Snow & Prayers at Hieizan Enryakuji

A misty morning on Mt. Hiei

In February 2020, I made my third trip to Hieizan Enryaku-ji, a Buddhist temple on the slopes of Mt. Hiei (Hieizan) in Ōtsu, Shiga Prefecture, Japan.

Hieizan (848 m) was Summit #14 on my 2017-2018 #100Summits quest – and the place I learned one of the most important lessons of my climbing year.

I returned in 2020 with my friend, and fellow author, Alex C. Hughes, to spend the night at this spectacular historical site and to enjoy the beauty of the mountain.

The following morning, after attending the dawn service at the temple’s worship hall, I went out for a walk–and found myself caught in an unexpected snowfall that coincided with the morning Buddhist chants broadcast over the temple’s speaker system.

Fortunately, I had my camera – and this video is the result of that special moment:

A little more about Hieizan Enryakuji:

Founded by the Japanese monk Saichō in 788 to serve as the head temple of Tendai Buddhism in Japan, Hieizan Enryakuji sits high in the mountains overlooking Lake Biwa, not far from Kyoto. It remains the head temple of the Tendai sect, and a functioning Buddhist temple and monastery, to this day. In recognition of its status as one of Japan’s most important Buddhist sites, the temple was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as part of the larger UNESCO Site known as “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”).

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