Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Takashima City – Shiga’s Trove of Photogenic Spots

Takashima City, northwest of Shiga Prefecture, is a trove of photogenic spots. There is a torii gate standing in the ocean-like Lake Biwa, a 4 km long cherry blossom road, a garden full of lilies covering a part of a mountain, and a lot more!

The city is less than a 45-minute train ride away from Kyoto and is the perfect destination for a day trip from the ancient city of Kyoto if you come in the right season. So read on and find out the best time to visit Takashima!

Here is a list of attractions in Takashima City for you to consider adding to your itinerary.

Bicycle Rental at Takashima City

The tourist information center at the major train stations in Takashima city provides bicycle rental services. You can either return the bicycle you rented to the same place or another center for an extra fee.

For more information, please refer to the official website HERE.

Shirahige Shrine (白鬚神社)

You probably all know about the great torii gate standing in the sea in Miyajima/Hiroshima, but did you know that you don’t need to travel all the way south to see this amazing scenery? Just north of Kyoto in Shiga Prefecture, Shirahige Shrine is another few shrines in Japan with its torii gate in the water!

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

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Takashima Jinya, Bicycle Rental, and Guesthouse (高島陣舎)

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Apart from JR Ōmi-Takashima Station (近江高島駅), another facility that you can rent a bicycle from is Takashima Jinya, just an 8-minute walk from the station.

Takashima Jinya was renovated from an old traditional house. It has a bicycle rental/repair shop front and a small café space called Tea Space Jinya. When you return your bicycle, how about taking a rest and enjoying some tea and small traditional desserts in the traditional style room?

The owner of Takashima Jinya was a former athlete of BMX bikes. Having a great passion for bicycles, he worked at one of the bicycle makers in Japan before opening his bicycle store.

On the second floor above the shop is a guesthouse. The bedrooms and living room is so spacious that they are entirely different from the small hotel rooms you might have encountered in big cities in Japan.

Also, if you let them know in advance, you can use their kitchen for cooking yourself a nice dinner/breakfast. This option is convenient if you are strict with your diet.

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Furthermore, if you stay at the guesthouse, bicycle rental is free of charge!

Important: Please note bicycle rental and the café are closed in winter. But, if you inquire in advance, they might provide the service depending on their schedule. To enquire, please email them at [email protected].

For more information, you can refer to their website HERE and translate it to English by Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar. The current cost for renting a bicycle is as below.

  • Cross bike: 700 yen/hour or 3,500 yen/day
  • Electric-assisted bike: 400 yen/hour or 2,000 yen/day

Takashima Jinya’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Takashima Jinya is open from 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays and closes late at 6 pm on weekends and public holidays
    • It closes on Wednesdays
  • From JR Ōmi-Takashima Station (近江高島駅), it is around an 8-minute walk

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Kaizu Ōsaki (海津大崎)

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If you come to Kansai for cherry blossoms, consider Kaizu Ōsaki, one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots!

Along the 4 km lakeshore, there are around 800 cherry trees, old and young, that usually blossom in early to mid-April (the exact date of full bloom varies each year). As one of the cherry blossom destinations in the Kansai region with a relatively late cherry blossom season, it can be a good backup plan, too (^_-)-☆.

For more information, please refer to our article on Kaizu Ōsaki!

Ōsaki-ji Temple (大崎寺)

At the cliff of a cape in the middle of Kaizu Ōsaki’s cherry blossom road, you will find Ōsaki-ji, a temple that was founded by the revered monk Taichō (泰澄) in 702. It is also a temple that will excite many history buffs because the building material used to renovate the temple’s ceiling was from Azuchi Castle (安土城). Not only it was from the castle, but the ceiling boards have bloodstains Σ(゚Д゚).

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For more information, please refer to our article on Ōsaki-ji!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Biwako Hakodateyama (びわこ箱館山)

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Biwako Hakodateyama has long been a popular ski resort in Shiga Prefecture. But more recently, it has come to be known as one of the biggest resort parks in the Kansai region. The scenery up in the mountain will definitely woo you to want to keep going back!

In the resort, there is even a café with a fantastic atmosphere that serves parfait in lamps!

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

Sanami-dera Temple (酒波寺)

Sanami-dera is another destination in Takashima City with breathtaking cherry blossom scenery for cherry blossom.

