The Mysterious ＆ Carefree Journey in SHIGA
Witness the excellence of true Japanese culture in the Kansai region, the reputed home of ironically Japanese traditions and essence. Take part in a custom-tailored tour to meet world-class artisans in exclusive spaces like never seen before.
Here in Shiga, Enjoy an exclusive tour filled with National Treasures and experience morning prayers at Miidera Temple. The temple boasts a rich 1,300-year history and is the head temple for the Tendai sect of Buddhism. Additionally, visit a magnificent tea plantation, roast your own tea, and experience the unique tea culture, the birthplace of Japanese tea.
Miidera Temple Special Cultural Experience
Miidera Temple, officially named Onjo-ji Temple, is the head temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, and it stands southwest of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. This ancient temple was built over 1,200 years ago and has long been considered one of the most important sites of spiritual significance in Shiga Prefecture. Miidera Temple represents the Jimon branch of the Tendai sect, and Enryakuji Temple, which is also in Shiga Prefecture, is the Sanmon branch; they are rival branches of the sect created in the 9th century. At numerous points in their shared history, Miidera Temple has been in conflict with Enryakuji Temple, however, overcoming tribulation every time, earned it the nickname “Phoenix Temple” and it continues to be a vital part of the local landscape. National Treasures at Miidera Temple include the many Buddhist statues and images that are normally withheld from the public, including the Kifudozo, a rare depiction of Fudo Myo-o with golden skin. The number of National Treasures owned by the temple is one of the largest in Japan, with 64 National Treasures and 720 Important Cultural Properties. On this tour, when possible you will be given an audience with a senior monk to hear more about this traditional and prestigious temple over tea. Additionally, the tour will include a variety of unique cultural experiences, including viewing National Treasures and exclusive visits to areas of the temple closed to the public. We can put together a program, or participants can choose from a selection of cultural experiences to enjoy that will bring the timeless history of Miidera Temple to life. The first experience option includes viewing various National Treasures on the temple grounds; the Kojoin guest house and a zazen meditation experience in the Kangakuin guest house. The zazen meditation experience faces a historic landscape garden and is held in an exquisite room with sliding doors which are Important Culture Properties painted in the style of the Kano School, one of the most famous Japanese schools of painting. The second experience is a visit inside the first tier of a three-tier pagoda, which has until now only ever been open to the public once, for 10 days. Other options include visiting the 14th point of 33 on the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage and participating in a special ceremony where wooden prayers sticks are burned to purify the participants. Or alternatively, being allowed on to the historic Kangetsu Stage, which is typically reserved only for performers and speakers during festivals or rituals.
Waqoo Miidera Temple
This tour also includes accommodation within temple grounds, at Waqoo Miidera. Myogonin, which was once the Buddhist priests’ temple quarters, has been renovated and transformed into guest accommodation. Only one group can stay at a time, and guests have freedom to use not only the accommodation, but the entire 800 square meters of gardens and surrounding area. The building was designed and produced by Japanese architect, Shuwa Tei, who incorporated Japanese touches such as the use of washi paper, earthy tones including mud walls, and touches of traditional “wa” culture within a contemporary ambiance. Additionally, the Buddhist altar in the accommodation includes a Fudo Myo-o statue that is exclusively reserved for prayer and contemplation by guests, a very fitting addition considering the origins of the accommodation. Have absolute freedom of choice for dinner from shojin ryori Japanese vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, to catering by a sushi chef or various other Japanese cuisine classics. For those who are interested, a special Shiga prefecture chefs’ performance called the Seiwa Shijyoryu (The Way of Cooking Knives) can be arranged for dinner where the chef will dazzle you with their intricate cutting techniques.
Miidera Temple Kannon Hall
Attend and experience a morning prayers ceremony with the monks on the grounds of Miidera Temple’s 「Kannon Hall」. The second day of the tour will start with sutra chanting and a service to the enshrined deity, the Nyoirin Kannon, one of the bodhisattvas that represents salvation. A ceremony like this goes beyond superficial characteristics that divide people such as nationality or religion, to bring peace to the heart as you contemplate the wisdom of the Buddha. Experience a Buddhist ritual that’s been passed down for thousands of years while enjoying the crisp early morning air.
Tongu Grand Tea Garden
The Buddhist monk, Saicho, founded Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei around the 9th century in order to spread the Tendai sect teachings in Shiga, which he had learned while in Tang (part of present-day China). The history of Japanese tea started when Saicho brought tea seeds to Japan and planted them in Shiga prefecture. With suitable tea cultivation conditions including sharp temperature shifts from day to night and frequent fogging, Shiga prefecture soon became the leading producer of Japanese tea. There are many tea fields in Koka City, which produces roughly 90% of tea in the prefecture, but the Tongu Grand Tea Garden is recognized as one of the largest among them, and all of Japan. The low rolling hills, suitable for tea cultivation, is also the perfect atmosphere to relax in. Under the special guidance of a tenth-degree tea master, an accolade currently only awarded to 15 people in Japan, discover the scenic tea fields and the possibilities of the tea leaves grown there.
Ohmi-Cha Maruyoshi Honten offers a wide range of products using tea leaves cultivated in Shiga Prefecture, including from Tongu Grand Tea Garden. The seventh-generation master, Yoshinaga Kenji, is a Japanese tea expert with a tenth-degree tea master qualification, which only 15 in Japan hold. Yoshinaga, who is always inspiring delicious ways to drink and enjoy Japanese tea, has prepared a special hojicha roasted green tea experience exclusively for to tour participants. Starting with a hojicha tasting to compare the various flavors depending on brewing and pouring methods, you then have the opportunity to make your own original blend with the help of the tea master. Complete the experience with some Japanese chagashi sweets which marry green tea with confectionary. The self-made original blends will be wrapped to take home as a souvenir.
About this tour
This tour has been planned as part of our efforts to help achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) adopted by the United Nations in 2015. A portion of tour fees paid by all participants will be used to maintain and pass on the tangible and intangible cultural assets of Kansai, the origin of Japanese culture, to the next generation. This aims to create a positive cycle of cultural tourism; we look forward to your participation.