landscaped garden featuring stones. The centerpiece is the garden created by Kobori Enshu. A pond in the shape of Lake Biwa at the center of the garden features peep stones, floating rocks and a stone bridge. The depth of production of this garden scenery creates an amazing effect. Azaleas near the perimeter of the pond extend into the back mountains and create a magnificent view when they are in bloom.
Saikyoji Temple HP : saikyoji.org
Ishiyamadera Temple is located at the foot of Mt. Garan on the western bank of Seta River, the only river that flows out of Lake Biwa. An old temple founded towards the end of the Nara Period by Ryoben, a Japanese Buddhist monk, at the behest of Emperor Shomu, Ishiyamadera played a role like that of a city office, supplying wood and other material to the capital of Nara. One outstanding feature of this temple is the wollastonite, a natural monument that serves as its foundation and surroundings. The Nyoirin Kannon, the Boddhisattva of Compassion, the deity to whom the temple is dedicated to, sits atop a wollastonite stone. The moon-viewing platform Tsukimi-tei, which looks down into the clear waters of the Seta River, is a symbol of one of the 8 celebrated views of Omi, “the Autumn moon of Ishiyama”. Together with the gushing spring beneath the Main Hall and Akaiya that hovers above it, visitors get a one-of-a-kind view of the waters.
Ishiyamadera Temple HP : www.ishiyamadera.or.jp
Japan is home to many world renowned cultural treasures. In order to enhance the value of these treasures, the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs classify these rich, historical regions that speak to the heart and soul of the Japanese culture and tradition as Japan Heritage to showcase them domestically and to the world. The request from Shiga Prefecture, Otsu city, Hikone city, Omihachiman city, Takashima city, Higashi Omi city and Maibara city to be recognized as “Lake Biwa and its Surrounding Waters: The Water Heritage of Prayers and Lifestyle” was approved in 2015 by the Agency of Cultural Affairs and were designated as Japan Heritage.