At the side of the staircases leading to the Sanmon Gate, the huge Prunus Itosakura (エドヒガンザクラ) is the temple’s most prominent attraction when it blossoms from early to mid-April. This cherry tree is around 21 meters tall, more than 300 years old, and is also known as Gyōki-zakura (行基桜).

The same as Ōsaki-ji, it is a temple that belongs to the Shingon sect Chiyama school (真言宗智山派) and has an eleven-faced thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva (十一面千手観音) as the principal image of the temple.

Sanami-dera was erected by Gyōki (行基), requested by Emperor Shōmu (聖武天皇). It was a branch temple of Nara’s Kōfuku-ji (興福寺) and had as many as 56 monks’ temple quarters.

The main worship hall Hondō was built by a monk from Mt. Hiei in the early Heian period (794 – 1185). Since then, it had been a training ground for both Shingon and Tendai sects.

In 1556, the temple was revivied by Azai Nagamasa (淺井長政). He is the third and the last feudal lord of the Azai clan. Unfortunately, the temple was largely devastated by Oda Nobunaga’s force in 1572.

In 1662, a monk called Kakunin (覚仁) from Tōdai-ji reconstructed the buildings in the precinct. The temple has since been a training ground for the Shingon sect.

If you wonder why the area/temple is called Sanami, it is because a serpent used to live here. Villagers were troubled by the mess caused by the serpent and had it exterminated by making it drink alcohol.

Although the temple isn’t known as a spot for autumn foliage, if you happen to be close by, it is still worthwhile to visit it for autumn color hunting (^_-)-☆.

How to Get to Sanami-dera

From JR Ōmi Imazu Station (近江今津), take the community bus and get off at Sanami (酒波) or Li (伊井). From the bus stop, it is around a 5 to 15-minute walk.

Please be aware the number of services is limited. Search for the timetable HERE to plan your visit. Or, you can refer to the Japanese timetable HERE that has all services listed. Please only refer to the left timetable on page 1. The service marked in blue only operates on weekdays.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Momiji Pond (もみじ池)

A scenic spot that goes hand in hand with Sanami-dera is the Momiji Pond which is just 850 meters away.

Momiji means maple leaves in Japanese. But even in the green seasons, the view of the lake is gorgeous on a non-windy day.

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Ⓒ びわ湖高島観光協会

Important:
☛ That wooden bridge in the photo is too old to be walked on.
☛ As the pond is just next to a road that cars can drive past, while you enjoy the scenery and take photos, watch out for the ongoing traffic.

The autumn foliage season around Momiji Pond is usually from early to mid-November.

How to Get to Momiji Pond

It is less than a 10-minute walk from Sanami-dera. From the bus stop – Sanami (酒波), it is around a 10-minute walk.

There is a car park close to the lake, but it can only fit two large coaches.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Avenue of Metasequoia (メタセコイア並木)

The next photogenic spot that we are introducing isn’t unique in Japan. But since the scenery here is so picturesque, just like a movie scene, you might still want to stop by!

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The 2.4 km road has around 500 metasequoias lined on its side. The trees here are as tall as 115 meters and may get taller each year!

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In the beginning, tree planting was initially a part of the children’s farm project. But, the project received so much attention and help from local communities that more and more metasequoias were planted. As a result, the trees formed this magnificent view for us to enjoy today!

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  • Spring: Late April to May. It is when light green foliages cover the trees
  • Summer: June to October
  • Fall Foliage Season: From mid-November, the color of the leaves will start changing. Between late November and early December, the color is usually at its peak
  • Winter: Mid-January to February

In the agricultural park Makino Pic-land (マキノピックランド), close to the avenue, Metasequoia Autumn Festival (メタセコイア並木紅葉まつり) is held during the season. The event usually attracts as many as 10,000 visitors to adore the scenery.

Tip: If you are heading there on weekends or public holidays, try to head out as early as possible. You might run into traffic jams from 9 am onwards.

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How to Get to Avenue of Metasequoia

From JR Makino Station (マキノ駅), take the community bus for around 10 minutes and get off at Makino Pic-land (マキノピックランド).

 Please note that there is only one bus service per hour. You can refer to the timetable HERE to plan. The first page is for weekdays, and the second page is for weekends and public holidays.

