Koto Sanzan Temple Trio autumn foliage 2018

pagoda

Saimyoji’s 3-story pagoda, a National Treasure.

In 2018, the Koto Sanzan autumn foliage season will be November 17th–25th, 2018. Shuttle buses will run between Hikone Station and the three Koto Sanzan temples. The shuttle bus day pass is ¥1,500 (Momiji kippu) sold at Hikone Station’s west exit bus stop.

Koto Sanzan (湖東三山) is a trio of large Tendai Buddhist temples famous for autumn leaves in eastern Shiga. They are Saimyoji (西明寺) in KoraKongorinji (金剛輪寺) in Aisho, and Hyakusaiji (百済寺) in Higashi-Omi (see map below). They are also famous for structures that are National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.

Each temple has its own unique characteristics. Saimyoji’s main temple and pagoda are both National Treasures that you can enter. It’s also deservedly one of Japan’s 100 Grand Autumn Foliage Sites. Kongorinji has many colorfully dressed Jizo statues and a National Treasure main temple housing an 11-faced Kannon statue and 13 other statues that are Important Cultural Properties. Hyakusaiji is famous for giant straw sandals on a gate and a Japanese garden. Established by Shotoku Taishi in 609, Hyakusaiji is Shiga Prefecture’s oldest temple and one of Japan’s oldest. After entering the gate adorned with a pair of giant straw sandals, see the Hondo temple hall with an 11-faced Kannon statue carved by Shotoku Taishi, a prince credited with spreading Buddhism in Japan.

Each temple charges admission ¥600 for adults.

Kongorinji

Kongorinji

Hyakusaiji

Hyakusaiji

Autumn foliage shuttle bus

Autumn foliage shuttle bus

During this year’s autumn foliage season from November 17–25, 2018, convenient, low-cost shuttle buses (Koto Sanzan Shuttle Bus) run every day between Hikone Station and these three Koto Sanzan temples. At Hikone Station, the first shuttle bus leaves at 9 a.m. and goes to Saimyoji, Kongorinji, and Hyakusaiji. From Hyakusaiji, the shuttle bus goes back to Hikone Station while stopping at the other temples along the way. (See the shuttle bus schedule below.) It will take most of the day to see all three temples so start as early as you can in the morning. (Unlike in previous years, the shuttle bus no longer runs to Eigenji and Yokaichi Station.)

Although you can pay the shuttle bus fare per ride (costing ¥300 to ¥600), I recommend buying the day pass called Momiji kippu (Maple ticket) for ¥1,500 (¥750 for kids). This day pass is good for riding the shuttle bus between Hikone Station and the three temples. Get on and off as much as you like for one day. So you start and end at Hikone Station. The Momiji kippu day pass is sold at Hikone Station’s bus stop at the west exit from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. If you like to take your time (for photography, etc.), you might not have time to see all three temples in one day.

There are also guided tour buses (teiki kanko bus) departing Nagahama, Kyoto, Maibara, and Hikone Stations that are much more expensive (around ¥8,000) and follow a set tour schedule. No English guides.

Koto Sanzan Foliage Shuttle Bus Schedule (Nov. 17th–25th, 2018), Hikone Station to Hyakusaiji (read down).
Bus StopBus 1Bus 2Bus 3Bus 4 
Hikone Station9:00 am9:35 am10:35 am11:35 am
Taga Town Hall9:25 am10:00 am11:00 am12:00 pm
Seseragi no Sato9:30 am10:05 am11:05 am12:05 pm
Saimyoji9:35 am10:10 am11:10 am12:10 pm
Kongorinji10:20 am11:20 am12:20 pm
Kongoen-guchi11:25 am12:25 pm
Crefeel Koto11:31 am12:31 pm
Yomiaido11:35 am12:35 pm
Arrive Hyakusaiji11:45 am12:45 pm
Koto Sanzan Foliage Shuttle Bus Schedule (Nov. 17th–25th, 2018), return trip from Hyakusaiji to Hikone Station (Read down)
Bus StopBus 1Bus 2Bus 3Bus 4 
Depart Hyakusaiji12:50 pm1:50 pm3:15 pm4:15 pm
Yomiaido12:55 pm1:55 pm3:20 pm4:20 pm
Crefeel Koto12:59 pm1:59 pm3:24 pm4:24 pm
Kongoen-guchi1:05 pm205 pm3:30 pm4:30 pm
Kongorinji1:10 pm2:10 pm3:35 pm4:35 pm
Saimyoji1:20 pm2:20 pm3:45 pm4:45 pm
Seseragi no Sato1:25 pm2:25 pm3:50 pm4:50 pm
Taga Town Hall1:30 pm2:30 pm3:55 pm4:55 pm
Arrive Hikone Station2:00 pm3:00 pm4:25 pm5:25 pm

If you have time on another day, also see Eigenji temple (永源寺) in Higashi-Omi. Being a Zen Buddhist temple, it’s not part of the Koto Sanzan Trio and the shuttle buses do not run to/from Eigenji. Buses run to Eigenji from Yokaichi Station.

Eigenji

Eigenji

秋の湖東三山
Shuttle bus info in Japanese:
http://www.ohmitetudo.co.jp/bus/2018.10.31kotousanzan/index.html/

Official temple sites: Saimyoji | Kongorinji | Hyakusaiji