If you plan to come to Kansai for the cherry blossoms, consider Kaizu Ōsaki (海津大崎), one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots! Along the 4 km lakeshore, there are around 800 cherry trees, old and young, that usually blossom in early to mid-April (the exact date of full bloom varies each year). As one of the cherry blossom destinations in the Kansai region with a relatively late cherry blossom season, it can be a good backup plan, too (^_-)-☆.
Even if it is not in spring, Kaizu Ōsaki is still a destination for scenic beauty. Known as one of the Eight Views of Lake Biwa (琵琶湖八景), the locals are enchanted by the magnificent reef that rises on the surface of the lake in the morning fog (Gyōmu Kaizu Ōsaki no Ganshō, 暁霧 海津大崎の岩礁).
If you read Japanese, refer to the official website HERE for more information. You can also translate the webpage to English using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Tip: It would be wise to arrive here early to avoid crowds, especially on weekends and public holidays. In the afternoon, you can head to Hikone Castle (彦根城) for another cherry blossom adoration session.
How Long to Spend in Kaizu Ōsaki
At the tip of the cape, Ōsaki-dera (大崎寺), a temple of the Shingon sect Chiyama school (真言宗智山派), is located. This is where many people start heading back to the bus stop/station.
From the bus stop to Ōsaki-dera, it is around 2 km, taking approximately 30 – 45 minutes on foot. So a return trip will take about 1.5 to 2 hours.
Kaizu Ōsaki Cherry Blossom Viewing Cruise (海津大崎のお花見船)
You can also adore the gorgeous scenery from a different direction by boat!
Sightseeing boats/cruises will depart from various ports around Lake Biwa during the season. One company that runs the cruise is Biwako Kisen (琵琶湖汽船). They have ferries departing from both Imazu Port (今津港) and Nagahama Port (長浜港).
The cruise lasts 100 to 150 minutes, depending on your chosen course.
Imazu Port (今津港)
- In 2023, a return trip costed 3,500 yen from Imazu Port for adults (half the price for children).
- This includes a 20-minute (approx.) break at Kaizu Ozaki Port.
- Imazu Port is just around a 5-minute walk from JR Ōmi-Imazu Station (近江今津駅).
Nagahama Port (長浜港)
- In 2023, a return trip costed 3,600 yen from Nagahama Port for adults (half the price for children).
- This includes a 30-minute (approx.) break at Kaizu Ozaki Port.
- Imazu Port is just around a 10-minute walk from JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅).
While the 2023 cherry blossom cruise event has finished, refer to HERE for an idea of the future event schedule. You can also translate the webpage to English using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Cruises Departing from Hikone Port (彦根港)
If you are coming from Hikone, the Cherry Blossom Viewing Cruise is operated by Ōmi Marine (オーミマリン).
For the timetable, please refer to their website HERE. The webpage is in Japanese only. So please refer to the services marked in red.
There will be free shuttle buses operating between Hikone Station and Hikone Port.
- Departure = 発
- Arrival = 着
The current operation period is from the 1st to the 9th of April for the 2023 season.
The cost is 3,500 yen for adults and 1,750 yen for elementary school students.
Heading to Kaizu Ōsaki by SUP
It is also possible to paddle your way to the cherry blossoms!
SUP Workshops are held by Mizu-ue Sanpo Shiga (水上さんぽ滋賀 | 琵琶湖SUP) throughout the year. They will have special SUP sessions during cherry blossom season that you can reserve.
There are two sessions that you can choose from. The first session starts at 9 am and the second at 1 pm. Each session takes 2 to 3 hours and costs 6,500 yen per person.
For more details and to book, please refer to their website HERE.
Kaizu Ōsaki Cherry Blossom Kayak Tour
Instead of SUP, if you prefer to kayak your way to the cherry blossoms, it is also possible!
Goodtime is an outdoor activity company that has been operating for years. It has various kayak, SUP, and snowshoeing tours throughout the year. With their experienced guides, you are guaranteed a safe and pleasant kayaking trip, even if you are a total beginner.
To book, please head to their booking system HERE. Although their English website HERE doesn’t have their Cherry Blossom Kayak Tour (SAKURA Kayak Tour) listed, it is there for you to book during the season.
- For the 2023 season, the cost was 7,800 yen for adults and 4,900 yen for elementary school students.
- The kayak tour lasts for 180 minutes.
- There are two sessions, one at 9 am and another at 1:15 pm.
- To participate, you must be at least as old as a 4th-grade elementary school student.
How to Get to Kaizu Ōsaki
From JR Makino Station (マキノ駅), it is a 30-minute walk. You can also take a bus from JR Makino Station and get off at Kaidzu Ōsaki-kuchi (海津大崎口). From the bus stop, it is around a 10-minute walk to the cherry trees.
Please be aware the number of services is limited. Search for the timetable HERE to plan your visit.
During the cherry blossom season, shuttle buses will be running between JR Makino Station (マキノ駅) and Kaizu Ōsaki. You can either get off at Ōsaki-guchi (大崎口) or Kaizu Ikku (海津1区).
For the links timetable, please refer to Takashima City’s website HERE and translate the webpage to English with Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Tip: Rental bicycles should also be available at JR Makino Station’s tourist information center.
