Located atop Mount Hiei, Enryakuji Temple is the head temple of the Tendai Buddhist sect, a World Heritage Site, and one of the top three holy grounds in Japan (the others being Mount Osore and Mount Koya).
Although it is considered to be a single temple, Enryakuji is actually a large temple complex with many buildings. Pictures cannot be taken in the main hall (the Konpon Chudo), but surprisingly, they are allowed in many of the other buildings. The eastern area contains most of the buildings, including the Konpon Chudo (dating back to 1642), the Monjuro (climb up the stairs to see some beautiful Buddhist sculptures), and the Amida Hall. The Saito and Yokawa areas are worth the walk, though, and the walk is made pleasant by the surrounding forest.
There is also a museum housing some of the temple's treasures, which are very much worth viewing. There is a lot to see, so it is best to allow yourself at least half a day to explore.
You must take the cable car & go to the top of Mt. Hiei & see the beautiful view of Lake Biwa. Lake Biwa occupies 1/6th of the area of Shiga Prefecture. It is one of the world's oldest lakes & the largest lake in Japan!
The cable car takes 10 mins each way & runs every 1/2 an hr.
Fares for the cable car:
Adults 840yen one-way, 1570yen roundtrip.
Children 420yen one-way, 790yen roundtrip.
If you are in the area & are really interested in the lake, there is the Lake Biwa Museum that you can visit. Go to www.lbm.go.jp/english for more information on the museum.
Hiyoshi Shrine dates back to the 16th century, although the original was mentioned in the Kojiki. It was designated as one of the twenty-two top shrines in the Heian Period, so the imperial court made offerings here. It is located just below Mount Hiei. The shrine parts are divided into an "east" and "west" section. The shrine grounds are not that large, but it is a peaceful little enclave amidst the forest and it is free to roam the grounds, like most shrines.
Miidera Temple is the fourteenth temple of the Saigoku 33 Temple Pilgrimage Route. The temple grounds are said to be one of the largest in Japan, although many of the buildings are located quite close to one another. The main hall dates back to 1599, and many of the other structures are even older. Miidera once had ties to Enryakuji Temple but later became an independent temple. The temple offers an excellent view of Lake Biwa.
Ishiyamadera has gained famed as the thirteenth temple in the Saigoku 33 Temple Pilgrimage Route. One of the rooms in the Hondo is believed to be where Murasaki Shikibu wrote the famous Tale of Genji, considered to be the world's first novel.
The temple was built in 749. The temple grounds contain a variety of flowering plants, including cherry blossoms, so from spring to fall, it's a great place to visit! The temple has a cute little mascot that can sometimes be found near the entrance dressed in traditional Japanese court garbs.
Entrance is 500 yen.
This temple is one of the oldest temple in Japan. Located on the bank of Seta River in the south end of Otsu City. This temple was founded 1250 years ago, in AD749. This beautiful garden is one of the many gardens inside the temple.
This is the biggest lake in Japan. Otsu is not the only one city at the shore of this lake. There are many other cities such as Kusatsu, Ritto, Maibara, etc. However if you want to enjoy Lake Biwa you can start from Otsu, because this city is nearest to Kyoto and Osaka.
(Enryaku-ji temple) On top of this mountain you will find an impressive temple complex. It’s divided in 3 different areas: Todo, Saito and Yokawa. Some examples to visit: the Konpochu-do(primary central hall), the daiko-do(great lecture hall), Hokke-do(Lotus Hall) and much more. Not everything can be accessed though. Ow, don’t forget the bell... :-)
Syoro is the name of the bell on mount Hiei. If you hit it, the sound goes over the valley. Amazing....
You can hit it only one time, so be aware for the kick-back. Ow, by the way, this is a sacred thing to do, so my advice,... no funny stuff with this bell. ;-)
If you're into art, the Miho Museum will blow your mind.
The building is away from the city of Otsu, tucked into the mountains. It was designed by I.M. Pei, the guy who did the Bank of China in Hong Kong, and the Pyramid in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is in itself, a work of art.
Inside, you'll find separate permanent exhibitions of Japanese art, Chinese art, art from other parts of Asia (Afghanistan, Persia, etc.), and even some ancient Roman art! You can easily spend the whole day there.
Before you go, check their website because they're not open year round!
There is no one temple named Enryaku-ji, but a temple complex. In Dec 1994, Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei was registered by UNESCO as a World Cultural Asset. It was originally a monastery, built by Saicho Dengyo Daishi in the 8th century.
There are temple complexes scattered on Mt. Hiei. Visitors can enter some of them. Others are off limits.
I went around the temple complex for 2 hrs but I didn`t get to see everything, not even half. I suggest a half day for going here.
There are English brochures available & admission is 500yen or 600yen. I can`t remember which.
The temple pictured here is Dai Ko Do, the great lecture hall. Lectures & debates on Buddhist teachings are given at this hall.
These are beautiful toros that line the staircase on the way up to Amida Do.
Toros are stone lanterns that grace gardens, temples, & shrines around Japan. They come in many different sizes & shapes, but common to all of them is the hollowed upper part that was made to hold candles, oil lamps, or electric lights.
This hall was established in the 12th year of Showa (1937) to commemorate the 1150th anniversary of Hieizan Enryaku-ji. This hall is modeled after the Amida-do of Hokkai-ji Temple. The image of Amida Nyorai is inside.
Daily memorial services are held here for the soul of ancesters of the believers of the Tendai denomination. I was fortunate enough to witness one of the services!!! Amazing & enchanting!!