On 13th August, hubby and I visited Enryakuji Temple located on Mount Hieizan in Otsu City of Shiga prefecture. The temple is a monastery and is the headquarters of Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. The temple is divided into three areas, namely, To-do (east area), Sai-to (west area), and Yokawa. I have written in details about Enryakuji Temple and our visit to To-do main area in the previous post. We enjoyed viewing all the buildings in To-do area, and then visited Sai-to and Yokawa areas of the temple complex on the mountain. After leaving To-do area, first we sent to see Sai-to area. Car parking lot of Sai-to area is located about 1 kilometer west-northwest of To-do area car parking lot and it took us about 3 minutes of car ride to reach Sai-to area. The entrance of Sai-to area and a ticket booth are located adjacent to the car parking lot. We had already purchased tickets worth 1000 Yen per person as admission fee to enter all the three areas of the temple at To-do area itself, so we directly entered the Sai-to area.
I am standing in front of the entrance of Sai-to area of Enryakuji Temple
We entered the Sai-to area and walked along a paved pathway towards the north for about 130 meters and saw two magnificent wooden buildings named Jogyo-do and Hokke-do. Both these buildings are identical structures standing side by side on a raised area. The buildings face southward and are connected to each other via a roofed corridor. Both these buildings were constructed in 1595. The building to the left side, towards the west, is Jogyo-do. The original Jogyo-do was built by the third Chief Tendai Abbot (Zasu) Jikaku Daishi Ennin in the year 851. The principal statue enshrined inside the building is Amida Nyorai. The building is used to train monks for Jogyo-zanmai or ‘constantly walking meditation’, which is one of the four types of meditation Shishu-zanmai practiced in Tendai sect. The building to the right side, towards the east, is Hokke-do. The principal statue enshrined inside this building is Fugen Bosatsu. This building is used to train monks for Hokke-zanmai or the ‘half-walking and half-sitting meditation’ (Dharma Lotus Sutra meditation), which is another one of the Shishu-zanmai meditation. The connecting corridor between the two buildings is a wooden structure and has Karahafu roof. The two buildings and the corridor are shaped in such a way that the whole structure looks like two loads (buildings) suspended from a shoulder carrying pole (corridor). That is why the two buildings are collectively known as Ninai-do or the ‘shoulder-carrying halls’. In fact, Ninai can be interpreted in several different ways. The most popular understanding is ‘Benkei’s Ninai’, which refers to the legendary strength of monk Benkei who is said to have once lifted both the buildings over his shoulders. Another meaning is to illustrate the union between the two temple buildings. The buildings represent the teaching implemented at Enryakuji Temple that the Buddhist invocation Nembutsu and Hokke Lotus Sutra are unified together. Both the buildings have been designated as important cultural assets. We loved the architecture of both the buildings and took several photos of them from various positions and angles.
Jogyo-do building as viewed from the southeast of the building
The front of Jogyo-do
Hokke-do building as viewed from the southwest of the building
The front of Hokke-do
Jogyo-do (left), corridor, and Hokke-do (right)
Hubby standing in front of the corridor
We walked between Jogyo-do and Hokke-do buildings, and continued walking downhill along the paved pathway towards the north side of Sai-to area. After going down the stone steps along the pathway for about 40 meters, we saw a small wooden building named Eryo-do located to our left side towards the west. This building was built in honor of a priest named Eryo Osho (800-859) who is also referred to as Daiyaku Daishi. He was widely known for his great spiritual belief and power. There are many ancient anecdotes about him. He commissioned the building of several famous temples including Sanjusangen-do in Kyoto.
We walked further down the stone steps for another 30 meters and reached the ground of a magnificent imposing building named Shaka-do. It is the main temple in the Sai-to area of Mount Hieizan, and is located in the center of the area. The formal name of the building is Tenborin-do and the building faces southward. The original Shaka-do building was completely destroyed by warlord Oda Nobunaga during a battle in 1571 when he burned down all the buildings of Enryakuji Temple on Mount Hieizan. His successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi dismantled a building named Miroku-do (built in 1347) which was the Kon-do Main Hall of Miidera Temple (formerly called Onjo-ji Temple) located at the foot of Mount Hieizan in Otsu City. Hideyoshi then forcibly relocated, modified, and rebuilt the dismantled structure at the present location as a replacement building for the destroyed Shaka-do in 1595. The present Shaka-do building is the oldest building on Mount Hieizan, and it has been designated as an important cultural asset. The principal image enshrined inside this building is a standing wooden statue of Shaka Nyorai which is believed to have been hand carved by Dengyo Daishi Saicho, the founder of Tendai sect Buddhism, himself. This wooden statue has also been designated as an important cultural asset. We loved viewing the wonderful architecture of the building and took several photos of the building and the surrounding ground. In the building ground, we saw several colorful posters explaining the history of Tendai sect Buddhism and Shaka Nyorai. We also saw two very tall straight trees adjacent to Shaka-do building to its east side.
