Sanjusangendo and La Collina at Omihachiman 三十三間堂、近江八幡
After an uneventful and unexpectedly quiet night, being right on Route 9., we left Gareria Kameoka around 9am. for the drive into Kyoto.We follow R9 into the city and find the free car park in front of Sanjusangen-do. This parking is for the temple and free for 40 minutes but although we stayed for an hour and a half the attendants did not seem bothered at all.
The temple is one of the very famous Kyoto temples and is well worth a visit. A very long main hall houses the thousand Buddhist images flanking the main large seated Kannon. Of these 1000 images 124 were made in the twelfth century, when the temple was founded, and the other 876 were produced a century later when the temple was renovated.
There are also images of the Heavenly Guardians from the Kamakura period. These images take their inspiration from Japanese folklore rather than Hindu tradition as the others obviously do.
Lake Biwa 琵琶湖
From the temple we head out of Kyoto towards Ohtsu i Shiga pref. and up the eastern edge of Lake Biwa. This side of the lake is accessible and there are many places where free parking and toilet facilities make stopping easy. This not usually the case in Japan. It is a warm afternoon and there are a lot of people fishing, families enjoying BBQs or just relishing the relaxing space. The view across the lake to Hieizan (Mt.Hiei) is embellished by ragged clouds, it’s a good spot in the Autumn sunshine.
La Collina at Omihachiman
Continuing up the lake shore then branching off to take a look at Omihachiman in Shiga pref., we get distracted by a very odd place. We notice it due to the crowds streaming in. It is called La Collina. There are large free car parks and equally large grass roofed buildings housing mainly cafes and cake shops. It is primarily an ant themed place for families with young children hence the grass roofs and termite mound shaped buildings. It is also home to a London Routemaster bus and other anomalies.
La Collina, The Hill in Italian, is the work of Fujimori Terunobu an idiosyncratic architect whose work I have since seen featured on BBC arts program.
Hikone Castle 彦根城
From La Collena we return to the lake shore and continue north to Hikone Castle. This is one of the few remaining original castles in Japan, most of them are replicas. It is for me marginally interesting. It houses nothing it is just a structure. There was a museum but it was closed. For such a small castle I thought the 1000-yen entrance fee a bit steep but I suspect maintenance is not cheap.
Ikeda Onsen michi no eki
As the evening is drawing in, we make for the michi no eki at Ikeda Onsen. This involves a slow drive in traffic through Sekigahara (site of the decisive battle that heralded the Tokugawa Shogunate) and beyond on R.53. The road is good and the RS well signposted.
On arrival we find there are at least 2 car parks. The toilets are in the lower level parking area and the onsen is situated higher up. It is clearly visible but you must cross the road to get there. The onsen has an old and new section. The new being lower than the old and is the first you come to.
It is pleasant enough; very busy on a Saturday evening with a number of families with small children. A functional more than a decorative place with a rotenburo (open air bath) but nothing special. The old part I did not see but would imagine it to be more picturesque.
＊Ikeda onsen ; 700 yen / adult. (Simple Alkaline hot spring)
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.