Let’s drive around to see, touch, and savor the charms of Hiei
Okuhiei Driveway is an about 12-kilometer expressway that connects the Ogi area, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and the world’s cultural heritage Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei. It is a road on which you can feel not only Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei, which is also called the mother mountain of Japanese Buddhism, but also seasonal natural landscapes, such as a spectacular view of Lake Biwa spreading out below you, and such as a cherry blossoms and new green leaves from spring until early summer, and such as an autumn foliage. Also, along the road, there are many places to visit, including Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei, and restaurants in which local dishes in Omi can be enjoyed. * There is no temple building called “Enryaku-ji Temple” on Mt. Hiei. “Enryaku-ji Temple” is the collective name for the three towers (three areas) of Toto(East Tower), Saito(West Tower), and Yokawa. Please feel the history of over 1200 years by seeing each of the three different types of temple buildings and feeling the atmosphere.
Due to the winding mountain road with different elevations, the best season for cherry blossoms that herald the advent of spring on Okuhiei Driveway begins from mid-April a little later than the level ground. It is possible to enjoy the highlights of the cherry blossoms moving to the summit until after Golden Week in May. Along the road, more than 20 types of cherry trees, most of which are double flowered cherry trees, are in full bloom, creating a refreshing landscape against the blue sky in early summer. Other than cherry trees, in April, Kobushi magnolia, torch azalea, and rhododendron designated as the prefectural flower of Shiga, on the precincts of Enryaku-ji Temple feed visitors’ eyes. In May, new green leaves shine brightly, providing a spectacular view of collaboration between cherry blossoms and green leaves.
In autumn, more than 2,000 trees, which were planted by our predecessors, add color to the Okuhiei Driveway with different-colored autumn leaves. The pleasure of driving is accentuated by the scenery created by variously colored autumn leaves in red and yellow. The autumn leaves before Konpon Chudo in Toto area of Enryaku-ji Temple is a popular spot, attracting many visitors as a commemorative photo spot every year. In the Yokawa area of Enryaku-ji Temple, an annual event, “Autumn Leaves in Hiei,” is held. In the event, the free lottery which anyone can join takes place, and stewed Japanese radishes are distributed free of charge as an event to ward off evil (available for a limited time and in a limited quantality). As like returned to childhood, also adult persons are enjoying these events.
It is severe cold on the Okuhiei Driveway’s winter. Recently, the number of road closures due to snowfall has almost disappeared, you will be able to drive without worry. Please appreciate the winter mountain air, which is different from that in other seasons. Especially when it snows, the trees are beautifully covered with snow, providing a tranquil atmosphere that can’t be felt in other seasons. Also, on sunny days with clear air, it is possible to look out over the Hira Mountains surrounding Lake Biwa and Mt. Ibuki. Further, you will look out over not only the Suzuka Mountain Range but also the Hakusan Mountain Range in the distance in Kanazawa. The winter weather is fickle, but if certain weather conditions are met in the early morning, you can see the awe-inspiring scenery with a sea of clouds that cover Lake Biwa spreading out before you.
One of the pleasures of travel is “food.” Located at a 2.5-kilometer marker on the Okuhiei Driveway, Hieizan Hodo Restaurant serves meals that mainly use local ingredients in Omi, such as Omi beef, Biwa trout in Lake Biwa, and Tankai Jidori chickens raised at the foot of Mt. Hiei. Among others, “Heiwadon,” (Buddhist vegetarian food which only uses ingredients without taking the lives of animals), is the popular menu; it is the commemoration dish of the 30th anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mt. Hiei. Also, a variety of light meals and desserts fit for a rest after visiting Enryaku-ji Temple and during driving are served. You can see a grand view of Lake Biwa below from the customers’ tables. It is a restaurant to relieve the weariness from your journey.