Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Shizugatake – The Stunning Attraction with a Bloody History

Because of the Battle of Shizugatake (賤ヶ岳の戦い) in 1583 between Hashiba Hideyoshi (羽柴秀吉) and Shibata Katsuie (柴田勝家), Mt. Shizugatake is not only a scenic destination but also a pilgrimage spot for Japanese history buffs. Around the summit, monuments of the battlefield and those who died in the war commemorate the historic event. At the same time, a magnificent view of Lake Yogo (余呉湖), Mt. Ibuki (伊吹山), and Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa, can be adored.

In 1582, Oda Nobunaga was killed in Honnō-ji Incident (本能寺の変) by his vassal Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀). Among all the feudal lords who were under Oda, Hashiba Hideyoshi (later Toyotomi Hideyoshi) was the one who took down Mitsuhide to revenge on his lord.

This led to a power struggle between Hideyoshi and Oda Clan’s top-ranked vassals, Shibata Katsuie. The conflicts finally escalated to war at Shizugatake in 1583.

The severe battle around Lake Yogo (余呉湖) ended within two days with Hideyoshi’s victory. It may sound like a short time, but many lives were lost, making the lake’s water red.

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Standing at the top of Mt. Shizugatake, it might be hard to imagine the tragic scene with the stunning lake that looks so peaceful now. But, traces of earthworks left from centuries ago and the monuments constructed in 1878 remind us of this significant historical event set for Hideyoshi’s success later on.

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If you find the statue in the photo above looks sad, that was the intention when the statue was made. While he is one of Hideyoshi’s soldiers, it is hard for him to enjoy the victory with mountains of bodies lying around…

As a side note, the summit of Mt. Shizugatake wasn’t a fierce battlefield. Where the two forces clashed severely was closer to Lake Yogo at Ōiwayama (大岩山) and between Kinomoto (木之本) and Yanagase (柳ヶ瀬).

Shizugatake Lift (賤ヶ岳リフト)

If you don’t like hiking or want to be at the summit as soon as possible, aerial lifts are operating from mid-April to the end of November. You will be at the station up in the mountain in just 6 minutes.

From late April to early May, you will want to take the lift for at least one leg of your journey. During this time of the year, directly underneath the lift is a field of gorgeous white Butterfly flowers (シャガ)!

Please refer to Shizugatake Lift’s website HERE for the lift’s operating hours and fare information.

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It is just a 10-minute hike to the summit at 421 meters from the station close to the top of the mountain. But, just note the hike may be tiring to some.

On the way up, you will see this small shrine. It is built to worship those who had passed away in the Battle of Shizugatake. You will also see some stone Buddhas at the promenade’s side.

If you prefer to hike your way up, there is a trailhead close to Shizugatake Life’s station at the foot of the mountain. It will be a journey through the 1.5 km mountain trail.

How to Get to Shizugatake Lift

From JR Kinomoto Station (木ノ本駅), you can either take a taxi (5 minutes) or a bus bound for Michi no Eki Ajikama-no-sato (道の駅あぢかまの里) or Shindōno (新道野) and get off at Ooto (大音).

The number of bus services is extremely limited. Please refer to HERE for services heading to Ooto and HERE services returning to JR Kinomoto Staton.

  • The first column is for weekdays, the second column is for Saturdays, and the last column is for Sundays and public holidays.

Hike Your Way Up Through the Battlefield of the Battle of Shizugatake

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One of the popular ways to hike up Mt. Shizugatake is from JR Yogo Station (余呉駅) through the Kōtsuchi Trailhead (江土登山口 ) or trailhead at Mt. Iwazaki (岩崎山) through Ōiwayama (大岩山). To the top of Mt. Shizugatake, a one-way trip will take around 60 – 75 minutes.

Mt. Shizugatake has a couple of hiking trails. So after you arrive at JR Yogo Station, head to Yogo Kanko Sightseeing Center (余呉湖 観光館) close to the station for more information about each of the routes to get to the summit of Shizugatake.

The staff can advise you on which route suits you the most. The time required for a return trip differs depending on whether you want to head back to JR Yogo Station.

The most scenic route is the one that goes along Lake Biwa and ends at JR Kawake Station (河毛駅), but it takes around 5 hours to complete.

You can park at the sightseeing center’s spacious car park if you plan to drive.

Important: Please expect some steeper slopes and less maintained earthen roads.

As you will be trekking through nature, you might be able to spot some wild animals such as deer, flying squirrels, and monkeys!

On the way from Ōiwayama to Shizugatake, there is a small pond called Kubi-arai (首洗いの池) close to the trail. Unlike other Kubi-arai ponds in Japan, this pond wasn’t a spot for heads to be washed after being cut off.