Ōsaki-ji Temple (大崎寺)
The Ōsaki-ji is a temple standing at the cliff in the middle of the 4 km Kaizu Ōsaki’s cherry blossom road. It was erected by the revered monk Taichō (泰澄) in 702. At the time, it was a branch temple of Nara’s Kōfuku-ji (興福寺) and had as many as 39 monks’ temple quarters around the worship halls. However, the temple was devastated since the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333).
Fortunately, in 1536, Ōsaki-ji was revived as a temple belonging to the Shingon sect Chiyama school (真言宗智山派). During Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s reign, the buildings in the precinct were renovated. This renovation actually gave the history buffs a reason to visit Ōsaki-ji. The building material used to renovate the temple’s ceiling was from Azuchi Castle (安土城). Not only was it from the castle, but the materials have bloodstains Σ(ﾟДﾟ).
The temple itself isn’t big. So it usually only takes visitors around 20 minutes to stroll around the precinct. If the weather is good, you might spend most of your time adorning the scenery of Lake Biwa from the observatories.
Important: Be prepared to climb up several sets of less-maintained staircases.
Remember to put 100 yen into the donation pillar at the side of the left stone lantern at the temple entrance.
Then from there, it is around a 5-minute hike to the main worship hall.
The main worship hall is built on the side of a cliff. The principal image of the temple is an eleven-faced thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva (十一面千手観音).
Continuing our talk about the bloodstained ceiling boards, the building material was originally used to restore the main worship hall. The ceiling boards were only moved to Amida-dō in the late 20th century.
After the Honnō-ji Incident (本能寺の変), Oda Nobunaga’s base castle, Azuchi Castle, became Akechi Mitsuhide’s next target. After hearing the bad news, the samurais protecting the castle promptly escorted Nobunaga’s wife and small son to Hino Castle (日野城) to save their lives. When Mitsuhide’s force arrived at Azuchi Castle, disappointed by being unable to fulfill his original goal, he changed the plan and robbed the valuables from the castle to award his retainers.
As a result, Nobunaga’s vassals were either killed or committed seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment).
To commemorate Nobunaga’s vassals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the wooden boards with their bloodstains to reconstruct the Hondō. Memorial services were then held to pray for a peaceful afterlife for them.
Until now, those who passed away in that war still benefit from the chanting/services at Amida-dō.
Enough of the sad talk. After you pay your respect to the Kannon Bodhisattva, enjoy the stunning view from the observatory opposite the main worship hall!
The Amida-dō with a Bloodstain Ceiling
In 1966, after another renovation took place, those ceiling boards with bloodstains were moved from the main worship hall to Amida-dō (阿弥陀堂).
The worship hall is where Amida Buddha is enshrined. It is said the statue was made by Prince Shōtoku (聖徳太子) in the Asuka period (592 – 710).
Important: If you get to Ōsaki-ji outside of 9 am to 4 pm, the Amida-dō and Hondō most likely won’t be open.
Next to the worship hall, there is a small space with a built-in traditional kettle. Apparently, tea ceremonies used to be held here, and the kettle was there for the hot water supply.
Further from Amida-dō, there is a promenade that looks somewhat unpromising. After you pass a few worship halls that look like they will collapse at any second, the lookout at the end of the road will give you an even more magnificent view of Lake Biwa than the one in front of the main worship hall!
How to Get to Ōsaki-ji Temple
From JR Makino Station (マキノ駅), take the community bus and get off at Kaidzu Ōsaki-kuchi (海津大崎口). From the bus stop, it is around a 30-minute walk.
During the cherry blossom season, getting off the bus at Kaizu Ikku (海津1区) will save you a few minutes of walking time.
Please refer to HERE and click the first PDF for the service’s timetable. Please use the bus stops’ Japanese characters to read.
Guesthouse Villa Sansui (民宿ヴィラ山水) and Cottage Hanare Sansui (はなれ山水)
During the cherry blossom season, Kaizu Ōsaki will obviously be flooded with crowds of people (albeit not as many as other major cities in Japan). So arriving there early will most likely mean having the amazing scenery almost to yourself.
Another reason to be there early is the morning fog that may surround the lake’s surface. This is why you may see professional photographers stationed at the lakeshore as early as 6 am!
But getting up early is never easy if you aren’t used to it. So how about spending a night at a guesthouse or cottage?
Guesthouse Villa Sansui is about a 5-minute walk from JR Makino Station. This means you can quickly head back to your room to catch up on sleep after an early photography session (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Around a 5-minute walk south of Guesthouse Villa Sansui, Cottage Hanare Sansui is another accommodation option for you.
When you reserve your stay, one thing to note is that not all their guestrooms have a toilet and/or bathroom. So choose the room type that suits your needs. Some rooms have a simple kitchenette for those who want to cook dinner or breakfast.
If you want some more space and privacy, although more expensive, consider renting one of their cottages or bungalows.
For more information, please refer to their website HERE.
☛ Cherry blossom viewing boats may be departing from Makino Sunny Beach (マキノサニービーチ) close by.
☛ The accommodation facility can accommodate a vegetarian diet. Please let them know in advance if you book a staying plan with meals.
Explore Other Alluring Attractions in Takashima City
Takashima City, northwest of Shiga Prefecture, is a trove of photogenic spots. There is a torii gate standing in the ocean-like Lake Biwa, a garden full of different flowers covering a part of a mountain, and much more!
To find out more attractions close to Kaizu Ōsaki, please refer to our article on Takashima City (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.