Thursday, July 30, 2009


Ishiyama-dera (石山寺?, lit. "Stony Mountain Temple") is a Shingon temple in Ōtsu in Japan's Shiga Prefecture. It was constructed around 762 CE, and is said to have been founded by Rōben. The temple contains a number of cultural assets.

Allegedly, Murasaki Shikibu began writing The Tale of Genji at Ishiyama-dera during a full moon night in August of 1004. In commemoration, the temple maintains a Genji room featuring a life-size figure of Lady Murasaki and displays a statue in her honorMurasaki is said to have begun writing The Tale of Genji at Ishiyamadera Temple on the night of the full moon, August 1004. To commemorate this event, the temple maintains a Genji Room with a life-size figure of the author at work.

Ishiyama Dera was established in 749 by a Kegon priest named Ryôben at the request of Emperor Shômu (701-756; reigned 724-749) to enshrine an image of Nyoirin Kannon. At the time, the Emperor was praying for the discovery of gold to assist in his undertaking of the construction of the great Buddha of Tôdai-ji Temple in Nara.

In the Heian period (794-1185), this temple became a popular pilgrimage site among the courtiers. Today, it is the 13th destination on the 33 temple Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimange which includes Hogon-ji on Chikubu Island. Ishiyama Dera is also the headquarters of the Buddhist Shingon sect.

The temple is located on the side of a mountain overlooking Lake Biwa and facing the Seta River. The Hondo, or Main Hall, designated a National Treasure, was built upon a great megalith, which contributes to the temple’s fame as one of the eight scenic views of Ômi, the Autumn Moon from Ishiyama-dera. The Hondo was built architecturally in a veranda construction style called "Butai Zukuri". The Tahoto Pagoda (treasure tower) was built by Minamoto Yoritomo in 1194 in the Kamakura period, and is the oldest of its type in Japan.

Inside the Hondo is the Room of Genji, where Shikibu Murasaki created the plot of the Genji Monogatari or the Tale of Genji, a famous court story of the Heian period and believed by many to be the world's first novel. Murasaki is said to have begun writing The Tale of Genji at Ishiyama on the night of the full moon in August 1004. The temple is mentioned in the Ukifune chapter of the story. A life-size figure of the author at work is displayed in this room.

The Sanmon Gate is another featured sight as are the wollostonite rocks, from which the name of this temple was derived from. They can be seen protruding everywhere, harmonizing with the temple's buildings. There are also Japanese maple trees on the 1.2 hectare site as well as flower gardens with cherry blossoms, Japanese plum blossoms, Chinese peonies, camellias and other flowers that bloom in different seasons.

1-1-1 Ishiyama-dera, Ôtsu, Shiga Prefecture
Tel: 077-537-0013
Admission: Adult 500 yen, Elem. School Students 250 yen
Hours: 08:00 - 16:30 (last entry at 16:00)

How to get there
Take a shinkansen to Kyoto Station and transfer take a local train on the Tokaido Line to JR Ishiyama Station.
From there, take a 10-minute bus ride or transfer to Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto Line to Ishiyama Dera Station and walk for ten minutes.

Tours - The Japan Discovery Tours visit Ishiyama Dera.
Click here for more information regarding when Discovery visits this destination.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Aoi Matsuri
Aoi Matsuri is the annual festival of Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines. It ranks as one of the three major festivals of Kyoto along with Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri. It was held on a large scale during the Heian Period (794-1191) and many references to the festival are found in The Tale of Genji (first Japanese novel) and other ancient chronicles.

The festival takes its name from the custom of decorating the procession participants and the bulls which are used to pull the carts with hollyhock (aoi) leaves. The procession leaves from the Imperial Palace to make the rounds of Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines.

Fireworks at Lake Biwa on August 7

"2009 Biwako Hanabi Taikai," or Fireworks at Lake Biwa organized by its executive committee, will be held on August 7 in the vicinity of Otsu Port, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and showcase summer on Lake Biwa. Now in its 26th year, around 10,000 large-scale fireworks will fill the night sky following the concept of "roaming nature around Lake Biwa." Tickets for paid bleacher seating will be on sale from July 1.

The event attracts more than 350,000 visitors from the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe area every year. Although it is usually held on August 8, this year the date falls on Saturday, so it will take place on the weekday of August 7 in order to avoid heavy visitor congestion and to prioritize safety. The fireworks will express the landscapes and nature of each part of Shiga Prefecture. Starting at 7:30 p.m., fireworks such as "Star-mine" will be launched for about one hour.

There will be about 16,000 paid bleacher seats around the lakeside. Tickets cost 3,800 yen in advance, or 4,300 yen at the venue. Tickets will be sold at the sales branches and agencies of JTB, NTA and KNT, as well as at "Shiga Kanko Bussan Joho Center" in JR Otsu Station, the tourist information centers of both Keihan Ishiyama Station and JR Katada Station, Biwakokisen, Kyoto Shimbun Newspaper's main office in Shiga and the Culture Center of Kyoto Shimbun Project Development.

For more information, call the office of the executive committee in the Biwako Visitors Bureau at 077-511-1530.

Yaaa, Hit That Snake!

Kurama-yama Takekiri-eshiki," where green bamboo logs representing great serpents are slashed to ward off disasters, was carried out on June 20 at Kurama-dera Temple in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto. Residents dressed as warrior priests shouted energetically as they chopped off bamboo stalks oTakekiri-eshiki is based on an incident of 1,100 years ago, when a holy priest of Kurama-dera Temple vanquished a giant snake. Since the mid-Edo Period, "Omi" and "Tanba" have competed to see which group representing their area could cut bamboo logs fastest in order to predict whether their harvests would be rich or poor.

The ceremony opened to the sound of a conch being blown. The men representing the two areas swung their swords mightily at the bamboo logs, which were roughly five meters long and ten centimeters in diameter, cutting them into five pieces. The Tanba group finished in about a minute to win the contest, at which the crowd of around 700 spectators cheered loudly.

A student at Kurama Elementary School, holding a chunk of broken bamboo in one hand, said, "The banging of the bamboo breaking was really impressive. I want to come next year too."

ne after another.