Take Island

Take Island

A tiny island in Lake Biwa with many faces

place Area: Hikone access_time Published: 2021.01.19

Name in Japanese: 多景島
Pronunciation: takeshima

Take Island is an uninhabited island in Lake Biwa, part of the Biwako Quasi-National Park. The island belongs to Hikone city.

Originally the kanji name of the island meant “bamboo island” since it was covered in bamboo. However, in the Edo period, soil was carried to the island from Mt. Kōjin in Hikone and trees were planted. When the trees grew, the appearance of the island seemed to vary depending on the place from whence its viewed, and the kanji name was changed to mean “island of varied scenery”, although the pronunciation remained the same. Some people say that the island took its name because you can see a lot of scenery from it, which is certainly true – from Takeshima there are views of all the mountains around Lake Biwa, historic sites such as Sawayama and Shizugatake, and of course the lake itself.

In 1655, Nissei Shōnin, a priest of Myōhō-ji Temple in Nagahama, founded a temple, Mitō-ji, on the island. Today, since Takeshima is uninhabited, Mitō-ji is managed from the branch temple in Hikone. At the east end of the island, there’s an imposing rock carved with the characters “Namu-myōhō-renge-kyō” meaning, “I embrace the teachings of the Lotus Sutra”. Nissei took three years to engrave this slogan in the rock, known as the Daimoku-iwa. There’s a legend that the rock exuded fresh blood when Ii Naosuke was assassinated in the Sakuradamon Incident. The upper part of the rock sheared off in 2018 due to weathering.

Of particular interest is the Chikai no Mihashira obelisk which stands 20 m high. It was finished in 1926. These obelisks were built in several places around Japan with the intention of countering the emerging radicalism of the Taishō period by reminding people of their duty to the emperor. The obelisk prominently displays the imperial chrysanthemum symbol, and various oaths of allegiance which people were supposed to chant.

Other things to see are a statue of Nichiren Shōnin, a statue of Buddha fasting, a stone seven-storied pagoda, and various small shrines.

The entire island is formed of granite. A type of black snail, Biwamelania takeshimensis, is endemic to Takeshima, and is found only on the island.

Ōmi Marine operates boat trips to Take Island. It takes about 20 minutes from Hikone Port to the island. There are two options, one to sail around the island without landing, and one to land on the island for 30 minutes. It should be noted that if you’re looking for a quiet time on the lake this isn’t an option for you. Speakers on the boat and the island blast an almost constant stream of tourist information in Japanese. Nevertheless, the scenery is very beautiful, and the island, with its religious and imperial encrustations, has a weird fascination.