One of the best temples to visit in Kōka is Daichi-ji (大池寺). The temple erected by Gyōki (行基) has a gorgeous garden and a torii gate almost submerged in a lake! It is quietly tucked in Shiga Prefecture‘s countryside. Not known by many people, it is a great spot to visit if you are after the beauty of Japan’s natural scenery with minimal crowds!
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When Gyōki visited the area, the locals were troubled by the lack of water supply for their crop fields. Thus, he created four large artificial lakes to resolve this problem. If you check out the lakes on the map, the word “heart (心)” is formed by the lakes. This is why they are collectively known as the Lake of Heart (Shinji no Ike, 心字の池).
More than 1,250 years have passed, and the locals still benefit from the lakes created by Gyōki to irrigate the surrounding rice fields!
In the middle of the lakes, a temple erected with a Gautama Buddha carved by Gyōki was enshrined. This is known as the origin of Daichi-ji.
Regarding the Gautama Buddha that Gyōki carved, he did it with the highest respect. For each carving he did, he performed the Buddhist bow three times. It is no wonder the statue miraculously survived the civil war in 1577!
Initially, the temple belonged to the Tendai sect (天台宗). But from the Kamakura period (1192 – 1333) onward, it has been a Rinzai sect (臨済宗) temple.
In 1577, the worship halls were destroyed during the civil war between Oda Nobunaga and Rokkaku Yoshikata (六角 義賢). Fortunately, the temple was revived between 1667 and 1670 and had its name changed from the previous Seiren-ji (青蓮寺) to the current Daichi-ji.
If you have seen the family crest of the Oda clan, you might recognize it when you are at the temple. Daichi-ji uses the Oda Clan’s family crest as one of the supporters that restored the temple was Oda Masanobu (織田正信), Nobunaga’s nephew. Not only was he the lord of the region at the time, but he also donated the most money.
Daichi-ji’s Scenic Garden
The gorgeous Japanese garden at the east of the Shoin Hall (書院) is called Hōrai (蓬莱). It is a dry garden featuring Satsuki azalea. The garden was designed by Kobori Enshū (小堀遠州), the same samurai who constructed the Minakuchi Castle.
The white sand symbolizes the ocean, with the long azalea grove at the back representing the waves. The rectangular grove in the middle mimics the treasure boat floating on the ocean with Seven Lucky Gods onboard.
The large round azalea grove at the right, close to the Shoin, stands for ‘turtle’. It is a symbol of longevity.
From mid-May to mid-June, the “waves” and “boats” are decorated with pink azalea flowers. Autumn is another recommended season to visit Daichi-ji when the green, white, and red colors beautifully contrast each other.
A cup of matcha and traditional sweets can also be ordered for you to enjoy while adoring the garden.
The Torii Gate in a Lake and the Promenade
If you have time to spare, follow the promenade and stroll around the lake next to Daichi-ji. Walking around the lake takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
What you don’t want to miss out on is the torii gate in Benten Lake (弁天池). If the weather conditions are ideal, the torii gate and the nature behind it will be beautifully reflected on the lake.
In summer, the lotus flowers bloom in the morning, so remember to adjust your itinerary accordingly!
Note that the promenade is not regularly maintained, so choose your footwear properly. If you don’t feel like trekking in a forest, turn back when you get to the below spot.
If you go left when you get to the lake from the temple, you will find a Hachiman Shrine. A bell is set beside the lake (refer to the 2nd photo in the IG post). You can use the structure as a photo frame for a picture of the torii gate by the lake.
Other Things to Check Out at Daichi-ji
Another amazing thing we found at Daichi-ji is an old pine tree. It has a branch that stretches around 10 meters long! Thanks to its supporting structure, it gets longer and longer by the day!
The Suikinkutsu (水琴窟) in the second last photo is also worth checking out. Pour some water over the pebbles next to the water fountain and enjoy the clear sounds from the buried earthen jar as you place your ears against the top of the wooden stick!
You can also explore the smaller rooms in the temple. Two of them were where tea ceremonies were performed. The tea utensils are on display in these rooms.
The Fall Foliage Season at Daichi-ji
The fall season is from late October to early December and peaks around mid-November.
Daichi-ji’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information
- The temple is open from 9 am to 5 pm. In winter, it closes early at 4 pm.
- The temple is closed from the 25th of December to the 1st of January and from the 11th to the 17th of August.
- The admission fee is:
- 400 yen for adults
- 300 yen for junior high school students
- 200 yen for elementary students
- From Ohmi Railway’s (近江鉄道) Minakuchi Station (水口駅), it is a 20-minute walk.
- If you plan to take a JR train, change at JR Kibukawa Station (貴生川駅) for Ohmi Railway. Then take the Kōka City Community Bus (甲賀市コミュニティバス) from JR Kibukawa Station and get off at Daichi-ji (大池寺).
Discover Other Fascinating Attractions in Kōka City
Kōka City in Shiga Prefecture is known for its ninja-themed attractions and is the hometown of one of the Six Ancient Kilns in Japan.
Furthermore, there are a couple of hidden gems for cherry blossom and fall foliage hunting. So check out our article on Kōka City and start planning your next trip (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.