Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Shirahige Shrine and the Torii Gate in Lake Biwa

You probably all know about the great torii gate standing in the sea in Miyajima/Hiroshima, but did you know you don’t need to travel all the way down south for a similar view? Just north of Kyoto in Shiga Prefecture, Shirahige Shrine (白鬚神社) is another shrine in Japan that has its torii gate in the water!

Shirahige Shrine was erected around 2,000 years ago during the time of Emperor Suinin (垂仁天皇)’s reign (the 11th emperor of Japan).

This Shiga Prefecture’s oldest shrine is also the head shrine of around 300 Shirahige shrines across Japan. Because of its torii gate, it was nicknamed Ōmi’s Itsukushima (近江の厳島).

The main god of the shrine is Sarutahiko no Mikoto (猿田彦命), who looks after people’s longevity and health. According to the legend, he appeared to be an old guy with white hair and beard. This is why the shrine was named Shirahige.

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On Shirahige Shrine’s Precinct

The worship hall was constructed in 1603 under Toyotomi Hideyori’s (豊臣秀頼) order under his father, Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s (豊臣秀吉) will. The shrine is respected among the citizens of Ōmi Province and people across the country.

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In 1879, the worship hall underwent another major renovation.

Apart from the main worship hall, the shrine office was also designated an Important National Cultural Property. Completed in 1933, the building was constructed with Japanese cypress in Shoin-zukuri style (書院造) and was determined to be a building that represents the building techniques of the time.

On the precinct of Shirahige Shrine, you will also find many monuments with poems engraved.

The shrine has been a popular destination for its beautiful scenery. Many literati stopped by the shrine and left some famous poems to praise the scenery in front of them.

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The Torii Gate in Lake Biwa

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The famous torii gate existed only in legends until the early 20th century. Although paintings of the area had a torii gate standing in the lake, there was no actual proof available to prove the gate was ever there since the shrine’s erection.

The first torii gate was built in 1937 by a donation from a medicine wholesaler named Konishi Kyūbee (小西久兵衛) in Osaka. The current torii gate is the second generation replacing the original one in 1981.

A highway separates the lakeshore where the torii gate is and Shirahige Shrine. Because there is no traffic light or pedestrian crossing, please watch for the ongoing traffic if you really have to cross the road.

A safer and recommended way to admire the torii gate is from the small observatory called Oumi Shirahige-dai (藍湖白鬚台). Thanks to Takashima Rotary Club, we can safely enjoy the amazing scenery!

If the weather is good, you will see the Oki Island (沖島) at the back of the torii gate. It is the paradise of cats.

Tip: The torii gate is the most beautiful with sunrise or sunset. On weekends, the torii gate will be lit up for 2 hours after sunset creating a different atmosphere. On new year’s eve, the light will be on until dawn. Also, the light will be on until around 9 pm for the first five days of the year.

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Important: If you aim to get a photo of the torii gate with the sunset or even a picture of it in the evening, remember to bring a jacket (especially in autumn/winter).

Paddle Your Way to Shirahige Shrine’s Torii Gate

If you enjoy kayaking and want to get close to the torii gate, book a kayak tour with Goodtimes!

The outdoor activity company has been operating for years and has various kayaking, 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 beginner.

On the day, head to their office close to Shirahigehama Suiei Camping Ground (白ひげ浜水泳キャンプ場). They will go through the details of what to expect and watch out for during the tour. Instructions and tips on kayak will also be given in the small workshop.

They have English-speaking guides, so there is no need to worry about language barriers. Your guide will accompany you throughout the session and take photos for you. Photo data will be given to you at the end of the tour.

To book, please head to their website HERE.

If you prefer SUP, Kyoto SUP is a company specializing in SUP tours. Refer to their website HERE for more information.

How to Get to Shirahige Shrine

  • From JR Ōmi-Takashima Station (近江高島駅), it is around a 30 to 40-minute walk.
  • If you don’t want to walk for this long, you can rent a bicycle from the tourist information center in the station and cycle your way there (around 20 minutes).
  • You can also reserve for sightseeing taxi (乗合タクシー) 30 minutes beforehand. It will only cost you 300 yen each.
    • Please call +81-740-22-0106 to reserve.
    • Refer to the red table HERE for the service’s timetable.

Important: If you rent a bicycle, you will need to cycle through the side of a highway as part of the journey to Shirahige Shrine. Please watch out for the ongoing traffic.

☛ If you plan to book a sightseeing taxi and don’t speak Japanese, check with the staff at the station or your hotel to see if they are happy to make the phone call for you. We recommend you seek help from a bigger station with more staff as those stations usually have English-speaking staff stationed. It would be better to book your return trip at the same time. Most people will only spend around 45 to 60 minutes in Shirahige Shrine.
☛ If you are coming from Kyoto by train, remember to choose the seats on the right or the carriage to admire the gorgeous Lake Biwa. If you sit on the left, you will get the mountain view.

Explore Other Alluring Attractions in Takashima City

Click the photo to find out more about this awesome attraction!

Takashima City, northwest of Shiga Prefecture, is a trove of photogenic spots. There is a 4-km-long cherry blossom road, a garden full of different flowers covering a part of a mountain, a perfect spot to adore the fantastic sea of clouds, scenery, and a lot more!

To find out more attractions close to Shirahige Shrine, please refer to our article on Takashima City (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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