The cost per ride is 220 yen for adults and 110 yen for children.

Tip: You can also rent a bike from JR Makino Station.

You can park at the free car park at Makino Pic-land if you are driving.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Namiki Cafe Metasequoia (並木カフェ メタセコイア)

If you find it unsettling to adore the view at the Avenue of Metasequoia, how about grabbing a seat at Namiki Café Metasequoia close to the avenue?

Namiki Café Metasequoia is in the agricultural park – Makino Pic-land. Whilst the café doesn’t have a savory vegetarian menu, you can enjoy a cup of drink and/or a plate of gorgeously decorated cake if you eat eggs. Their dessert menu is created and changed regularly by the pastry chef trained at a hotel in Kyoto. So if you have the luxury of stopping by the café multiple times, there should be new items on the menu waiting for you to discover!

If you sit by the window, you can get a picture of the desserts you ordered with the tree-lined avenue. When the weather is warmer, you might want to go for their outdoor seating for the fresh air only available in rural areas nowadays.

One thing to note is the facilities of Makino Pic-land can look like someone else’s houses from afar. But they have a menu or advertisement board beside the gates (albeit small). So it might be confusing as their buildings blend into the surrounding township too well (´▽`*).

The cafe’s opening hours are 10:30 am to 4 pm, and 10 am to 4:30 pm on weekends and public holidays.

If you are after a place nearby for lunch, Namiki Restaurant Tsubame (なみ木食堂 ツバメ) does have a few noodle soups with vegetable toppings (albeit the soup is most likely not vegetarian).

You can also get some gelato made from the fruits harvested from the park!

Suppose you love fruit picking from late May to autumn, head to their vast orchard for an all-you-can-eat session. There are cherries, grapes, blueberries, apples, and strawberries planted across the field!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Makino Kōgen Onsen Sarasa (マキノ高原温泉さらさ)

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After adoring the view forms by the Metasequoia trees, how about heading to a hot spring resort? Just around a 30-minute walk away from the Avenue of Metasequoia, Makino Kōgen Onsen Sarasa is one of the few onsen facilities in Japan where you can enjoy the natural hot springs without being fully naked. After a day of outdoor activities, relaxing in the onsen and maybe even a sauna session is the best thing to do!

One of their open-air hot spring pools comes with a magnificent view of the Akasaka mountain range (赤坂山系). Moreover, their mixed-gendered onsen area is so spacious that it has a capacity of 200 people! It is the area where you can enjoy the hot spring with swimmers. Of course, it isn’t just a large hot spring pool. It is divided into a couple of zones, including a jacuzzi, sauna, walking zone, and children’s zones.

Important: Please be aware that their restaurant has no vegetarian menu. The noodle soup with vegetable toppings contains seafood extract (and likely a fishcake). If you don’t mind the non-vegetarian broth/sauce, utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to order a noodle soup without the fishcake.

Makino Kōgen Onsen Sarasa’s Opening Hours, Cost, and Access Information

  • The cost to enter their single-gendered onsen facility is
    • 700 yen for adults
    • 400 yen for children from the age of 3 to 11
  • The cost to enter both single-gendered and mixed-gendered onsen facilities are
    • 1,300 yen for adults
    • 700 yen for children from the age of 3 to 11
    • If you need to rent a swimming suit, it will cost an extra 360 yen
  • Please note towels and amenities aren’t free of charge
  • The hot spring facilities are open from 10 am to 9 pm.
    • The last admission is at 8:30 pm
    • As the facility might be closed for maintenance, please refer to their calendar HERE beforehand and avoid days that are marked as “定休日”
  • From JR Makino Station (マキノ駅), take the community bus and get off at Makino Kogen Onsen Sarasa (マキノ高原温泉さらさ)
    • You can refer to the timetable in green on page 1 HERE. Please use the Japanese name of the bus stops to read

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Kōshō-ji Temple (興聖寺)

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In 1243, when the founder of Japan’s Sōdō sect (曹洞宗) – Dogenzenshi (道元禅師), came back to Japan from studying Buddhism in China, he visited Kutsuki (朽木) village at the west of Takashima City. The scenery that he saw in the village is said to be quite similar to the Kōshō-ji in Uji, Kyoto. Being very impressed by this fact, he pleaded to the Kutsuki’s lord and established a Kōshō-ji in Takashima.

