Namura Shrine in Ayado in Ryuo Town, Shiga Prefecture, is a historic shrine and a treasure trove of cultural properties since most of the structures of the shrine are nationally designated as either a National Treasure (NT) or an Important Cultural Property (ICP). The origin of the shrine is not clear, but, as many Kofun (ancient Imperial tombs) have been discovered in the area, it is considered that this shrine was originally founded to enshrine the spirits of ancestors.
The Romon gate (ICP) has the impressively huge thatched roof. The wooden statue of Fudo Myoo (ICP) is enshrined in the Fudo Hall in the precinct, which is the reminder of Shinbutsu Shugo (the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) practiced until the end of the Edo period (1868).
The main hall, Nishi-Honden (NT), was constructed in 969 to enshrine the deity Kunisazuchi no Mikoto, who had resided in Mt. Kongo in Yoshino in Yamato province (present-day Nara Prefecture). The old shrine located on the opposite side of the road is the east shrine, Higashi Honden (ICP), which enshrines Okuninushi no Mikoto and Susanoo no Mikoto.
Namura Shrine is the head shrine of all the branch shrines in 33 adjacent villages; hereby the Grand Autumn Festival is held once every 33 years.
Ishibaji (Stone Horse Temple) in Gokasho Ishibaji Town in Higashiomi City on the eastern side of Lake Biwa is a historic temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces and 1,000 arms). The temple is famous as the Horse Temple.
Legend has it that when Prince Shotoku visited this village in 594, his horse was turned into a stone and sank in the pond while he was away. Deeply impressed by this incident, Prince Shotoku built up a temple at this place. Beside the ruins of the Daimon gate at the foot the stone steps is the pond where the stone horse sank. You can see the horse back through the water.
The temple belonged to the Hosso Sect of Buddhism until the Middle Ages. As a temple of the Tendai sect, it fought with Oda Nobunaga in the Warring States period (1493-1573) and was burnt down by his forces. The temple was restored in 1644, as a temple of Rinzai Sect of Buddhism, by Zen monk Ungo.
The temple possesses a lot of cultural properties including the wooden plaques on which three kanji characters representing Ishibaji Temple were written by Prince Shotoku himself and the statue of Prince Shotoku on the horseback.
Magaibutsu are Buddhist images carved on large rock outcrops, cliffs, or in caves. The ruins site of Fukurinji Temple is located in a quiet forest in back of Yasu Junior High School in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. Nothing pertaining to the temple has been discovered yet but the site is dotted with large and small rocks on which Buddhist images are carved. Together with many stone images of Buddha also placed everywhere in the site, they create a mysterious atmosphere.
On the large flat rock outcrop are 13 Jizo Bosatsu, each of which is about 45 cm tall. Two images of Amida Nyorai and one Kannon are carved on another large rock. Both of them are said to be carved in the early Muromachi period (1336-1573). Though they are small in size, the carved lines are delicate as if carved on woodblocks.
It is said that there used to be a lot more rocks with Buddhist images at this ruins site, but many of them were taken away by wealthy merchants in Osaka during the Meiji to Taisho periods (the late 19th to the early 20th centuries) to decorate their gardens.
Kannonji Castle was located in Kinugasayama, a 432.7 meter low mountain popularly called Kannonjiyama, in Azuchi Town in Shiga Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Historic Site.
The origin of the castle is not clear, but it had been resided by generations of the Sasaki clan, the governor of Omi province. After the Sasaki clan was divided into the two clans, the Rokkaku clan and the Kyogoku clan, the Rokkaku clan lived in the castle. In 1568, during the time of Rokkaku Yoshikata and his son, Yoshiharu, the castle was attacked by Oda Nobunaga, who was on his way to Kyoto. The castle fell and dismantled.
