One of the largest temple complexes in Japan, Enryakuji is the headquarters of the Tendai Buddhist sect atop Mt. Hie in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. The temple was founded by Saicho to protect Kyoto from the demons of the northeast. Mt. Hiei is the birthplace of Japanese Buddhism as many founders of Japanese Buddhist sects once trained on Mt. Hiei. Enryakuji is also part of a World Heritage Site called ''Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto'' and noted for National Treasures. MAP
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At the eastern foot of Mt. Hiei is the temple and shrine town of Sakamoto. It was the gateway to Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei. As such, retired Enryakuji priests were granted smaller temples in Sakamoto which still has many small temples associated with Enryakuji. The area is noted for stone walls and a traditional look, enough to designate it as a National Historic Landscape Area. Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine and Saikyoji temple are the two most prominent in Sakamoto, easily accessible from Sakamoto Station on the Keihan Line and JR Hiezan-Sakamoto Station on the JR Kosei Line. MAP
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Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine at the foot of Mt. Hie in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture is the head shrine for all Hiyoshi, Hie, and Sanno Shrines in Japan (around 2,000). Near Sakamoto (Keihan Line) and Hie-zan Sakamoto (JR Kosei Line), this shrine is noted for two shrines designated as National Treasures. The fall leaves in Nov. with 3,000 maple trees are also lit up at night 5:00 pm - 8:30 pm. In April, it holds the Sanno Festival. MAP
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Held by Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine and one of Shiga Prefecture's largest festivals, the annual Sanno-sai Festival is held during April 12-15 and features various ceremonies and processions, violent rocking of portable shrines, and a boat procession on Lake Biwa. Buddhist priests from Enryakuji temple also participate. Also see my YouTube video here.MAP
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Founded in 749, Ishiyama-dera, belonging to the Shingon Buddhist Sect, is the 13th Temple of the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The temple is noted for National Treasure architecture, cherry blossoms, and fall leaves.
Also, 2008 was the 1000th anniversary of the epic novel "Genji Monogatari" or Tale of Genji written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu in 1008. Much of the novel was written in a room at Ishiyama-dera temple in Otsu, Shiga. Otsu celebrated the novel's millenium with various exhibitions and events mainly at Ishiyama-dera. More about Otsu here.. MAP
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Established in the 7th century, Miidera temple, or Onjoji, is one of Otsu's major temples and one of Japan's four largest temples. It is the headquarters temple of the Tendai Jimon Buddhist Sect and former rival of Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei. It is a complex of numerous structures including National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. The temple bell is famous for being one of the Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Omi) depicted in ukiyoe prints. Also noted for cherry blossoms in early April and lit up at night. Also see my YouTube video here.MAP
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One of Shiga's major festivals featuring thirteen ornate floats displayed and paraded around central Otsu over two days before Sports Day, a national holiday around Oct. 10. The first day of the festival has the floats parked and displayed on the streets and lit up at night (Yoimiya). The second day is the festival climax with a procession of all the floats highlighted by performances by karakuri mechanical dolls on the floats. Also see my YouTube video.
