From Kyoto, train to Omihachiman and picked up a rental car for a day to visit temples in Kotousanzan (湖東三山), literally the 3 mountains in Eastern Omi (Biwako).
Driving itin – Omihachiman > Hyakusaiji > Kongorinji > Keisokuji > return car in Maibara (no drop-off charge)
Hyakusai-ji (湖東三山 百済寺)
Crowded but fine. Most were locals by bus tours. Followed uphill path to Hondo. Gorgeous koyo was around the pond. Spent about 1 hour+.
Kongorin-ji (湖東三山 金剛輪寺)
The most brilliant koyo of the day 😎
More crowded with mostly locals – parking lots for private cars and tour buses were quite full, despite on a weekday. Uphill path to Hondo and 3-storey pagoda was much longer and steeper at points, though the rewards were immense – koyo corridors and blood-stained koyo 「血染めのもみじ」 awaiting !
Upon returning downhill, dropped by the landscape garden (close to entrance at the base) and koyo was not inferior. Plenty of photographers aggregated around the pond and the blood-stained koyo.
Bonus – Jugatsu-zakura (October sakura) was also blooming 😆
literally “chicken-feet” temple. Attempted to visit in last Nov but had to turn back due to long line of cars not moving with no sight of nearby car parks whatsoever.
Located in northern Omi-Nagahama so took nearly 1 hour from Kongorin-ji, even by expressway. Staffs guided cars to a temporary unpaved parking lot (free of charge). As it was close to 4:30pm, I rushed to it following signs and crowds walking in opposite direction. Took about 20 min after some ups-and-downs, passing by farms on the way.
Renowned for carpet-like fallen leaves and indeed it was. Hondo was closed but still worthy to visit. Stayed for about 15 min and by the time I returned to the car park it was almost pitch dark.