Covering the whole mountain as the castle area, it is one of the few largest-scaled mountain castles in the Middle Ages in Japan. The ruins of stone works and earthworks remaining everywhere in the mountain suggest that the castle had many large and small compounds. The wall made of huge stones can be seen around Kannonjisho Temple, a Holy Place of the Saigoku Pilgrimage, near the top of the mountain. The mountain path serves as a good hiking course today.
Mikami Shrine is at the foot of Mt. Mikamiyama in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. The enshrined deity is Amenomikage no Kami, the god of Mt. Mikamiyama. Historic buildings including the Romon gate, Honden (the main hall) and Haiden (the oratory) stand quietly in the deep forest. Honden is designated as a National Treasure for its unique architectural style called “Mikami-zukuri,” which is the combination of the architectural styles used for a shrine, a temple and a nobleman’s residence.
Zuiki Festival is held at this shrine on the 2nd Monday of October every year. The word “zuiki” means the stem of a taro potato. Every year five Mikoshi (portable shrine), which are made of zuiki and decorated with vegetables and persimmon leaves, are dedicated to the shrine to express gratitude for the year’s crop. It has been held for over 400 years and was designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the national government in 2005.
Mikami Shrine enshrines Mt. Mikami or popularly called Omi-Fiji, a 432 m conical mountain in Shiga Prefecture, and Amenomikage no Kami, the guardian deity of old Omi province and the deity of blacksmith and blade smith.
The main hall constructed in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) is a very unique building in the style called Mikami-zukuri, in which the architectural styles for shrines, temples and residences are combined together. The Buddhism architectural style can be seen in its 3-bay structure, the Irimoya-zukuri roof, white walls and lattice windows. As one of the oldest shrine building in the Irimoya-zukuri style, it was designated as a National Treasure in 1952. The Haiden Hall (oratory), the main gate, the main hall of an attached shrine, Wakamiya Shrine, and the wooden Chinese dog are nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties.
Zuiki Festival is held at this shrine in the middle of October every year. The word “zuiki” means the stem of a taro potato. Every year five Mikoshi (portable shrine), which are made of zuiki and decorated with vegetables, persimmon leaves and chestnuts, are dedicated to the shrine to express gratitude for the year’s crop.
The origin of Oiso Shrine in Azuchi Town, Shiga Prefecture, is unknown, but it is presumed to have been the oratory for the mountain god residing at the top of Mt. Kinugasa. The enshrined deity is Amatsukoyane no Mikoto, an ancestor of the Fujiwara clan.
According to a legend, when Ototachibanahime no Mikoto threw herself into the sea to appease the rage of the sea god and saved Yamato Takeru, who was on his way to the eastern land, she was pregnant and said “I will stay in Oiso Woods and become a guardian goddess for safe childbirth.” From this episode, the shrine is visited by a lot of women who offer a prayer for safe delivery.
Guarded by Oiso Woods, Honden (the main hall) stands at the end of the front approach. It is a 3-bay flowing style building. Tosatsu (the wooden plate staked to a building7s ridgepole stating details of the construction) shows that it was constructed in 1581. The stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Motoori Norinaga, a Japanese scholar of Kokugaku during the Edo period, stands in a corner of the precinct.
Osasahara Shrine is a very old shrine founded in 986. As the place where the god of water resides, it is visited by a lot of worshippers. Susanoo no Mikoto, Kushinada-hime and other 3 deities are enshrined.
Assembling the cream of the gorgeous Higashiyama Culture, Honden (the main hall) was constructed in 1414 during the Muromachi period. Though small in size, elaborate decoration is given to every detailed part of this Irimoya-zukuri building. The transom and doors are also beautiful. It was designated as a National Treasure in 1961.
To the right of the main hall is a bottomless swamp named Yorube-no-ike. It is said that the swamp has been filled with affluent water even though there is a long spell of dry weather since two mikoshi (portable shrines) were sunk into the swamp in hope for rain.
As this area has produced high quality glutinous rice and it is said to be the birthplace of Kagami-mochi, Kagami-no-miya Shrine enshrining the original of Kagami-mochi is located in the shrine precinct.