Otsu is the capital city of Shiga Prefecture. It once flourished in the southwestern area as a post station along Tokaido Street. There are numerous historical sites and cultural assets that are found in the city. There are also a number of events and activities worth visiting and trying.
Enryaku-ji Temple is located at Mt Hiei. It is the birthplace of Japanese Buddhism. This is one of the most important monasteries in Japanese history which is the headquarters of the Tendai sect. There are so many influential monks who studied in the temple including some founders of the later sect.
The temple was founded by Saicho in 788. He was the monk who introduced Tendai Buddhism from China to Japan. At its peak, Enrakyu-ji gave way to many sub-temples resulting in a rivalry for power with other monasteries and political leaders. In order to unite the country and remove all potential rivals, Oda Nobunaga, a powerful samurai, destroyed most of the buildings and killed the monks. Nevertheless, Enryakyu-ji was rebuilt in the Edo Period.
Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan but is one of the smallest in the world. It is called “Biwako” in Japanese. There are about 50 kinds of endemic fish and water creatures in this lake. Visitors can enjoy a cruise on the lake via the Michigan, an American Mississippi River paddlewheel boat running with the cooperation of the University of Michigan. Night cruises are also available. Cruise time can range from 60-90 minutes. If you want to cruise to Chikubushima and Nagahama in the north, it’ll take you about half a day one way. There are also sightseeing boat tours departing from Otsu Port and visiting places of interest on the lake’s shore. Off the shore of Otsu Harbor, the “Biwa-ko Hana-funsui,” one of the largest fountains in the world, sprays out water in various shapes making a fantastic sight.
For more information and reservations:
Biwako Kisen Tel. (077)524-5000
These peaceful activities are worth trying if you want to be culturally immersed. It is the best way to know more about Otsu’s wonderful history.