The pond doesn’t have much water left nowadays, but it was where the locals took care of Nakagawa Kiyohide’s (中川清秀) body and washed the blood off him.

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Nakagawa Kiyohide was a feudal lord under Hideyoshi who lost his life in the Battle of Shizugatake.

The Eight Views of Lake Biwa – A Magnificent View from Shizugatake (琵琶湖八景 – 新雪 賤ケ岳の大観)

Undoubtedly, the view from the top of Mt. Shizugatake is breathtaking. After all, it is one of the Eight Views of Lake Biwa. The scenery chosen in 1950 was the scene in early winter when the first snow covered parts of the surrounding mountains.

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But, as you might have expected, the scenery in fall is just as amazing! The autumn foliage season peaks around mid-November because the altitude isn’t too high.

The Temples and Shrines Close to Mt. Shizugatake

In Kinomoto Town, at the foot of Mt. Shizugatake, there are a few temples and shrines related to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. So we also introduced them here for you to add to your itinerary if you are interested.

Kinomoto Jizō-in Temple (木之本地蔵院)

Most Jizō Bodhisattva statues you see in Japanese temples are small and made of stone. But the Jizō Bodhisattva at Kinomoto Jizō-in has a height of 6 meters and is made with bronze!

That tall statue in the photo is a Jizō Bodhisattva. Although the 162 cm main image is hidden, the replicate made in 1894 outside can be worshiped throughout the year.

Because of its size, it is ranked one of the Three Great Jizō in Japan.

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As you get closer to the gigantic statue, another thing that will surprise you are the hundreds of frog figurines. All of them have one eye closed. It is said that one of their eyes was given to a person suffering from eye illness.

So people call them Migawari-gaeru (身代わり蛙), meaning frogs that suffer instead of you. This is why the Jizō Bodhisattva is known as Buddha of the Eyes (眼の仏さま).

The garden of the temple is called Jōshin-ji Garden (浄信寺庭園). Jōshin-ji is another name for Kinomoto Jizō-in. The garden completed in the mid-Edo period is a National Place of Scenery Beauty.

Kinomoto Jizō-in’s History

The temple has a long history dating back to the Hakuhō period (645 – 710), founded by a monk called Soren (祚蓮). Back then, he was carrying a Jizō Bodhisattva statue on his back, traveling north from Nara for a suitable place to build a temple.

One day, he put the statue under a large willow tree for a break. But he couldn’t lift the statue when it was time to move on. Moreover, it started emitting a warm glow. It is said that the light radiated from the statue cured the illness of those at the scene.

Soren took this as a sacred message and established Jizō-in, where it is now. The area where the temple is situated is thus named Kinomoto (木之本), which means ‘under the tree’.

Fast-track the time to the Battle of Shizugatake. Kinomoto was where Hideyoshi placed his main force. Unsurprisingly, the temple was destroyed during the battle. After Hideyoshi’s son – Toyotomi Hideyori, took over power, he ordered the temple to be reconstructed.

Kinomoto Jizō-in’s Okaidan-meguri (お戒壇巡り)

Okaidan-meguri is a short tour to get to the spot directly under the Buddha of a temple.

This tour is particularly long in Kinomoto Jizō-in. Throughout the 56-meter walk in complete darkness, you have to make six turns at the six corners. But don’t worry, there is a handrail as usual, and it is a one-way road.

When you reach where the treasure trove is (placed directly underneath Jizō Bodhisattva), you can then make a wish.

Kinomoto Jizō-in Temple’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The temple is open from 8 am to 5 pm.
  • To participate in the Okaidan-meguri (ご戒壇巡り), it will cost 300 yen.
  • From JR Kinomoto Station (木ノ本駅), it is a 5-minute walk.

Ikagu Shrine (伊香具神社)

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Ikagu Shrine is another shrine in Kinomoto that was destroyed during the Battle of Shizugatake. But that isn’t the reason why we want to bring it up.

The shrine that is related to the legend of the celestial robe (羽衣伝説) has an approach that has cherry trees lining. It is an off-the-beaten-path destination for cherry blossoms from mid to late April!

As it is only 500 meters from Shizugatake’s ariel lift, you can stop by on the way to Shizugatake!

The main god here is the main character of the legend of the celestial robe that is widely known in Japan.

Once upon a time, a guy spotted eight celestial maidens bathing in a lake. He secretly hid one of the celestial robes, resulting in one of the maidens being unable to fly back to heaven. She was then married to the guy and gave birth to two boys and two girls.

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It is a rather sad story, but the guy was later enshrined as the god of the Ikagu Shrine, erected in the Hakuhō period (645 – 710).

How to Get to Ikagu Shrine

Ikagu Shrine is around a 5-minute walk from Shizugatake Ariel Lift.

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.

Click the photo to find out where else you might be interested in visiting when you come to Nagahama!

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