“It is only 10km (6.2 miles) from Kyoto to Otsu, the southeast region of Lake Biwa. Since ancient times even aristocrats have enjoyed the natural beauty of the four seasons of this lake country. With many merchants and post stations, each place has taken in the various cultures of those who passed through thus creating a very unique and open atmosphere.
Rising 848m (2,782 feet) high above sea level on the border between Kyoto and Shiga stands Mt. Hiei. From up near the summit you have an extraordinary view on either side with Lake Biwa on the one and Kyoto city on the other. The mountain mostly belongs to the Enryaku-ji Temple.
Mt. Hiei Enryaku-ji Temple was founded on the mountain top by a man named Saicho about 1,200 years ago and is divided into 3 large areas: Todo, Saito, and Yokawa. Todo is the main area with the Konponchudo Temple, a national treasure, as well as the Daikodo auditorium and other important temple buildings. The oldest structure within the grounds is Shakado and can be found in the Saito area. Yokawa is an area rich in nature and is where Shinran, Nichiren, and other noted monks carried out their pursuits of knowledge. This whole temple is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site and there is a shuttle bus that loops through the complex should you get tired of walking.
If you decide to spend the night at the Enryakuji Kaikan assembly hall, you will be able to join in the 6:30am morning prayers. Within the eastern base region of the mountain is Sakamoto, a prosperous town originally built around Enryaku-ji. There is a beautiful, solid rock wall called “”Anoshu-zumi””, of which similar style walls can be seen at other places such as Shigainmonzeki and Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine.
There are a great many venerable ancient temples in Shiga Prefecture. For example, Mii-dera (Enjou-ji) was established in year 686. On the extensive grounds you will find the national treasure Kondo Main Hall which itself houses over 100 national treasures and other important cultural property. Another temple, Ishiyama-dera, is said to have been founded in year 761, and has served as a popular pilgrimage destination from long ago seeing visits from a good many pilgrims. The most famous of visitors, Murasaki Shikibu, author of the Tale of Genji, often visited this temple and is said to have worked out the plot for her story there. Along with the national treasures of the Tahoto two-storied pagoda and Hondo main hall, there are a number of other national treasures and pieces of important cultural property as well. All over the temple grounds you can see the oddly shaped Wollostonite rocks protruding from the mountain, which is how the temple name was derived (ishiyama means “”rock mountain”” in Japanese).”