If you plan to visit Nagahama City in Shiga Prefecture in November, remember to put Keisoku-ji (鶏足寺) and Shakudō-ji Temple (石道寺) in your itinerary. Although located away from the city center, the two temples just minutes away from each other are the best destinations for autumn color hunting!
Keisoku-ji (鶏足寺) was founded by the revered monk, Gyōki (行基) in 735 and revived by Saichō (最澄) in 799. From the Muromachi and the Edo periods (1336 – 1867), the temple was so auspicious that it had around 120 temples under it and even had its army formed by monks.
Unfortunately, with the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, the temple’s support declined significantly. Furthermore, its main worship hall was accidentally burnt down in 1933. Eventually, it became an abandoned temple.
The current Keisoku-ji was renovated from a temple called Hanpuku-ji (飯福寺) that belonged to Keisoku-ji back then.
While no monks are stationed at Keisoku-ji anymore, it is managed by the local residents as a scenic spot. The temple in the mountain has 200 or so old maple trees lined on the sides of the approach. Together with the mossy stone walls, a mysterious but calm atmosphere is created.
Tip: If you arrive in the morning, the foliage color will be extra bright when ample sunlight shines on the trees. On weekends, the temple will be relatively less crowded after 3 pm. As the light gets darker, the atmosphere becomes more mysterious.
As the temple currently doesn’t have any monks stationed, statues and cultural treasures of Keisoku-ji were moved to the Kokōkaku and Yoshirokaku ( 己高閣・世代閣) halls. This includes the main image is an Eleven-faced Kannon (十一面観音) and a Medicine Buddha (Yakusi Nyorai, 薬師如来).
If you are interested, the halls are just a 2-minute walk from the bus stop – Furuhashi in the Furuhashi area. It is the same bus stop where you will get off for Keisoku-ji.
The Fall Foliage Season at Keisoku-ji
The autumn foliage at Keisoku-ji usually peaks from mid to late November.
During the season, this part of the approach in the photo is forbidden for entry. This is to maintain the alluring scenery with the staircases covered by red fallen leaves.
If you are eyeing this fantastic view, come in late November.
Keisoku-ji Temple’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- The temple is open from 9 am to 4 pm.
- From JR Kinomoto Station (木ノ本駅), take the bus bound for Kaneihara (金居原) and get off at Furuhashi (古橋). From the bus stop, it is a 15-minute walk.
- The number of services is limited. Please refer to the second timetable HERE to plan. Refer to the first two timetables HERE for services returning to JR Kinomoto Station.
- The first column is for weekdays, the second column is for Saturdays, and the last column is for Sundays and public holidays.
- If you plan to drive a temporary car park around a 15 to 20-minute walk away is set up during the autumn foliage season.
Tip: There are usually temporary buses running between JR Kinomoto Station and the temple during the fall foliage season.
Important: it is advisable to arrive by 3:30 as the area will be dark after sunset.
Shakudō-ji Temple (石道寺)
On the way to Keisoku-ji Temple, you will walk past Shakudō-ji, another great destination for fall foliage. Like Keisoku-ji, Shakudō-ji doesn’t have monks living here but is looked after by the locals.
The temple belongs to the Shingon sect Buzan school (真言宗豊山派) is located at the foot of Mt. Kodakami (己高山). It has an eleven-faced Kannon statue as the main image.
The statue made in the late Heian period (794 – 1185) is now an Important National Cultural Property. Although most of the statue’s color has faded, from Kannon Bodhisattva’s bright red lips and the clothes covering his legs, it won’t be hard to tell that this was a brightly colored statue back then.
Nowadays, people come here to pray for child giving.
This Kannon statue became more well-known to the Japanese after it appeared in the novel of famous Japanese writer Inoue Yasushi (井上靖) in the Shōwa period (1926 – 1989). In the novel, the statue is described as resembling young girls in the village.
Standing at the two sides of the Kannon Bodhisattva are Vaisravana (多聞天) and Dhṛtarāṣṭra (持国天), both are Buddhist deities protecting the sutras. According to research in 2001, these two statues were also completed in the late Heian period and were designated as Important National Cultural Property.
As Keisoku-ji is only a 2-minute walk away, how about stopping by both temples for a 30-minute autumn foliage hunting session?
Shakudō-ji’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information
- The temple is open from 9 am to 4 pm on weekends and public holidays.
- From the end of December to March, the temple is closed.
- The admission fee is 300 yen.
- From JR Kinomoto Station (木ノ本駅), take the bus bound for Kaneihara (金居原) and get off at Imyōjin (井明神). From the bus stop, it is less than a 15-minute walk.
Tip: From the bus stop/car park, the road to the temples is mainly small alleys. But don’t worry. There are clear indicators to remind you it is time to take another turn on the road (^_-)-☆. Another landmark from the car park is a well-maintained Japanese garden after crossing a small bridge.
Discover Other Exciting Attractions in Nagahama City
Nagahama, the second biggest city in Shiga Prefecture, is rich in history and nature. Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s success in becoming the leader of Japan in the second half of the 16th century is said to have started from here.
Apart from the cultural and historical attractions, the city will also excite shopaholics and figurine manias!
For more information, please refer to our article on Nagahama (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.