We left Kanazawa in the afternoon heading in the direction of Kyoto. We decided to stop at a Michi-no-Eki close to Lake Biwa to spend another night in the campervan. Again we were amazed at just how many Japanese sleep in their vehicles, and how small some of these cars can be. The following morning we were greeted by dull overcast conditions. We could not really complain as for most of the trip so far we had great weather. The flat lighting however was not exactly ideal for photography and hence the reason for the black and white treatment of the images in this post. Our two stops that morning were both on Biwa Lake, the first being Shirahige Shrine.
Shirahige Shrine – On Japan’s largest Lake
Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan with a shoreline of 235 kilometres. It’s believed the lake gets its name from its shape which is apparently similar to a Japanese musical instrument called a Biwa. As we were driving down the western side of the lake we pulled into a small car park to briefly visit Shirahige Jinja shrine. The shrine was founded in 1900 and we took a couple of quick photographs of the exterior. We were more interested however in the red Torii Gates on the opposite side of the road, located in the lake itself. Under better lighting the red gates would really stand out, sadly the day we visited was not one of those days.
Stopping at Shirahige Shrine had been a last minute decision and was not part of our original planned itinerary. We had actually seen images of the Torii Gate on Google images just the night before which convinced us to make a stop. The decision to stop and visit was also in part to compensate for the fact that we would not have time to visit the more famous floating Torii Gate at Miyajima, near Hiroshima. Shirahige means white beard and the shrine is supposed to be a good place to pray for longevity among other things. It makes a great photo stop but I wouldn’t say the location is the most peaceful place as it’s right beside a rather busy and popular road that runs alongside the lake.
Shirahige Shrine from Kyoto is a relatively short distance but before completing our journey to Kyoto we would stop one more time along Lake Biwa.
Ukimido Temple (the floating temple)
Ukimido Temple, also sometimes referred to as Ukimido floating temple is just a 30 minute drive from Shirahige Shrine in the direction of Kyoto. The floating hall is featured as one of the eight views of Omi (eight beautiful views of Lake Biwa) drawn by Hiroshige. The Hiroshige artwork is known as “The wild geese returning home at Katata”. The zen temple is officially known as Mangetsuji (Full Moon Temple). Originally founded in 995 the current structure is a much more modern but faithful recreation from 1937 and was later repaired in 1982.
The building houses 1,000 small carved Amida Buddha figures. Some websites state it’s free of charge but you can give a small donation. Other websites however state an entry fee of 300 Yen. When I visited there was a lady in a ticket booth who spoke no English but was still making herself clear that a payment was due. For your entry fee you are given a small brochure that details some information about the temple. The structure is situated where the lake is at its narrowest and apparently is dedicated to the safe transport of traffic on the lake.
With no sign of the sun making an appearance it was time to leave Ukimido temple and complete our drive to Kyoto. We had booked accommodation fairly central in Kyoto for the next two nights. Should you ever find yourself driving between the cities of Kanazawa and Kyoto I recommend a stop at Lake Biwa. Both the Shirahige Shrine and the Ukimido Temple are worth a visit and should you visit I hope you get better lighting than we did!