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Sightseeing in Otsu, Shiga: Video Introduction

This video shows a man traveling from Otsu, Shiga to Kyoto, while touring historic temples, enjoying natural scenery, and interacting with locals on an atmospheric shopping street.

Otsu is home to Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan, and Biwako Valley, a resort complex that offers panoramic views of Lake Biwa from 1,100-meters in the air. It's a treasure trove of tourist attractions, with everything from nature to photogenic townscapes that capture the long history of the area, and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Enryakuji and Other Famous Temples Around Otsu, Shiga

Image of Enryakuji Temple, Mt. Hiei, Shiga Prefecture
Photo:Enryakuji Temple, Mt. Hiei, Shiga Prefecture

Besides Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei (Mt. Hiezan), the Lake Biwa area is dotted with many famous and historic temples. In addition to Enryakuji Temple, we recommend visiting Omi Shrine (近江神宮, Omi Jingu), Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, and other power spots as well.
[Video] 0:14 - Walking the Nyoi Kodo to Miidera Temple

Enryakuji Temple
Enryakuji Temple is the head temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism with a history dating back more than 1,200 years. It's said that monks and warrior monks have been coming here to study since ancient times, and the temple has produced famous monks, including as Honen and Shinran. It's a recommended power spot where visitors can experience a moment of clarity and confidence.

Miidera Temple
One of the most famous of Shiga Prefecture's ancient temples. It's also known for its beautiful cherry blossoms in spring. Climbing the stone steps, there's an observatory from which you can view the majestic Lake Biwa.
The spacious temple grounds are home to many national treasures and stone walls using a unique type of masonry. Many of Japan's most notable cultural assets can be found here.

Saikyoji Temple
The head temple of the Tendai Shinmori Sect of Buddhism, which has more than 450 branch temples throughout Japan. It's said to have been founded by Prince Shotoku.
The main hall of the temple is sublime, and the Kyakuden (reception hall), which was built from the remains of Fushimi Castle, has many attractions, including fusuma paintings of by the Kano school, a famous school of painting prominent in 15th century Japan. Akechi Mitsuhide, who contributed to the restoration of Saikyoji Temple after it suffered damage during the Siege of Mt. Hiei in 1571, is enshrined at Saikyoji Temple, along with the tombs of his relatives.

Image of Omi Shrine, Shiga Prefecture
Photo:Omi Shrine, Shiga Prefecture

Omi Shrine
Omi Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Tenchi, who is said to be the founder of the Hyakunin Isshu Karuta, an ancient card game involving classical Japanese poetry, and attracts many visitors each year. The shrine is said to bring prosperity to business, ward off bad luck, ensure safe childbirth, bring academic success, protect one's family, cure illnesses, and protect against traffic accidents, among other blessings. Surrounded by greenery, the main approach to the shrine is a soothing space.

Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine
Located at the foot of Mt. Hiei, this is the head shrine of the Hiyoshi, Hie, and Sanno shrines, of which more than 3,800 exist in Japan. Since the shrine was located in an unlucky direction from the capital during the Heian period (794-1185), it's known for its blessings to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.
A monkey named Masaru is said to be a messenger of the gods at the shrine, and symbolizes protection against evil, and charms and amulets with Masaru are also sold at the shrine.

Immerse Yourself in the Ancient History and Culture of Otsu

After touring famous ancient temples, you can experience the culture passed down to the common people of Otsu.
Otsu-e, an art form popular among commoners during the Edo period (1603-1867), has a unique design that many visitors find attractive. You can also try your hand at painting clay bells resembling oni (Japanese ogre demons). Also, be sure to visit the Otsu Festival Float Exhibition Center, an exhibition hall themed on the Otsu Festival, one of the three major festivals in the area.

In Otsu Hyakucho, visitors can enjoy a tour of traditional shops where they can buy a wide variety of souvenirs. Along the way, you can find the famous Miidera Chikara Mochi rice cakes.
A map of Otsu Hyakucho is also available, so you can enjoy exploring the town without a guide.

