A Power Spot Bound by Water and Filled with Spiritual Treasures
Stand on the Nagahama shores of Lake Biwa and gaze onto the water. A small island appears in the distance looking just like any other island. This is Chikubushima which, besides being an island in a lake, it is one of Japan’s mystical power spots, and a place you ought to visit. The island is said to have appeared in history over 1,000 years ago, and has been influenced by buddhism for centuries. It also holds a connection to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a preeminent lord in Japan’s feudal times, as several of the building structures were brought to the island by his son. The spiritual significance of Chikubushima is felt as soon as you set foot on it.
Cruising the waters of Lake Biwa
The journey starts from the moment you board the cruise in Nagahama. Cruising the waters of Lake Biwa, specially on misty mornings, you will see the biodiversity that inhabits it; various bird species tag along for the journey towards the island. A video (though only in Japanese) will briefly anticipate the treasures you are about to encounter. Thirty minutes later, Chikubushima Island and its spiritual symbols popup into the scene.
As with other buddhist temples, a torii gate greets visitors. The inclined walk up, which seems like an endless set of stairs, begins and you are on your way up to the holy structures and symbols that adorn the place: Hogonji Temple, Kara-mon gate (national treasure and a
former gate of Kyoto Higashiyama), the Funa Roka Corridor (including part of Hideyoshi’s
pleasure boat), Chikubu Shima Shrine (national treasure built by Hideyoshi to entertain the Emperor), and the Miyazaki Torii, among others.
You will reach the top of the island via the Inori-no-ishidan or “the stone steps of prayer”, so-called because pilgrims climb up these steps while praying to the Buddhist deities. Pass the three-tiered pagoda, across the Kannon hall, and with a brief stop at Chikubu Shima Shrine, you will ended up with the front view of the Lake Biwa and faced with the Miyazaki Gate. Here visitors get a chance to buy two unglazed earthenware dishes, write a wish on them, and toss them through the gate towards the spirits for your wish to come true.