Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Mangetsu-ji Temple Ukimi-dō and the Eight Views of Ōmi

The city of Ōtsu has many stunning scenery and one of them is at the northern Ōtsu close to Biwako Bridge (琵琶湖大橋). The view of the worship hall of Mangetsu-ji Temple Ukimi-dō (満月寺 浮御堂) sticking out of Lake Biwa is one of the Eight Views of Ōmi (近江八景). Because of its fame, it is a spot visited by many famous Japanese poets, including Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉) from the Edo period.

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The Eight Views of Ōmi at Ukimi-dō

The view chosen to be one of the Eight Views of Ōmi in the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573) is when the geese fly across the sky above Ukimi-dō. Thus, the view was named the Wild Geese Returning Home at Katata (Katata no Rakugan, 堅田落雁).

The formal name of Ukimi-dō is Kaimonsan Mantetsu-ji (海門山 満月寺). It belongs to Rinzai sect’s (臨済宗) Daitoku-ji (大徳寺).

Ⓒ びわこビジターズビューロー

The Founding of Ukimi-dō

Ⓒ びわこビジターズビューロー

The temple has a deep connection with the Enryakuji Temple in Mt. Hiei. It was founded by Eshinsōzu Genshin (恵心僧都源信), who is the founder of Japan’s Pure Land sect. During Genshin’s time at Enryakuji, he founded the Eshin-dō Hall (恵心堂) in the Yokawa area. It is where he completed many books and guidance that laid the foundation of the Pure Land sect.

The legend goes that when Genshin was training in Yokawa at the end of the 11th century, he noticed one part of the surface of Lake Biwa was shining. Wondering why, he went down Mt. Hiei and arrived at where Ukimi-dō is today. A golden Amida Buddha appeared as he tried to scoop the object with a net. Taking this as a message from the Buddha, he established Ukimi-dō to pray for a good afterlife for the fish in Lake Biwa that became someone’s meal.

Furthermore, ships capsize frequently because strong winds are blowing from Mt. Hiei. So the worship hall is also a place to pray for the safety of those who set sail on Lake Biwa.

Inside Ukimi-dō

The worship hall standing above Lake Biwa has 1,000 Amida Buddha statues enshrined. The statues collectively known as Sentaibutsu (千体仏) were all curved by Genshin. Why 1,000, you ask? It is because two statues are always better than one, and three are better than two. The more statues you make, the more chances that someone may encounter the image of Buddha, and therefore the more benefits you will get from making them.

The current Ukimi-dō was restored in 1937 after a typhoon destroyed it in 1934. Although you won’t be able to see all 1,000 Buddha statues, you will still see many of them when you peek into the hall (^_-)-☆.

Also, although hidden, statues of Kannon Bodhisattva (an Important Cultural Property) and the healing Buddha – Yakushi Nyorai (薬師如来) are also enshrined inside the worship hall.

Rather than just taking photos from Ukimi-dō, you can also get a photo of the worship hall with Lake Biwa and the mountains afar.

A good spot is from Honkatata Lakeshore Green Area (本堅田湖岸緑地) at the south of the temple.

One thing to keep in mind is there are some places where the foothold isn’t as good. So watch your steps when you get there.

Also, if you plan to head there at dawn or night, remember to bring a flashlight.

A similar green area is also at the north of the temple. Although it may be a bit confusing to get there, following the small alleys in between the private houses in the area, you should be able to get to the shore eventually.

A great time for a photography session is just before the sun appears from the horizon when the sky brightens.

Ukimi-dō’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • The opening hours of Ukimi-dō are from 8 am to 5 pm.
  • The admission fee is 300 yen.
  • From JR Katata Station’s (堅田駅) bus stop no. 2 at the west exit, take Kōjaku Bus (江若バス)’s Katata Town Loops Bus (堅田町内循環) and get off at Katatademachi (堅田出町). From the bus stop, it is around a 5-minute walk.
    • On weekends and public holidays, the bus will stop at Ukimi-dō-mae (浮御堂前), making it more convenient.
    • HERE is the timetable for you to refer to. Please use the bus stops’ Japanese name to read.

Discover Other Attractions in Ōtsu City

Ōtsu, the capital of Shiga Prefecture, is filled with rich cultural and historical elements. Although it only lasted for five years, we are sure after you admire the scenery of Japan’s biggest lake – Lake Biwa, it won’t be hard to understand why Emperor Tenji (天智天皇) wanted to stay close to it!

For more information, please refer to our article on Ōtsu City (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Click the photo to find out more about this stunning spot!

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