Ukimido, the “Floating Temple”, Lake Biwa & the Eight Views of Omi, c. 1910-20.

1910sArts & CultureKyoto-Nara-Osaka-KobeOutside TokyoReligious
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Ukimido, the "Floating Temple", Lake Biwa, c. 1910.

Ukimido, the “Floating Temple”, Lake Biwa, c. 1910, with a commemorative “flying goose” stamping affixed. The temple, specifically the Ukimidō [floating temple] hall, features in one of the remaining views of the Eight Views of Omi, originally drawn by Hiroshige, in the print entitled “The wild geese returning home at Katata”.

“Whilst in Kyoto, either in 1905 or subsequently during the building of the Imperial Hotel (1916-1922), [Frank Lloyd] Wright would probably have visited some of the famous sites in the region, one of the best known is Lake Biwa, which lies just east [of Kyoto].

“And interestingly, the distinctive form of the Ukimi-do, a small Buddhist chapel which projects out in the southern end of this lake at the temple of Mangetsu-ji, seems to have reappeared in the wedding chapel which Wright designed for the Claremont Hotel, in Berkeley, California, during the 1950s.”

Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan: The Role of Traditional Japanese Art and Architecture in the Work of Frank Lloyd Wright, by Kevin Nute, 1993

From Japan Navigator: “The Ukimido or Foating Hall of Katata (Otsu City, near Kyoto) is a temple with a large garden at the boards of Lake Biwa, far enough removed from the town to grant a superb view of the lake. The Floating Hall has been built over the water and indeed, when you sit down on the planks of the veranda on the lakeside, you really seem to float on the water. It is like sitting in a big boat.

“Not surprisingly, Ukimido was popular with writers and artists and was counted as one of the ‘Eight Scenes of Omi’ (Eight Beautiful spots on Lake Biwa), a ukiyo-e by Hiroshige and other woodblock artists. The scene featuring Ukimido is called ‘Geese Alighting at Katata’ and usually shows the Floating Hall in the light of the late sun.

“The temple is officially called Mangetsuji (Full Moon Temple) and is entered via an impressive ‘Dragon Gate’. Ukimido was originally founded in 995 by the priest Genshin from nearby Mt Hiei. The Thousand-Buddha Hall (all Amida statues) stands at the spot where lake Biwa is at its narrowest and served as prayer for the safety of ships on the Lake – or so it must have started. The present structures are modern.”

Eights Views of Omi

Lake Biwa tourist sights, c. 1920.

A c. 1920s photo representation of Hiroshige Ando’s series of woodblock prints, “Eight Views of Omi”. See notes above for descriptions.

(Clockwise from upper-left, above:) 1. Autumn moon at Ishiyama: A hut at the upper end of the site allows a view of the lake, and the moon; 2. Evening rain at Karasaki: Karasaki is a small cape with a single large pine tree [hitsu-matsu]. The pine has been replaced several times since Hiroshige’s era; 3. Evening bell at Miidera: Miidera temple was built in the 8th century. Its famous bell is one of the revered “Three Bells of Japan” – the other two being those at Byoodo-in, Uji and at Jingoji, Kyoto; 4. Wild geese returning home at Katata: Alighting geese cannot always been seen. The first part of the name uki is the same as in Ukiyo-e, meaning “floating”. Midō means temple; 5. Clear breeze at Awazu: Awazu was well-known for its pine wood, Awazu-ga-hara; 6. Evening snow at Hira: The Hira mountains on the west side of the lake experience a hard winter, when the winter monsoon brings much snow from the Asian continent; 7. Returning sails at Yabase: Yabase was an old harbour on the east side of the lake. Near the Tokaido, it was used for a shortcut to Otsu by boat until the railway began service during the Meiji era; 8. Evening glow at Seta: The long bridge across the Seta was used as part of the Tokaido.

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