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Japanese Roof Architecture and Workshop Tour

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2 travellers
    What to Expect
    The first part of the tour will enrich your understanding of every tiled temple and shrine you see in Japan. Indeed, the craftsmen involved provide tiles for all the famous sites including Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkakuji, and Sanjusangendo. The tour consists of a behind-the-scenes visit to a 100-year-old Onigawara artisan workshop where craftsmen have continued the ancient tradition of hand-carved onigawara roof tile creation. Onigawara is a combination of the Japanese words for demon (oni) and tile (kawara), featuring gargoyle and dragon designs. These elaborate tiles serve a dual role in warding off evil spirits and protecting the roof edges from the wear and tear of the elements.

    The next part of the tour brings the guests to the artisans’ workshop where hiwadabuki—roof made of cypress bark—have been created for 200 years. This method is considered one of the most authentic and high-class styles of making plant-based roofs such as those made with rice straw and wooden planks. Guests can observe the actual making of the material at this workshop, which is certainly a rare opportunity. The lightning-fast placement of the wooden nails is particularly a highlight—see if you can beat the speed of your host!

    Finally, you will move to the Hiyoshi-taisha shrine. This shrine has 2100 years of history and has its own unique architectural design. The shrine pavilion is a registered National Treasure whose roof was made by the artisans on today’s tour.

    Both onigawara and hiwadabuki have been a part of Japanese architecture for some 1400 years. However, recently the number of artisans has drastically decreased and now only a few workshops remain in Japan. Visiting two of them in one day makes this tour such a rare and precious experience for guests. 

    The artisans at this particular workshop also participate in the restoration of World Heritage sites in Kyoto and Shiga.
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    Important Information
    Departure Point
    Hieizan-Sakamoto Station, 3 Chome-31 Sakamoto, Otsu, Shiga 520-0113, Japan
    Departure Time
    9:30 AM
    4h 30m
    Return Details
    Returns to original departure point
    • Local guide
    • Mini onigawara ornament
    • Local transportation fare
    • A snack (SOBA buckwheat noodle)
    • All Fees and Taxes
    • Entry/Admission - Hiyoshi Taisha
    • Gratuities
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    Additional Info
    • Confirmation will be received within 48 hours of booking, subject to availability
    • Not recommended for children under 15
    • A minimum of 2 people and a maximum of 8 people per booking is required
    • Not wheelchair accessible
    • Near public transportation
    • Not recommended for travelers with back problems
    • Most travelers can participate
    • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 2 travelers
    Cancellation Policy
    If you cancel at least 7 days in advance of the scheduled departure, there is no cancellation fee. If you cancel between 3 and 6 day(s) in advance of the scheduled departure, there is a 50 percent cancellation fee. If you cancel within 2 days of the scheduled departure, there is a 100 percent cancellation fee.
    Reviews (12)
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    1 - 5 of 10 reviews
    Reviewed 4 weeks ago

    This tour was the most fascinating, enlightening and memorable experience of our 2 weeks Japan trip. The master roofers, farmer family and Misako-san are the only thing we talk about now about our trip. It was such a wonderful experience, we learned so much about...More

    Date of experience: September 2019
    1  Thank Mitra S
    LakeBiwa, Manager at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded 3 weeks ago

    Hi, Mitra-san, Thank you so much for your wonderful review! It was our pleasure to have you a young, talented couple as our guest. We feel honored to have an opportunity to introduce our special roof masters and do hope our culture and the masters'...More

    Reviewed September 14, 2019

    We saw many beautiful temples and gardens in Japan, but it is the memories of the wonderful, warm Japanese people whom we met that we will most cherish. Our lunch in a beautiful traditional Japanese home with lovely, welcoming hosts was a highlight of our...More

    Date of experience: September 2019
    1  Thank N D
    LakeBiwa, Manager at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded 1 week ago

    Thank you so much for choosing & visiting us. It was absolutely our pleasure and an honor to have you as our guest. We are so glad that you decided to stay on the tour till the end even though your schedule was quite full....More

    Reviewed April 20, 2019

    This was a highlight of our much enjoyed holiday travelling in Japan. We felt privileged to be warmly welcomed into these wonderful craft workshops and get an insight into the materials and traditional techniques which are still being used, but also into the working processes...More

    Date of experience: March 2019
    Thank cheerfulchippy
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded April 22, 2019

    Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to post your wonderful review on TripAdvisor which is so encouraging for us all. We will certainly share your comment with our roof masters, they would be very happy to know that you enjoyed the...More

    Reviewed March 20, 2019 via mobile

    If you have spare time I absolutely suggest you to join this tour, it was the best part of our visit in Japan! You have the opportunity to see and learn how the roof and tiles that you in the temples and shrine are made....More

    1  Thank wolfItaly
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded April 2, 2019

    Thank you so much for your wonderful review! We were amazed that you almost understood the artisans' explanations before Shino started to translate. These workshops offer a truly precious opportunity to show their finest works and we are so happy you evaluate them highly. Thank...More

    Reviewed October 26, 2018

    This is the second time we have taken a tour with Tour du lac Biwa. We were so happy with this tour and found the craftsman fascinating. This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity that shouldn't be missed. It was a perfect day...More

    Date of experience: October 2018
    Thank HaveTrunk
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded November 20, 2018

    Hi, welcome back to Shiga! We've all remembered you and were so happy to have another opportunity to host the tour. The proud roofers are truly amazing and we are sure you had a great time at their workshops. The beautiful & delicious Soba restaurant...More

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