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Oct. 2016

National Treasures and Cultural Assets of Shiga - Koto Area -

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Shiga Prefecture boasts a trove of cultural assets. So much so, in fact, that the region ranks third in Japan for the number of buildings designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Assets. Here's an introduction to a castle and two temples in the Koto region.

■Hikone-jo Castle
Work started on Hikone-jo Castle in 1604, and took around 20 years to complete. The castle tower itself used materials brought from the five storey Otsu-jo Castle, and is said to have been completed in 1607. The tower is a designated National Treasure, with a combination of different roofing styles that is truly breathtaking.

■Saimyoji Temple
One of Shiga Prefecture's representative examples of Kamakura period (1192 to 1333) construction, the main temple is designated as the first National Treasure. Constructed in a stunningly beautiful, highly Japanese style, it features a low gradient cypress bark roof and highly decorative curved wooden supports on all the front-facing latticed shutters and the tops of pillars.

■Kongourinji Temple
"The elegant main temple was created during the Kamakura period (1192 to 1333) to commemorate victory in the Mongol invasions of Japan. It is a National Treasure, while the three storey pagoda in the upper left and the gate in front are Important Cultural Assets.
The ten pieces inside the main temple, including a standing statue of Acala, are all also from the Kamakura period (1192 to 1333) and are Important Cultural Assets, providing a wonderful opportunity to see real history up close."