Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine 日吉大社
Discover the Monkey Kami Shrine in Otsu
In the prefecture of Shiga, not far from the famous Kyoto, is the city of Otsu and the Hiyoshi-Taisha shrine. This Shinto shrine is the counterpart of the nearby Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei. Visiting Hiyoshi-Taisha is particularly recommended in autumn to admire the shimmering colors of the koyo.
Visitors passing through Otsu, or taking a tour of Lake Biwa (possibly its beaches in summer), will have plenty of time to discover the many temples and shrines on its shores, including Hiyoshi-Taira, easily accessible from the city.
The foundation of the Hiyoshi-Taisha Shinto shrine dates back several centuries, the latter being mentioned in the Kojiki, the oldest existing Japanese writing, written in the 8th century. Erected in the heart of the forest, 381 meters on Mount Hachioji, it is part of the list of 22 shrines, a classification system of Shinto shrines dating from the Heian period (794 - 1185). He is thus at the head of 3,800 affiliated sanctuaries. Its location was chosen with care, since it protects the northeast access to the former imperial capital, Kyoto.
Having become syncretic under the influence of Enryaku-ji (fusion between Shintoism and Tendai Buddhism), three mountain kami were originally revered there: Shakanyorai, Yakushinyorai, and Amidayorai.
The shrine grounds house seven pavilions, including two splendid main pavilions, the Higashi-hongu (eastern devotional building) and the Nishi-hongu (western devotional building), both designated National Treasures of Japan.
As is often the case in Japan, the shrine buildings were unfortunately burned down when Oda Nobunaga destroyed the Enryaku-ji temple in 1571. The existing buildings were then rebuilt at the end of the 16th century.
Visitors will also be able to admire the large red gate Nishi-hongu Rômon as well as the large sanno-torii marking the entrance to the sanctuary and the mountain.
- Read also: Mount Hiei and Enryaku-ji Temple
Many Japanese today go to Hiyoshi Taisha to pray to Masaru, the monkey kami who is also a messenger of Buddha and protector against demons. This lucky monkey is omnipresent on the premises: it is represented in statues but also decorations, in particular at the four corners of the Romon gate.
Visitors will also be surprised to come across real monkeys (Japanese macaques, very present in this region) coming down from the mountain in search of food...
The walk to reach the sanctuary is pleasant in all seasons thanks to the lush nature that surrounds it, but it is in November during the koyo it takes on a particularly enchanting face. Indeed, the 3000 Japanese maples in the forest gradually turn deep red, which transforms the atmosphere of the place.
The Sannosai Matsuri takes place on April 13 and 14 and is the most important festival for the shrine: the three kami are celebrated there, and a parade takes place.
Address, timetable & access
TimetableFrom Otsu, 10 min on foot from Sakamoto-eki station (Keihan train, Ishiyama-sakamoto line)
PriceAdults: 300 yen ($3.25/2.75€)Children: 150 yen ($1.60/1.25€)
AccessOpen daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm.