Updated: This page has been updated here for November 2017.
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 Kora, Kongorinji (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. The Hondo temple hall has an 11-faced Kannon statue carved by Shotoku Taishi, a prince credited with spreading Buddhism in Japan. Each temple charges admission of ¥600 for adults.
During the autumn foliage season from November 19–27, 2016, convenient, low-cost shuttle buses (Koto Sanzan Shuttle Bus) run every day between these three temples and Hikone Station and Yokaichi Station. You can either start at Hikone Station or Yokaichi Station. At Hikone Station, the first shuttle bus leaves at 9 am and goes to Saimyoji first. From Yokaichi Station, you can get on the first (and only) shuttle bus at 9:45 am to go to Hyakusaiji. It will take most of the day to see all three temples so start as early as you can in the morning. Another option is to also see Eigenji temple in Higashi-Omi. Being a Zen Buddhist temple, it’s not part of the Koto Sanzan Trio, but it is near Hyakusaiji and also famous for autumn leaves. You can either visit Eigenji first by taking a bus from Yokaichi Station, or visit it last after Hyakusaiji.
I recommend starting from Hikone Station so you’ll work your way south by visiting Saimyoji first, then Kongorinji and Hyakusaiji (see shuttle bus schedule below). If you have time, you can take a local bus from Hyakusaiji to Eigenji. If you don’t have time, from Hyakusaiji, you can take the shuttle bus back to Hikone Station (last bus at 4:50 pm) or to Yokaichi Station (last bus at 5 pm). From Yokaichi Station, you can take the Ohmi Railways to JR Omi-Hachiman Station.
Bus fare is ¥200 to ¥600 per ride depending on the distance. They also offer a day pass called Momiji kippu (Maple ticket) for ¥1,800 (¥900 for kids). This day pass includes passage on the shuttle buses and local buses to/from the train stations to the three Koto Sanzan temples and Eigenji and Ohmi Railways trains between Yokaichi and Omi-Hachiman Stations. A good deal if you plan to ride on Ohmi Railways. The Momiji kippu day pass is sold at Hikone Station (west exit bus stop), Omi-Hachiman Station (Ohmi Railways ticket office), and Yokaichi Station. 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. The shuttle buses allows you a more flexible schedule, but just remember what time the last bus leaves.Koto Sanzan Foliage Shuttle Bus Schedule, Hikone Station to Yokaichi (Read down)
|Bus Stop||Bus 1||Bus 2||Bus 3||Bus 4||Bus 5||Bus 6|
|Hikone Station||9:00 am||9:35 am||10:00 am||11:00 am||1:00 pm||2:30 pm|
|Taga Town Hall||9:25 am||10:00 am||10:25 am||11:25 am||1:25 pm||2:55 pm|
|Seseragi no Sato||9:30 am||10:05 am||10:30 am||11:30 am||1:30 pm||3:00 pm|
|Saimyoji||9:35 am||10:10 am||10:35 am||11:35 am||1:35 pm||3:05 pm|
|Kongorinji||9:45 am||10:45 am||11:45 am||1:45 pm||3:15 pm|
|Kongoen-guchi||9:50 am||10:50 am||11:50 am||1:50 pm||3:20 pm|
|Crefeel Koto||9:56 am||10:56 am||11:56 am||1:56 pm||3:26 pm|
|Yomiaido||10:00 am||11:00 am||12:00 pm||2:00 pm||3:30 pm|
|Arrive Hyakusaiji||10:10 am||11:10 am||12:10 pm||2:10 pm||3:40 pm|
|Depart Hyakusaiji||10:20 am||11:25 am||12:50 pm||1:55 pm||3:00 pm||3:55 pm||5:00 pm|
|Arrive Eigenji*||10:40 am||11:45 am||1:10 pm||2:15 pm||3:20 pm||4:15 pm||-|
|Arrive Yokaichi Station||5:25 pm|
*From Eigenji, buses bound for Yokaichi Station leave once or twice an hour until 8:27 pm on weekdays or 7:16 pm on weekends and holidays.Local Bus Schedule, Yokaichi to Eigenji and Hyakusaiji (Read down)
|Depart Yokaichi Station||9:45 am||For Eigenji on weekdays: 8:32 am, 9:10 am, 10:10 am, 11:15 am, 12:15 pm||For Eigenji on weekends: 7:50 am, 8:40 am, 9:10 am, 10:15 am, 11:15 am, 12:15 pm|
|Depart Eigenji||-||10:50 am||11:55 am||1:20 pm||2:25 pm||3:30 pm||4:20 pm|
|Arrive Hyakusaiji||10:10 am||11:10 am||12:15 pm||1:40 pm||2:45 pm||3:50 pm||4:40 pm|
|Bus Stop||Bus 1||Bus 2||Bus 3||Bus 4||Bus 5||Bus 6|
|Depart Hyakusaiji||10:30 am||11:50 pm||1:25 pm||2:50 pm||4:20 pm||4:50 pm|
|Yomiaido||10:40 am||12:00 pm||1:35 pm||3:00 pm||4:30 pm||5:00 pm|
|Crefeel Koto||10:44 am||12:04 pm||1:39 pm||3:04 pm||4:34 pm||5:04 pm|
|Kongoen-guchi||10:50 am||12:10 pm||1:45 pm||3:10 pm||4:40 pm||5:10 pm|
|Kongorinji||10:55 am||12:15 pm||1:50 pm||3:15 pm||4:45 pm||5:15 pm|
|Saimyoji||11:05 am||12:25 pm||2:00 pm||3:25 pm||4:55 pm||5:25 pm|
|Seseragi no Sato||11:10 am||12:30 pm||2:05 pm||3:30 pm||5:00 pm||5:30 pm|
|Taga Town Hall||11:15 am||12:35 pm||2:10 pm||3:35 pm||5:05 pm||5:35 pm|
|Arrive Hikone Station||11:40 am||1:00 pm||2:35 pm||4:00 pm||5:30 pm||6:00 pm|
Shuttle bus info in Japanese: http://www.ohmitetudo.co.jp/bus/kotousanzan_shuttle/index.html/
Japanese pamphlet: http://www.ohmitetudo.co.jp/file/bus_kotousanzan_shuttle2016.pdf
Official sites: Saimyoji | Kongorinji | Hyakusaiji