In the south of Hikone City in Shiga Prefecture, Taga Taisha (多賀大社) is one of the most prominent shrines in the region. It is one of those shrines that can still woo you even if you are tired of visiting Japanese shrines. With a history of more than 1,300 years, it is one of the country’s oldest shrines. And what comes with the long history is a unique rice cake that you probably won’t be able to find elsewhere!
Taga Taisha’s History
The shrine with a vast precinct is the head shrine of the 239 Taga Shrines in Japan.
You might have heard of or been to the Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮), which enshrines the goddess of the sun in Japanese mythology -Amaterasu Ōkami (天照大神). Well, what you might not be aware of is Amaterasu Ōkami does have parents in mythology. And her parents are enshrined at Taga Taisha!
Izanagi no Mikoto (伊邪那岐命) and Izanami no Mikoto (伊邪那美命) are the parents of Amaterasu Ōkami. They are in charge of one’s longevity, marriage ties, and exorcism.
The shrine has received tremendous support from the imperial court and powerful families. It is best known for the rice raddle (杓子) that was offered to Empress Genshō (元正天皇).
Back then, the empress had been suffering from illness for a long time. To pray for the empress, the priest of Taga Taisha cooked glutinous rice with red beans and offered it to the empress with a raddle made from the hornbeam grown in the precinct.
After receiving the gift, it is said that Empress Genshō immediately recovered from her illness.
This is why parts of the shrine are decorated with rice raddles. The ema plaque of the shrine is also in the shape of a rice raddle.
Another unique ritual that pilgrims love to do is write prayers on white pebbles called Jumyō-ishi (寿命石). It is said that by doing so, your wishes might come true.
Okusho-in Garden (奥書院庭園)
When Toyotomi Hideyoshi ruled the country in the second half of the 16th century, his mother fell sick in 1593. Wanting to do something to bring his mother back to health, he requested the shrine to pray for his mother. Upon her recovery, he donated 10,000-goku’s rice to the shrine in gratitude (one goku = 150 kg’s rice).
Taga Taisha used the fortune received to build the arch bridge in the photo on the left and the Okusho-in complex in the below photos.
The arch bridge is therefore called Taikō Bridge (太閤橋), the governmental rank held by Hideyoshi at the time.
Inside the Okusho-in, many splendid paintings are on the walls and the sliding doors. Although it will cost money to enter the complex, we highly recommend doing so, especially if you love Japanese gardens and cultural properties.
There are many things about the shrine that we haven’t mentioned. If you are interested to know more, please refer to HERE for other buildings on the precinct and the shrine’s interesting annual events.
Taga Taisha’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information
- You can come to Taga Taisha any time during the day. The shrine office is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
- Okusho-in is open from 8 am to 4 pm.
- The admission fee to Okusho-in is 300 yen.
From Ohmi Railway’s (近江鉄道) Taga Taisha-mae Station (多賀大社前), it is a 10-minute walk.
- The time required to explore Taga Taisha is between 45 – 60 minutes (assuming you pay to enter Okusho-in).
Taga’s famous edible souvenir is Itokiri Mochi (糸切餅). After visiting Taga Taisha, how about stopping by Hishiya, which is just a 5-minute walk away?
The red bean paste is wrapped with mochi rice cake and then cut with string instead of knives. How the mochi is cut is how the mochi got its name from.
Since it is a mochi rice cake, you might be picturing it as a sweet confectionery. However, it does have a slightly savory taste! This might be the key to having many fans around the country.
The history of Itokiri Mochi goes back to the 13th century. The mochi was offered to the local shrines and temples to pray for peace after the withdrawal of the Mongolian army’s second attack. The three lines printed on the rice cake represent the Mongolian flag.
Instead of using a knife to cut the rice cake, which made people think of the war that had just finished, a bowstring was used.
Another reason the makers didn’t use a knife to cut the rice cake was that the rice cake was a tribute offered to gods at Taga Taisha, who is in charge of one’s longevity. Cutting it with a knife seemed disrespectful and made one feel like they were cutting their life short.
Nowadays, instead of a bowstring, the string of Shamisen (Japanese guitar) is used. Thread from our clothes is just too fragile and blunt (´▽｀*).
Hishiya’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Hishiya is open from 8 am and closes upon selling out.
- It is a 5-minute walk from both Ohmi Railway’s (近江鉄道) Taga Taisha-mae Station (多賀大社前) and Taga Taisha Shrine.
Discover Where Else to Visit in Hikone
Want to find out more attractions close by that you might be interested in? Check out our article on Hikone!
In the article, you will be introduced to some delicious Japanese and Western sweets shops, interesting temples and shrines, and many more historical destinations you might not know!