Omi Jingu the Home of Karuta and Emperor Tenji

While everyone knows the two ancient capitals of Japan, Nara and Kyoto, it is not so widely known that Shiga served as the capital of Japan for a time. During the late 7th century one of Japan’s boldest and influential emperors, Emperor Tenji (originally Prince Naka no Oe), settled near Lake Biwa. From his time as prince, up through Emperor Tenji greatly influenced the role of emperor in ancient Japan. 

Omi Jingu

Omi Jingu enshrines Tenji and stands on the original site of his palace. However, some of you may wonder why there was the capital in Shiga.
In fact,  The Battle of Baekgang [白村江の戦い] between the Chinese Tang dynasty and its ally, the kingdoms of Silla against the Baekje Kingdom. During this conflict, Japan sided with its long-time ally, Baekje, and sent troops to help. However, the forces of Tang and Silla were much stronger than Japan had imagined, resulting in a crushing defeat for Japan.

Believing that it was now too dangerous for Asuka to remain the capital, he moved the capital from Asuka to Omi, near Lake Biwa. There he built his palace, the grounds of which today are Omi Jingu.

Omi Jingu is a pretty unique shrine, as it was built in 1940 to commemorate the 2,600th year of rule of the Japanese imperial family.

tree lined path leading to Omi Jingu
Pathway to Omi Jingu
giant stone torii at the top tall stairs leading to Omi Jingu
Entrance to Omi Jingu shrine grounds

Once you go through the Romon gate, you will see the haiden.

Bright red Romon Gate of Omi Jingu
Romon Gate of Omi Jingu

In Omi Jingu, there are two haiden, the nai-haiden [内拝殿] (inner haiden) and gai-haiden [外拝殿] (outer-haiden), with each haiden surrounded by a long corridor. The honden is behind the nai-haiden and enshrines Emperor Tenji. Visitors can enter the gai-haiden but the nai-haiden is reserved for special prayer services.

Gai-haiden of Omi jingu
nai-haiden of omi jingu
Nai-Haiden: You can just see the honden behind it.

Points of Interest


Tenji is credited with the introduction of clocks to Japan from China. For this reason, there are many clocks throughout shrine grounds that were donated by various clock companies.

replica of the rokoku, japan's first clock in Omi Jingu
Rokoku: Replica of the rokoku, the first Japanese clock. Water flows from the top box to the lower boxes and the marks in the boxes indicate time. Donated by Omega.
replica of an old chinese fire clock at omi jingu in otsu Japan
Fire Clock: A unique kind of clock used in ancient China. The fire in the pot would slowly melt one rope and each rope indicates two hours. Donated by Rolex
clock museum in Omi jingu
Clock museum: Omi Jingu has its own clock museum


Omi Jingu is also a big place for competitive karuta, a kind of Japanese card game. In karuta, opponents have decks of card with half of an old poem, a waka, written on them. The objective of the game is to listen as a reader narrates the other half of the poem and to slap the matching half before your opponent. The poems for the game come from 100 poems in Ogura Hyakunin Isshu [百人一首]. Coincidentally, the very first poem in Ogura Hyakuin Isshu is by none other than Emperor Tenji.

boards of karuta cards at omi jingu
Karuta card posters at Omi Jingu. The rightmost features both a poem and drawing of Izumi Shikibu and Murasaki Shikibu, respectively.

Omi Jingu hosts the national finals for competitive karuta every year.

Infomation: Omi Jingu


1-1-1 Jingucho, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture





From Osaka or Kyoto, take the Special Rapid Express via the JR Kosei Line and get off at Otsukyo Station. It takes roughly 40 minutes from Osaka and only 10 minutes from Kyoto. After you get out of Otsukyo Station walk in north for about 10 minutes and you are there!




Free. It costs 3oo yen for clock museum.





error: Content is protected !!