Miidera Temple has sacred springs, imperial relics and important Buddhist art.
One of the four largest temples in Japan
Particularly famous for its cherry blossoms
Formally known as Onjoji Temple
From Kyoto, take the Keihan Line to Miidera Station (20-30 minutes) and then walk 10 minutes. You can also take the JR Tokaido Line to Otsu Station (10 minutes from Kyoto) and take the Keihan Bus to the Miidera Temple bus stop (15 minutes). Note that the Tokaido Line is also known as the Biwako Line in this area.
Emperor Temmu founded Onjoji Temple at the foot of Mount Hiei in 672 in tribute to his murdered brother. It became known as Miidera Temple about 200 years later, in honor of the three wells (mi), or springs (ii), inside. Since this time, the water from the springs has been used in ceremonies to wash newborn babies, including newborn emperors-to-be.
The main hall was built in 672, but the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi destroyed the building in the late 1500s. It was rebuilt in 1599.
Today the main hall and the Buddha Hall contain numerous treasured sculptures of the Buddha. There are also priceless personal belongings of ancient emperors, some of which are only displayed on special occasions.
For the faithful, Miidera is the head temple of the Jimon sect of Tendai Buddhism. It is also number 14 on the plgrimage of 33 temples devoted to Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy and compassion.
For everyone else, it's a beautiful place for a quiet moment of reflection, although things are livelier in cherry blossom season.
In the Akaiya building that houses the sacred spring, look for the wooden dragon sculpture. Legend has it the sculptor had to put spikes in its eyes to keep it from escaping every night and terrorizing the locals.