Located in the northwest of Nara lies the lesser known area of Mt. Shigi. Not only it is a nice place for a simple hike, there is also an interesting “tiger” temple known as Chogosonshi-ji Temple which is more widely referred to as Shigi-Bishamon Temple. At the entrance area of the temple, there is a big tiger sculpture awaiting you. It does not stop with that. All the way up to the main temple and in its surroundings, you will be able to see even more sculptures of tigers of various sizes as well. Even the protective charms have various tiger designs too!
So, the next question, why the tiger design craze? There is actually a very nice reason for it. During the 7th century, when Prince Shotoku was praying at Mt. Shigi for victory over Mononobe Moriya, it was said that the God of War, Bishamonten appeared and told him a secret strategy which led to his victory. This occurrence was said to happen at the hour of the tiger, on the day of the tiger and in the year of the tiger. Since then, the Prince built a temple at Mt. Shigi dedicated to Bishamonten and the tiger was also placed there as the guardian of the god.
Mt. Shigi is really beautiful in spring and autumn. I am not sure how crowded the place is in the spring season as I have only been there during the autumn. I went there at the beginning of November and it was not so crowded especially if you compare the situation in Kyoto during the same season. And you still get to enjoy the wonderful view of the temple surrounded by beautiful red and yellow leaves.
Mt. Shigi is most likely less known among visitors abroad compared to Tokyo and Kyoto. There is also a lack of information on how to reach this beautiful place. So, let me help out with that!
To reach Mt. Shigi, you have to take a combination of a train and a bus. When my friend and I went there, we took the train (JR train + Kintetsu train) to ShigisanShita (信貴山下) station. From there, take the local bus and stop at either 信貴山門 (Shigisanmon) or 信貴山橋 (Shigisanbashi) stop. For those who read Japanese, please refer to this link as reference.