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Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Takei Island – The Small Sacred Island on Lake Biwa

On Japan’s biggest lake, Lake Biwa, there are a total of four islands, and one of them belongs to Hikone City‘s administrative area. Takei Island (多景島) is a small island with a circumference of about 600 meters, floating about 6.5 km off the city’s coast. Similar to Chikubu Island, which isn’t too far away, the entire island is treated as sacred land.

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Initially, the island mainly consisted of granite and only had bamboo growing on it. So it was named Bamboo Island (Takejima, 竹島).

In the Edo period (1603 – 1867), soils and different plants were moved from Mt. Kōjin (荒神山), creating a variety of landscapes on the island depending on where you view the island from. Thus, the island’s name was changed to Takei, meaning diverse scenery.

How to Get to Takei Island

The only viable way to get to Takei Island is by taking a ferry from Hikone Port, close to Hikone Castle.

From JR Hikone Station to Hikone Port, it is a 30-minute walk. If you visit Hikone on weekends or public holidays, you can utilize the free shuttle bus connecting Hikone Station with Hikone Port. The bus stop is at the station’s west exit.

Although in Japanese only, please refer to the timetable HERE for the shuttle bus’s timetable. Refer to HERE for the ferry’s timetable.

  • Takei Island = 多景島
  • Depature = 発
  • Arrival = 着

Tip: On weekdays, you can take a taxi from JR Hikone Station. Remember to get an invoice from the driver for a 30% discount on your ferry ticket.

For you to check out the island from all angles, the ferry will go around the island slowly for you to take some stunning photos.

You will have around 30 minutes on the island. This is usually more than enough to explore the sacred island.

Important:
☛ Please keep your ticket after you arrive on the island. You will need it for your return trip.
☛ Please be aware there is no ferry service from December to February.

Chikubu-Island-Nagahama-Shiga-Japan
Ⓒ びわこビジターズビューロー

Note that you can also get to Chikubu Island from Hikone Port. Because currently, there is only one service to Takei Island per day, many choose to board the ferry to Chikubu Island in the morning and explore Takei Island in the afternoon.

How Much Does the Ferry to Takei Island Cost?

  • 1,500 yen for adults
  • 1,200 yen for high school and university students
    • You have to show your student ID
  • 700 yen for elementary school students

Tip: Utilize the coin lockers at Hikone Port. Lighten up yourself to make it easier to hike on Takei Island.

Important: On a windy day, the ship will sway significantly. So if you sit on the deck, you will likely get wet. Also, remember to take preventative measures if you tend to get travel sickness.

Ryōmusan Kentō-ji Temple (霊夢山 見塔寺)

The entire Takei Island is the precinct of Kentō-ji Temple.

Following the staircases from the pier, the temple’s main worship hall is the first large architecture you will encounter on Takei Island.

The temple was erected by a monk called Nissei (日靖上人) from Myōho-ji (妙法寺) in Nagahama to pray for those who suffered from a shipwreck in Lake Biwa and the marine life that was fished.

One night, he had a dream where he saw himself crossing Lake Biwa and establishing a pagoda and a small Buddhist convent. Taking the dream seriously, Kentō-ji was founded in 1655.

Shaka Danjiki Gyō-zō (釈迦断食行像) and Shichi Jyūsō-tō Pagoda (七重層塔)

Trekking further into the island from Kentō-ji Temple, the next notable building is a worship hall with a statue of Buddha just after extended fasting.

Across Japan, this is the only Buddha fasting statue. It is said that the statue has traveled all the way from China to Japan.

Close to the small worship hall, there is a seven-story pagoda.

The eight-meter pagoda was made at the request of the 3rd lord of the Hikone Domain. Feeling grateful for his father, he built the pagoda to pray for a good afterlife for him.

On each of the stories, a word of the name of the Lotus Sutra, Namu Myōhō Renge-kyō (南無妙法蓮華経), is engraved.

Tip: Remember to head to the back of the pagoda for a panoramic view of Lake Biwa.

The Pillar of Oath (Chikai no Ohashira, 誓いの御柱)

While you are on the ferry sailing toward Takei Island, you will notice a tall building sticking out of nature on the island. What is it? It is the Pillar of Oath.

The 20-meter tall pentagonal pillar stands at the highest spot of Takei Island at the back of the main worship hall. It was completed in 1924.

The oath engraved on each side of the pillar is the five oaths of the Meiji emperor.

With Japan welcoming a new era, Meiji, the Shiga Prefecture Police Chief, called for donations to erect this pillar on the island, which is at the center of the territory of Japan. Around 700,000 people donated and supported the idea that Meiji is the era to end the endless civil wars that had made the people suffer.

Apparently, the imperial court donated as well!

Daimoku-iwa Rock (題目岩)

At the other end of Takei Island, there was a 10-meter tall rock. On the rock, the title of the Lotus Sutra: Namu Myōhō Renge-kyō (南無妙法蓮華経) was engraved over three-year time by Nissei from 1692.

It is said that when the 13th lord of Hikone Domain was attacked and assassinated in the Sakuradamon Incident (桜田門外の変), this rock was smeared with fresh blood.

For more information about the life of Ii Naosuke, the 13th lord of Hikone Domain, please refer to our article on Hikone Castle, where we talk about Umoregi no Ya.

You might be wondering why we used the past tense to describe the rock. It is because it was weathered, and a large part fell into Lake Biwa in 2018.

So, unfortunately, when you are on Takei Island, you won’t be able to see most of the words carved, but only a part of the rock that remains standing.

In front of the rock is a statue of Nichiren (日蓮). He founded Japan’s Hokkei school (法華宗), which has training based on the teaching in the Lotus Sutra.

Important: Please note the promenade leading to the rock isn’t flat. So watch your steps to avoid being tripped over by uneven surfaces.

Discover Where Else to Visit in Hikone

Taga-Taisha-Taiko-bashi-Hikone-Shiga-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about other attractions 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!

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