Although it isn’t a popular tourist destination, the spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains and the Ado River (安曇川) is one of its best charms. The main image of the temple, a wooden sitting Gautama Buddha (釈迦如来), is the last masterpiece from the revered monk Saichō (最澄) in the Heian period. It is currently an Important National Cultural Property.

Kōshō-ji’s Garden

The garden of Kōshō-ji is designated as a National Place of Scenery Beauty. The garden used to be the garden of the residence of the 12th Shogun of Muromachi shogunate Ashikaga Yoshiharu (足利義晴) and the 13th shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (足利義輝).

The residence was where they lived for three years from 1528 when they were escaping from a series of rebellions of military commanders around the country.

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The spacious garden was designed by Hosokawa Takakuni (細川高国), one of the most powerful military commanders under Ashikaga Yoshiharu. It is said that he made the garden to comfort his lord and it is therefore also known as Ashikaga Garden (Ashikaga Teien, 足利庭園).

The garden is a Chisen Kaiyu style garden (池泉鑑賞式庭園), which is a type of garden focusing on the design of its ponds. It mimics the scenery of the Ado River and the Hira mountain range nearby. A stone waterfall is set up on an artificial hill on the west side. In the pond, stone bridges are placed to connect the two small islands to the shore.

Another name for the garden is the Garden of the Former Site of Shūrin-ji Temple (旧秀隣寺庭園). Before 1729, where Kōshō-ji now had another temple standing. Shūrin-ji, which was relocated after Kōshō-ji was moved to its current location.

Tip: The autumn foliage season typically peaks between early to mid-November.

Kōshō-ji’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The temple is open from 9 am to 5 pm
  • From Adogawa Station (安曇川駅), take the community bus and get off at Kutsuki Gakkōmae (朽木学校前). From the bus stop, it is around a 10-minute walk
    • You can refer to the timetable on page 2 HERE. Please use the Japanese name of the bus stops to read

Tip: If you are visiting Kōshō-ji on a Sunday, stop by the Roadside Station Kutsuki Shinhonjin (道の駅 くつき新本陣) for its morning market. It is less than a 15-minute walk away!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

Onyu Pass (おにゅう峠)

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If you have access to a car in the fall (late October to early November), drive up to Onyudani (小入谷) for some incredible natural scenery!

Located on the prefectural border between Shiga and Fukui Prefectures, the scenery from the Onyu Pass is just breathtaking, especially when the sea of clouds covers the lower parts of the surrounding mountains in the early morning.

The ridge is situated at an elevation of 820 meters. When the weather conditions are right, the bright sunshine will color the white clouds floating around the mountains gold!

Arrive in the observatory area a bit earlier than dawn. You might be able to see the fantastic scenery created by the headlights of vehicles running through the motorway below you, one after another (see those bright spots shining out of the dark forest?). It is like a golden river suddenly appears (or does it look more like a lava stream to you?)!

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Tip: A popular place for photography is at the side of the road down from the summit of the Onyu Pass to the Shiga Prefecture side. The summit isn’t where you want to be for the sea of clouds.

Things to Watch out for

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Whilst the autumn color will stay for a couple of weeks, the sea of cloud phenomenon only lasts for a few hours from dawn. And it isn’t going to happen every day.

The period of the year where you have a bigger chance of seeing the sea of clouds at Onyu Pass is between October to November. And to maximize the possibility, please consider the below before you head out.

  • It is not a windy or rainy day
  • If the temperature difference between the highest temperature the day before and the lowest temperature on the day you are visiting Onyu Pass is more than 10 degrees, you should have a greater chance of seeing the sea of clouds

Lastly, keep in mind that the motorway is narrow. So drive carefully, especially in the darkness.

How to Get to Onyu Pass

  • From JR Adogawa Station (安曇川駅), it is around a 70 to 90-minute drive
  • From Roadside Station Kutsuki Shinhonjin (道の駅 くつき新本陣), it is around a 60-minute drive

From the western side of Lake Biwa, take National Highway no. 161 driving towards Takashima City. Then change for Prefectural Motorway no. 23 then no. 781.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Takashima.

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