Saimyoji Temple


It is hard to see the princess of spring - cherry blossom in the dryly chill of November which burns every fragile leaves hanging on maple trees in blazing red fire. However, magic will appear at Saimyoji Temple in Shiga prefecture, you can really see the continuously blooming cherry tree showing its beautifully smooth blossoms dotted in the color of fall. Saimyoji temple is the main and the northern - most one of the three Koto Sanzan temples of the Tendai Sect. Thanks to well preservation, the temple keeps its original pure Japanese-style construction that does not use a single nail.


Saimyoji temple was built in 834 by the priest Sanshu following the command of  Emperor Nimmyo. Playing as place of praying, training and searching for enlightenment, Saimyoji gained its flourishing time during the Heian, Kamakura, and Muromachi periods. It was recorded that at that time, Saimyoji owned 17 Buddha halls and 300 priests’ lodgings and its reputation was recognized by the event the shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo once visited the temple to pray for his victory in battle. Saimyoji also fell in fire of the warlord Oda Nobunaga when he burned the Enryakuji temple on Mountain Hiei but it luckily saved its main structures and being recovered in Edo time.


The Main hall Ruriden, the three storied pagoda and the Nitenmon gate are the only three original structures at Saimyoji temple. The master carpenters of the Hida region in the early part of the Kamakura period used cypress bark for the roof over a pure Japanese architectural style without using any single nail then when you stand on its short wooden stairs in the middle of four huge columns supporting the sloping eaves and looking up at lattice patterns on the wall and door, you can hear the breath of a masterpiece.


The three storied pagoda reaching 23.7 meters in height was designed by the same carpenters constructing the main hall, entirely made of cypress wood and roofed by cypress bark. On walls of the first story, you can can enjoy paintings belonging to the Kose school's artists. They illustrated the Lotus Sutra in brilliant colors with 32 bodhisattvas and Vairocana Buddha in patterns of floral arabesque. Nitenmon gate was built in Muromachi period in Hakkyaku-mon style with four main supporting posts and eight smaller subsidiary supporting posts. Inside its structure, Saimyoji houses an grandiose collection of treasures including its principal image of Honzon Yakushi Nyorai, images of Shaka Nyorai, Fudo Myo-o and two doji, Nitenno-Komoku-ten and Tamon-ten, two of the Four Guardian Kings as well as Nikko Bosatsu and Gakko Bosatsu, the Bodhisattvas of Solar and Lunar and many other works of Buddhist sculpture.


Saimyoji temple is beautiful thanks to its splendid Honrai Tei garden with standing stones representing the Yakushi-Buddha Triad–Yakushi Nyorai and the Nikko, the Shinji-ike Pond with small stones representing a crane and a tortoise and a lantern created by Ishiya Midaroku. Standing on the temple grounds, there is the Saimyoji Fudanzakura cherry tree of 250 years old blooming throughout spring, autumn, and winter.

Open time: 

From 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Last admission at 4:30 pm


500 yen

How to access: 

Take bus from JR Biwako Line Kawase Station and get off at the Omi Tetsudo Amago Eki Mae then take a short walk to the temple.