Shoren-ji Temple Lake: Scenic Drive Through Timeless Countryside

Shoren-ji Temple Lake: Scenic Drive Through Timeless Countryside

I took a half day trip around a remote lake in Mie Prefecture. I encountered many happy surprises along the way. Some were beautiful, others were relaxing and some were delicious!

Written by Dan Lewis

-Author's Introduction
Originally from the state of Alaska in the USA, Dan Lewis is a long-term resident of Japan. He has lived in Mie, Ishikawa and Gifu Prefecctures, and currently resides in Nagoya, the capitol city of Aichi Prefecture. Dan is an avid fan of technology and nature - two areas that Japan is blessed with! He loves taking "the road less traveled" and discovering new places.

We headed to Shoren-ji Temple Lake in the afternoon. Fortunately, the weather was nice, and it was easy cruising around the lakeside. The lake offers a great opportunity for a leisurely drive. I was immediately impressed with how calm I felt as I drove around the lakeside. It was almost as if I had entered a giant, natural shrine where I could feel a peaceful feeling envelope me. 

You can enjoy the calm quiet of the stillness as you drive around, and over a few points via two large bridges - one blue and one red.

There are a few structures here and there, perhaps some kind of retirement home? Or maybe it was some kind of break area. It wasn’t clear and I soon forgot about it as I took in the scenes around the corner. 

There was even a bus stop or two, although, I did not see a bus during my drive around. I wondered if there was any bus service, and for a moment, I imagined a Ghibli-style cat-bus similar to the one featured in the Ghibli movie My neighbor Totoro prancing down the street. Alas, there was no such fantastic creature, but the thought was easy to entertain.

While certainly it is possible to walk around the lake, and I think it would make for a great one day activity, I personally feel it is better suited for driving, or even better - cycling. I could imagine myself gliding along the lake road with nothing between myself and nature, the wind rushing past, the aroma of the forest and lake, the call of the hawks and other birds… I’ll have to come back another time to experience it!

We stopped at one point to fly a drone around the red bridge area. If you are a drone fan, this is an ideal area to fly! It may have been only this day, but with such a gentle breeze, it’s great for even a novice pilot. Great views of the lake, bridge and surrounding mountains make for nice photos and videos.  

Just be sure to follow the rules and stay away from cars and people who may be walking about.

There was a small shrine by the side of the road with a dragon spewing healing water in the hand-washing area. The large rock is shaped to gather the water as it drips from the bamboo pipe. Even this simple set up felt decorative. I took a few seconds to wash my hands and enjoy the moment.

The small size of the stone torii made me feel even taller than I am. I have seen several of these torii - both stone and wooden ones, but I think this is the smallest I have ever seen. At least, the smallest one that was meant to be walked through. 

I passed through the torii, rang the bell and tossed a coin into the collection box and offered a silent prayer of thanks to whatever deity was protector of this area. Then I was ready to move on.

The second bridge, a large blue one shone in contrast to the deep green lake and forest and mountains. I particularly liked how the shadow it cast onto the lake gave it extra depth, and drew me to a point across the lake where the bridge and its shadow seemed to meet and point me in a new direction.

Next the north side, I noticed a bird sanctuary just off to the right side of the bridge and down by the lakeside. I did my best to imitate the birds and take off on a flight of my own, but I must not have been channeling the spirit of the birds. I only made it about 40 cm off the ground. Still, I can imagine it is a great place for bird lovers!

After crossing the blue bridge, I headed in the direction the bridge and its shadow seemed to be pointing toward. I ended up taking the “road less traveled”, and received a welcome surprise. “Arch”, a beautiful log cabin café and restaurant appeared and looked out over the lake, but better yet, it offered a delicious buffet including a bit of Japanese, Chinese and European food.

It was past lunch time according to the clock, and my stomach confirmed this. There was only one thing to do - go inside and see what they had to offer.

Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by a totem pole 5 meters tall! I resisted my inner-child’s desire to climb it. The interior had a cozy, warm feeling - exactly what I would expect from a proper log cabin.

The lunch buffet was great! It was more than I had imagined. The variety and quality of the food was much better than one might anticipate in such a remote lcoation.

I tried several dishes, and it was difficult to choose a favorite, but the pizza and minestrone soup were excellent and I’d call it a draw between those two. But that doesn’t mean you can enjoy several other dishes. It’s a buffet, of course!

With a very rustic interior, this restaurant has a nice view of the mountains and lake, and even has a wood stove to keep you warm in the winter. From the inside, I noticed an area outside where you can interact with pet goats.

Coming here wasn't originally on the plan, but I'm glad I made the turn that I did! Be sure to include it in your plans, and to arrive in time to finish lunch at 15:00.

After lunch, we headed down more winding roads, through a short tunnel, passing an occasional cluster of houses. Finally, we reached a wider valley and were able to get a few snapshots of the mountains before it got too dark.

It was the perfect area for an afternoon drive, but it would be an equally great area for cycling! I’ll be sure to come back.

-“Arch”, a beautiful log cabin café and restaurant-

Tourist attractions covered by this article