Shaka-do building as viewed from the front (south)
I am standing in front of the building
Hubby standing near the entrance area of Shaka-do
Hubby standing next to a colorful poster in the building ground
Two tall trees located adjacent to the building
We wished to see a couple of more buildings in Sai-to area of Enryakuji Temple. But the buildings are located in the peripheral area of Sai-to and rather far along the paved pathway. It was the peak summer time, and earlier in the day we had done a lot of walking in To-do and Sai-to areas. So we were a bit tired of all the walking and decided to skip seeing the other buildings in Sai-to area. From Shaka-do, we walked back to the car parking lot and took rest for sometime inside the car. Next, we visited Yokawa area of the temple complex on the mountain. The car parking lot of Yokawa area is located about 4.4 kilometer north-northeast of Sai-to area car parking lot but it took us almost 25 minutes of car ride to reach Yokawa area. This is because, after about 3 minutes of driving from Sai-to area on the mountainous road, we made a brief stop to see a huge magnificent bronze statue of Dengyo Daishi Saicho located to the right side of the road. The statue, including the pedestal, is 11 meters tall and was erected in 1987. On reaching Yokawa site, we parked our car and then clicked a photo of the entrance area of Yokawa. We noted that there were very few visitors at this site.
I am standing in front of the bronze statue of Dengyo Daishi Saicho
I am standing in front of the entrance of Yokawa area of Enryakuji Temple
We entered the Yokawa area and walked along a paved pathway towards the northeast direction for about 300 meters and saw the backside of a magnificent red colored building named Yokawa Chu-do. We walked along the side of the building and reached the front side. Yokawa Chu-do is the main building in the Yokawa area of Mount Hieizan. It is formally referred to as Shuryogon-in Temple and the building faces southeastward. It is the 18th number temple of the New Saigoku (western part of Japan) 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Sites (Japanese page). Yokawa Chu-do was originally established by Jikaku Daishi Ennin in the year 848. The building was completely destroyed by Oda Nobunaga during a battle in 1571, and later it was rebuilt by his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The building was again destroyed by a lightning strike and subsequent fire in 1942. The present building was built in 1971 to commemorate the 1150th anniversary of the death of Dengyo Daishi Saicho, the founder of Tendai sect Buddhism. The building has Butai-zukuri architectural style (stage-like construction style). If we look at the entire building, it looks like a boat floating on water. The central part of the building is two meters lower than the rest of the building. The principal image enshrined inside this building is a standing wooden statue of Sho-Kannon Bosatsu. This statue has miraculously survived the series of fires that had destroyed the building time and again. The statue is a wooden artifact characteristic of the late Heian period, and has been designated as an important cultural asset. We loved viewing the wonderful architecture of the building and took several photos of the building and the surrounding ground. In the building ground, we saw several colorful posters explaining the life and teachings of influential Tendai sect priests. Afterwards we entered inside the building and I prayed in front of the principal statue Sho-Kannon Bosatsu, which is enshrined in the inner central area of the hall. There is a narrow passageway surrounding this central area. This passageway is lined with thousands of small golden colored statues of Buddha that have been paid for by the Buddhist followers from around the country. The atmosphere inside the building was so peaceful and calming.
Hubby standing near the backside of Yokawa Chu-do building
Yokawa Chu-do as viewed from the front (southeast)
Hubby reading a colorful poster in the building ground
A golden statue of Sho-Kannon Bosatsu located at the entrance area of the building
The principal image Sho-Kannon Bosatsu enshrined inside the building
Hubby standing in the passageway lined with thousands of small golden statues of Buddha
Afterwards, we started walking along the paved pathway towards the southeast direction. We walked for about 50 meters and saw a mountain snake crawling across the path in front of us. While I have seen snakes many times in India, it was the first time for hubby to see a snake in a natural environment. He was shocked and jumped reflexively, which made the snake also jump and hurriedly move into the surrounding forest. We did not expect such an encounter, and it was a nerve-racking experience for both of us. We walked for another 50 meters along the pathway and saw a stone monument to our left side. The monument named Kyoshi-no-kuhi was erected in 1979 to honor Takahama Kyoshi who was a famous Haiku poet and story writer during Showa period. When he lived in Kyoto, he climbed Mount Hieizan, and wrote a book named ‘Eizan Moude’ in 1907. He stayed at Ichinen-ji Hall of Yokawa Chu-do, and based on his experiences of living there he wrote a novel named ‘Furyusenpou’ in the same year 1907. Kyoshi-no-kuhi monument has a beautiful Haiku inscribed on it ‘Seijo na tsuki o minikeri mine no tera’ meaning ‘Went to see clear moon from hilltop temple’. We loved the Haiku very much. We continued walking along the pathway for another 80 meters and reached a point where the pathway intersected with another pathway perpendicular to it. Near this point, we saw a temple belfry and a bell.