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Omi Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Tenji who moved the capital to Otsu in 667. The shrine also holds the annual karuta card festival in Jan. and yabusame horseback archery on the first Sunday in June at 12:30 pm. Emperor Tenji/Tenchi also produced Japan's first clock which was a water clock. The shrine has a replica of this clock as well as a clock museum with thousands of clocks on display. MAP
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Katata is on the west shore of Lake Biwa in Otsu and most noted for the Ukimido Floating Temple (Mangetsu-ji). This temple jutting into the lake is famous as one of the Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Omi) and thus one of Shiga's most scenic views, even today despite the concrete (instead of wooden) stilts. Katata also has a number of monuments including the Biwako Aika (Lake Biwa Elegy) song monument. Katata is also on the west end of the Biwako Ohashi Bridge. MAP
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Omi-Maiko, on the western shore of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, is a popular beach during summer. Many Kyotoites go there for sunning and swimming. Other beaches along the western shore include Matsunoura and Manohama. include In March 2006, Shiga-cho merged with Otsu and Omi-Maiko became part of Otsu city. MAP
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The Michigan paddlewheel boat is based at Otsu Port, Shiga Prefecture and offers lake cruises around the southern part of Lake Biwa a few times a day. Michigan in the US is Shiga's sister state. Many cities in Shiga have sister-city ties with cities in Michigan. Also see the video at YouTube. MAP
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Otsu dominates southern and southwestern Shiga Prefecture. It has a long lakeshore centering on Hama-Otsu and Otsu Port. A nice lakefront path makes it easy to walk east to Biwako Bunkakan Museum, Otsu Prince Hotel, Omi Ohashi Bridge, Zeze Castle Park, and Awazu. Toward the west are the motor boat race course and the site of Sakamoto Castle. More about Otsu here.MAP
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The Lake Biwa Canal (Biwako Sosui) supplies water from Lake Biwa in Otsu to Kyoto. After four years of monumental construction, the canal was completed in 1890. Kyoto was thereby revitalized with electric power and a stable water supply. A second, almost parallel canal for drinking water was also constructed in 1912. The canal portion near Miidera temple in Otsu is also noted for cherry blossoms in early April. MAP
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One of Otsu's Big Three Festivals, the Senko-sai is a portable shrine procession on boats going down Seta River from Seta-no-Karahashi Bridge to Nango sluice and back. Held annually on Aug. 17 by Takebe Taisha Shrine near the bridge. The festival starts at 5 pm when the portable shrines leave the shrine, and climaxes with fireworks on Seta River after the boats return at about 8:00 pm. MAP
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Seta River is the only river flowing out of Lake Biwa. Major sights along the river include Seta Karahashi Bridge and the Seta Castle ruins. Rowing regattas are also held. The river also becomes very picturesque as you leave Lake Biwa. MAP
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Kyoto University's rowing club went on their annual Lake Biwa rowing trip during Aug. 9-11, 2006. In three wooden boats, they started from their base at Seta River in southern Lake Biwa. First they rowed north to Omi-Maiko where they lodged overnight. Then rowed to Chomeiji (Omi-Hachiman) across the lake where they stayed at a temple. On the third day, from Chomeiji to Manohama, then back to home base.
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Operated by Shiga Prefecture since 1983, Uminoko, nicknamed "Lake Biwa Floating School," is a large boat for kids to study Lake Biwa. All 5th graders in Shiga go on an overnight voyage on this boat to learn more about the lake and boating. About once a year, the boat is open to the pubic while moored at Otsu Port. I visited on Aug. 18, 2010.
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Two of Japan's most prestigious universities, the University of Tokyo (Todai) and Kyoto University (Kyodai), hold an annual boat-rowing race alternating between Lake Biwa's Seta River and Saitama Prefecture's Toda Boat Course in Toda Park. This is the 57th regatta between the two rival schools held on July 8, 2006 at Seta River.
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Annual regatta held on Seta River near Seta-Karahashi Bridge on July 29, 2007. Sixty rowing teams (300 people) of all ages rowed in five categories. The Lake Biwa Rowing Song CD was awarded to all the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in all five categories. Organized by the Seta Rowing Club in Otsu.
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Japan's largest annual regatta is held in southern Lake Biwa where the lake meets Seta River. Almost 600 rowers from junior high schoolers to age 60 and over competed during May 3-6, 2006 for the 59th Asahi Regatta. Boys and girls and men and women rowed in teams of one, two, four, or eight in over 230 rowing races (1,000 meters). These pictures were taken on May 6, the final day.
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The 6th annual Lake Biwa Kaitsuburi (Little Grebe) Regatta was held on Sept. 16, 2007. This regatta is mainly for ordinary people of all ages wanting to row. The Lake Biwa Rowing Song CD was also awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each of the nine categories. Little Grebe (called kaitsuburi) is Shiga's official bird.
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Two major summer festivals in Otsu include the Biwako Otsu Natsu Matsuri featuring the Goshu Ondo bon dance and the Biwako Fireworks both held in early Aug. The Shiga B-kyu (B-grade) Gourmet Battle is also a major draw since 2011.
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