Ask The Local Experts
Chikubu Island is in Shiga Prefecture, which is almost in the center of Japan.
Chikubu Island is in the northern part of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, in the middle of the prefecture. The island is small, with a circumference of about 2 km and land area of 0.14 km2.
It is the second largest island in Lake Biwa, after Oki Island (Oki-shima, an inhabited island).
Chikubu Island is part of Hazayaki-cho, in Nagahama City.
Chikubu Island first appeared in history some 1,300 years ago.
Emperor Shomu received a divine message from the sun deity Amaterasu-sume-okami, who spoke of a small island in the lake. The emperor was told the island was a sacred place where the deity Benzaiten had descended from heaven, and that a temple should be built there. Emperor Shomu then sent the priest Gyoki to the island with instructions to establish a temple.
According to temple records, the temple was later honored by imperial visits, while renowned Buddhist priests including Dengyo-daishi, Kobo-daishi and Jikaku-daishi visited the island for Buddhist practices. The light of Buddhism has thus been maintained continually on Chikubu Island to this day.
The temple on Chikubu Island has undergone many ups and downs resulting from fire, earthquake and the changes of time. Therefore it has no trace of its original appearance.
However, structures brought here by Toyotomi Hideyori, a son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, can still be seen. Kannon Hall and the karamon-style gate to the hall were brought here from the gravesite (Toyokuni-byo; now Toyokuni-jinja Shrine) of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. They originally stood in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, and are regarded as fine examples of architecture from the Momoyama period. Moreover, the karamon gate is a National Treasure. It is believed to have stood at the bridge to Osaka Castle in the time of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Kannon Hall is an Important Cultural Property.
The kakezukuri-style connecting corridor was built when Kannon Hall was brought to the island. It was made using the framework timber of the Nihon-maru, a leisure ship used by Hideyoshi. Named Funa-roka (Ship Corridor), it too is an Important Cultural Property.
The Main Hall in Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine was originally the mausoleum in Toyokuni-byo, in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto. A 2-meter pent-roof was added to the back, and the hall is now the central structure in the shrine. The Main Hall is a magnificent building of the Momoyama period (1573 to 1603) and is listed as a National Treasure.
Until the Edo period (1603 to 1868), this structure was dedicated to the Buddhist deity Benzaiten. After the official separation of Shinto and Buddhism during the Meiji era (1868 to 1912), the structure became the Main Hall of Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine.
All of these can be seen on Chikubu Island.
Chikubu Island has many treasures. They illustrate the extent to which the island features in history.
We invite you to touch upon history by seeing the treasures of Chikubu Island.
Today, Chikubu Island is home to Chikubu-shima Hogon-ji Temple and Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine (also known as Chikubu-shima-jinja Shrine). Festivals are held at the temple and shrine.
Benzaiten Hall, in Hogon-ji Temple, was rebuilt in 1942. The structure is said to be typical of Buddhist architecture during the Showa era (1926 to 1989). It is a graceful, magnificent structure with a cypress bark roof in the style of the late Heian period (794 to 1185).
The statue of Benzaiten in the hall is the principal image of the temple, and one of three “Benzaiten Images of Japan.” The other two statues are on Itsuku Island (Itsuku-shima) in Hiroshima Prefecture and Eno Island (E-no-shima) in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The principal image in Kannon Hall is a statue of the Buddhist deity, the Thousand-Armed Kannon. This site is the 30th stop in the “Pilgrimage to the 33 Sacred Places of Kannon in the Western Provinces.” Many pilgrims therefore cross the lake to pray at the hall.
Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine is dedicated to the Shinto deities Azaihime-no-mikoto, Ichikishimahime-no-mikoto and Ugamitama-no-mikoto.
Aside from pilgrims visiting the 33rd Sacred Place of Kannon, Chikubu Island draws many sightseers. The island is lively with tourists throughout the year.
Please be sure to include Chikubu Island in your sightseeing schedule.
Boats to Chikubu Island depart from Nagahama Port, Imazu Port and Hikone Port.