Went to Mitsui Memorial Museum in Nihonbashi, Tokyo to see an exhibition of religious art from Shiga Prefecture. It was excellent. Buddha statues, mandalas, bells, scrolls, etc., from many of the major Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Shiga were displayed, including two National Treasures and many Important Cultural Properties. Many of these things we normally cannot see even when we visit the temple/shrine. The exhibition ends on Nov. 25, 2012. Admission is 1,200 yen for adults. English captions are provided.
The hot summer is upon us and we need to think about ways to stay cool without using too much electricity. Some of the nuclear power plants in neighboring Fukui are offline for inspections and the local residents understandably do not want them to be restarted. Hence, the current power shortage and power-saving efforts in Shiga/Kyoto/Osaka.
I recently found a great way to stay cool: Waterfalls. Did you know that there are numerous waterfalls in Shiga? Hardly anyone knows about waterfalls in Shiga since none are exceptionally famous. But a book about waterfalls in Shiga (ISBN 978-4-88325-165-0) was published last year and I was surprised to find over 45 waterfalls in Shiga listed. Actually, Shiga should have many waterfalls since we do have many mountains and streams/rivers flowing into Lake Biwa.
But I was shocked to realize that I had never seen a waterfall in Shiga. I had never even thought about seeing waterfalls in Shiga until a woodblock print artist in Michigan asked me about it. So I bought the waterfall book and did some reading. As usual, Japan has a list of 100 Most Famous Waterfalls and one of them is in Shiga, called Yatsubuchi-no-taki (Yatsubuchi Falls) in Takashima. It is a series of eight waterfalls. (See detailed description below.)
Some waterfalls are far or hazardous to reach, and a few are easy to get to like the first waterfall I ever visited in Shiga which was the Fudo-no-taki Waterfall in the city of Konan (see video above). It is a short taxi ride south of Mikumo Station on the JR Kusatsu Line. The waterfall is a short walk from the road. The place is a small river gorge lush with trees and greenery and very cool. Waterfalls are a great place to cool off during the hot summer. This waterfall is also a religious spot for pilgrims. You may see a pilgrim bathing to purify him/herself.
I have started including locations of waterfalls in my Google maps of Shiga cities and towns. I describe only two waterfalls in Shiga below. If anybody else has visited a waterfall in Shiga, you are welcome to send me links to any photos/videos you have and I’ll post them here. Hope you all stay cool this summer.
Mikumo Fudo-no-taki Waterfall 三雲 不動の滝
Fudo is the name of a god and many waterfalls are named Fudo-no-taki. About 5 meters high. Next to the falls is an altar for the Fudo Myo-o god. (See video above.)
Directions: JR Mikumo Station (JR Kusatsu Line) is the closest station. From the train station, it’s about 1.4 km by car or 700 meters south from the Mikumo intersection. There’s a roadside stone marker for the waterfall and when you enter the path and walk toward the river, you will see the falls. It’s very near the road.
Located in Takashima, one of Japan’s 100 Most Famous Waterfalls and Shiga’s most acclaimed waterfalls. It is a series of eight waterfalls along a river. Each waterfall has a name and they come in a great variety.
The problem is, most of the falls require a steep trail to access. You will need to grab chains while climbing rockfaces or go up a ladder set on rock. If you’re afraid of heights, better not to try and see the more difficult falls. You need to cross the river so shoes will get wet. If it had rained, the water level will rise, making it dangerous to cross the river or waterfall.
Only two of the waterfalls (Osuribachi and Kosuribachi) are accessible by a normal hiking trail taking about 30 min. from the Gulliver Village parking lot. Osuribachi empties into a small basin and it is popular among hikers to rest and have lunch. To see the rest of the eight falls, you will have to take the steep trails. Have to be very careful.
Directions: JR Omi-Takashima is the nearest train station. Bus is available to Gulliver Village. From Gulliver Village the waterfall/mountain trail starts. Parking is also available at Gulliver Village.
In the city of Konan, JR Kosei Station (甲西駅) on the JR Kusatsu Line now has rental bicycles. You can rent them in front of the station. There are five bicycles for rent, and two of them are electric bicycles. Rental fee is 500 yen per day or 700 yen for the electric bicycles. Available from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
One great hands-on experience in Shiga is indigo dyeing in Konan. An indigo fabric shop called Konki Senshoku offers easy indigo dyeing lessons using something as small as a handkerchief or as large as a T-shirt.
We tried it with a small handkerchief (1200 yen) and it was fun, though we got mixed results in the final tie-dye design. But it was fun and interesting.
One unique or rare thing about this shop is that they use natural indigo dye, from indigo plants that they grow themselves.
Known as the Konan Sanzan Temple Trio, Chojuji (長寿寺), Jorakuji (常楽寺), and Zensuiji temples in the city of Konan are Tendai Buddhist temples noted for buildings designated as National Treasures. They also have nice fall leaves.
From Ishibe Station, I visited Chojuji and Jorakuji temples. Took a bus to Chojuji, then walked downhill to Jorakuji.