That being said, you can also take advantage of the guided tours of Otsu Hyakucho. It is a unique opportunity to experience the unique culture of Otsu.
[Video] 0:48 - Sightseeing Around Otsu Hyakucho

A Model Course for Sightseeing in Otsu

Image of Miidera Temple, Shiga Prefecture
Photo:Miidera Temple, Shiga Prefecture

If you want to enjoy Otsu to the fullest, we recommend taking a tour of the temples and shrines to experience the history of Otsu. You can also visit Miidera Temple, which appears in the video.
[Video] 0:38 - Miidera Temple

There's also a course specifically for female photographers, which includes Saikyoji Temple, where participants can stroll around photogenic temples, and more.
[Video] 2:04 - Saikyoji Temple

If you're looking to enjoy the beautiful scenery in the area, check out Mt. Hiei and enjoy a sanctuary in the sky where the entire mountain is considered part of the temple. Shuttle buses are available to take visitors around the mountain. Travelers can also collect shuin stamps from the different temples, up to a dozen of them.

There are also courses related to famous historical figures, such as Akechi Mitsuhide. Be sure to check them out!

Sushi, Confectioneries, and More – Experience the Cuisine of Otsu!

Image of funa-zushi, a specialty of Shiga Prefecture
Photo:Funa-zushi, a specialty of Shiga Prefecture

Funa-zushi is one of the most popular dishes in Otsu. Sakamoto-ya is a long-established shop that sells funa-zushi, and is designated as a Tangible Cultural Property of Japan.
Sakamotoya's funa-zushi is made with a rare species of wild carp from Lake Biwa, and local Omi rice. We hope you will enjoy this traditional Japanese food made with a time-tested family recipe.
[Video] 0:53 - Ganso Sakamotoya

In Otsu, there's also Yaoyo, a shop that sells pickled vegetables under the Imperial Household Agency's warrant. This store was established in 1850 and has been around since the Edo period. In addition to its pickled vegetables, the shop also sells its specialty Nagarazuke, which are Omi turnips pickled in sake lees, for just a few hundred yen per bunch. You can also buy in bulk for souvenirs.
[Video] 1:03 - Yaoyo

If you're a fan of traditional Japanese sweets, consider dropping by Kano Shojuan Sunai no Sato (叶匠寿庵 寿長生の郷). On the expansive garden-like grounds, there is an atmospheric traditional Japanese-style teahouse, a restaurant, and a confectionery shop as well. Enjoy the delicate sweets made from carefully selected ingredients and the greenery outside the window.
Experience the seasons and indulge your senses in a relaxing environment.
[Video] 1:34 - Kano Shojuan Sunai no Sato

Hirasansou offers Yamanobe Ryori, a type of cuisine that uses seasonal ingredients foraged from the nearby mountains of Otsu. Visitors can enjoy wild vegetables in spring, sweetfish in summer, matsutake mushrooms in autumn, and wild boar and bear in winter. The restaurant utilizes a wide variety of delicious ingredients nurtured in Japan's Shiga region.
[Video] 1:46 - Hirasansou

Hotel Koo Otsu Hyakucho – A Traditional Japanese Townhouse Turned Hotel

While you're in Otsu, use this opportunity to stay at a hotel with a different kind of atmosphere. Hotel Koo Otsu Hyakucho is located inside of a shopping arcade. This is an accommodation facility with a new concept that opened in August 2018.
Guest rooms are scattered along the shopping street and the Old Tokaido Road, with a total of 13 rooms consisting of 5 suite-type rooms and 8 hotel-type guest rooms. The townhouses, which are more than 100 years old, have been fully renovated. All rooms are equipped with bathrooms and toilets, famous designer furniture, and top-quality bedding, allowing guests to experience a luxury space that cannot be found in ordinary hotels or ryokan.
[Video] 1:18 - Hotel Koo Otsu Hyakucho

Summary of Sightseeing in Otsu, Shiga

Image of the view of Otsu from Miidera Temple, Shiga Prefecture
Photo:The view of Otsu from Miidera Temple, Shiga Prefecture

In addition to Lake Biwa, Otsu, Shiga is a hidden treasure trove of wonderful sightseeing spots that have yet to be fully recognized.

Otsu is a town where time seems to have stood still, as it still retains the atmosphere of a Japan from a bygone era. There are plenty of natural recreational activities for children as well as adults, as well as photogenic tours for women, and even stylish date plans. We hope you get the chance to experience Otsu, a place with unique history and traditions, unlike the neighboring city of Kyoto.

【TripAdvisor】Otsu, Shiga

Written By
Last Updated : Feb. 7, 2023
まつだあゆみ(Matsuda Ayumi)
A write that was born in Hiroshima and moved to Tokyo after becoming an adult.
Sightseeing in Otsu, Shiga, a Place Filled With Photogenic Spots and Japanese Traditions! Experience Nature and Breathtaking Cityscapes in One Video!
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