A snake 1) crawling across the path in front of us, and 2) moving into the surrounding forest
Belfry and a bell
Next, we walked along the paved pathway, perpendicular to the one we were walking earlier. We walked towards the south direction for about 150 meters and saw a building named Eshin-do. It is a beautiful wooden structure facing eastward. Eshin-do was built by Fujiwara no Kaneie for the 18th Zasu Jie Daishi Ryogen (also known as Ganzan Daishi Ryogen). Jie Daishi’s disciple Eshin Sozu Genshin used it as a place to practice and engage in Buddhist exercise named Nembutsu-zanmai which is a training method that encourages believers to pray devoutly to Amida Nyorai. Genshin used this place to devote himself to many of the famous writings and works of art that he produced there such as ‘Ojoyoshu’ (written in 985), ‘Nijuugo Zanmaishiki’, ‘Rokudo Jukkai no Zu’, and ‘Mida Raiga no Zu’. He founded Jodo-kyo (Pure Land Teaching) with his works in the end of 10th century, and this place is considered to be the birthplace of Jodo-kyo Buddhism. The principal statue enshrined inside this building is Amida Nyorai. The interior of the building is not open to the public. We loved the way sunshine falling on the trees surrounding the building gave it a mystical appearance.
Eshin-do as viewed from the front (east)
Hubby standing in front of Eshin-do
Afterwards, we turned around and walked along the paved pathway towards the north direction for about 280 meters and saw a building named Ganzan Daishi-do. It is a wooden structure and the building ground has an entrance gate that faces east-southeastward. It is a temple for Jie Daishi Ryogen (also known as Ganzan Daishi Ryogen). The building is also known as Shikiko-do which means ‘lecture hall of four seasons’. This is because, in the year 967 it is where Ryogen was ordered to provide Emperor Murakami with seasonal lectures on Hokekyo Lotus Sutra. This building was also the house of Ryogen, who maintained temple buildings on the top of Mount Hieizan while contributing to academic development. He is referred to as the patriarch of the resurrection of Mount Hieizan and also known as the founder of Omikuji fortune slips. The painting enshrined inside this building is a portrait of Ganzan Daishi Ryogen. This building hall is the center of Ganzan Daishi worship in Japan. The gate to enter the building premises is a simple wooden structure. A gorgeous green colored framed plaque with ‘Ganzan Daishi’ written in golden color, hangs from the top portion of this gate. Hubby was rather tired of all the walking in hot sun and so he sat down on a wooden bench kept near the gate and took rest. I entered inside the gate and Ganzan Daishi-do building lay straight ahead of me. I loved viewing the wooden building and the simple but meticulously maintained dry sand garden inside the premises. In addition, I saw several old wonderful artwork paintings on wooden panels hanging from the upper part of the front wall of the building. Most of them are related to Ganzan Daishi. The building and its tranquil surroundings seemed to envelop us with a sense of warmth and peace.
Ganzan Daishi-do premises as viewed from the ground located outside the premises
Gate to enter Ganzan Daishi-do premises
A green colored framed plaque with ‘Ganzan Daishi’ written on it hangs from the top portion of the gate
Hubby tired and sitting on a wooden bench kept near the gate
Ganzan Daishi-do building as viewed from the front (east-southeast)
Ganzan Daishi-do and the dry sand garden inside the premises
Entrance area of Ganzan Daishi-do
Several paintings hanging from the upper part of the front wall on the right side (with respect to us) of the entrance door
Several paintings hanging from the upper part of the front wall on the left side of the entrance door
At this point, we finished the tour of Yokawa area of Enryakuji Temple on Mount Hieizan. So we left Yokawa area and started driving downhill. From the mountainous road, we got wonderful views of Otsu City and Lake Biwa.
Otsu City and Lake Biwa (right side very hazy) as viewed from Mount Hieizan
Otsu City and Lake Biwa
We loved viewing all the three areas To-do, Sai-to, and Yokawa of Enryakuji Temple on Mount Hieizan. It was about 3 pm when we left the temple complex. It took us about three hours of car ride to reach hubby’s ancestral home in Ichinomiya City. We stayed for a couple of days in Ichinomiya for Obon festival (check this post for details) and returned back to our home in Yurihonjo City on 17th August. Hubby did a lot of driving during the Obon holiday sightseeing trip.
Family alter at our Ichinomiya home
Details of the family alter
Father-in-law praying to welcome the souls of ancestors
Hubby offering flowers at his mother’s grave