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【Shiga】The “Saimyouji,” Japanese History and Architecture2015.12.14

151214★湖東三山西明寺

Japan has over 1,400 years of recorded history and historic landmarks. “Koto Sanzan Saimyouji” is one of the legendary ancient temples that makes history come alive. The beautiful temple is located east of lake Biwa and the Suzuka mountain range.

Saimyouji” was selected as one of the most beautiful Japanese 31 places by CNN. The “Saimyouji” was built-in 834 AC during the Heian period (794-1185) by the Holy Priest, “Sanshu.” Its main revered figure is the Eleven-faced “Kannon Bosatsu,” who achieved perfect freedom from egoism and arouses compassion.Throughout the Kamakura, and Muromashi period the temple was the place for Buddhist study and prayer. At one time, the temple compound had 17 halls and housed 300 studying priests. During the Warring States Period (1467-1568), the Warlord “Oda Nobunaga” set fire to the “Saimyouji.” The main hall (Japan’s first designated national treasure), the three-story pagoda, and the “Nitenmon” gate miraculously were saved.
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The main hall, built by master carpenters, is in pure Japanese architectural style. No nails are used in its construction. It is roofed with Japanese-cypress-bark shingles, and features the so-called frog-leg, carved wooden supports distinctive lattice patterns. The three-storied pagoda, roofed with Japanese-cypress-bark shingles, is made entirely of Japanese cypress and employs no nails. The “Nitenmon” gate houses a pair of protective Buddhist deity statues, “Zochoten” and “Jikokuten.”

View this historic treasure, especially during Autumn when the late blossoming cherry trees create a spectacular backdrop to the temple. To reach “Saimyouji” from Tokyo, take the bullet train to “Maibara” in Shiga prefecture and take a cab to the temple. Travel time is approximately 3 hours. One also can take the local Tokaido line to “Hikone” and the local shuttle bus.

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