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Japanese Roof Architecture and Workshop Tour

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    What to Expect
    The first part of the tour will enrich your understanding of every tiled temple and shrine you see in Japan. Indeed, the craftsmen involved provide tiles for all the famous sites including Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkakuji, and Sanjusangendo. The tour consists of a behind-the-scenes visit to a 100-year-old Onigawara artisan workshop where craftsmen have continued the ancient tradition of hand-carved onigawara roof tile creation. Onigawara is a combination of the Japanese words for demon (oni) and tile (kawara), featuring gargoyle and dragon designs. These elaborate tiles serve a dual role in warding off evil spirits and protecting the roof edges from the wear and tear of the elements.
    The next part of the tour brings the guests to the artisans’ workshop where hiwadabuki—roof made of cypress bark—have been created for 200 years. This method is considered one of the most authentic and high-class styles of making plant-based roofs such as those made with rice straw and wooden planks. Guests can observe the actual making of the material at this workshop, which is certainly a rare opportunity. The lightning-fast placement of the wooden nails is particularly a highlight—see if you can beat the speed of your host!
    Finally, you will move to the Hiyoshi-taisha shrine. This shrine has 2100 years of history and has its own unique architectural design. The shrine pavilion is a registered National Treasure whose roof was made by the artisans on today’s tour.
    Both onigawara and hiwadabuki have been a part of Japanese architecture for some 1400 years. However, recently the number of artisans has drastically decreased and now only a few workshops remain in Japan. Visiting two of them in one day makes this tour such a rare and precious experience for guests. 
    The artisans at this particular workshop also participate in the restoration of World Heritage sites in Kyoto and Shiga.
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    Reviews (10)
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    All reviews half day tour amazing experience once in a lifetime master craftsmen cypress tiles bark families taisha workshop skills questions opportunity knowledge insight keiko
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    1 - 5 of 8 reviews
    Reviewed 20 April 2019

    This was a highlight of our much enjoyed holiday travelling in Japan. We felt privileged to be warmly welcomed into these wonderful craft workshops and get an insight into the materials and traditional techniques which are still being used, but also into the working processes...More

    Date of experience: March 2019
    Thank cheerfulchippy
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded 22 April 2019

    Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to post your wonderful review on TripAdvisor which is so encouraging for us all. We will certainly share your comment with our roof masters, they would be very happy to know that you enjoyed the...More

    Reviewed 20 March 2019 via mobile

    If you have spare time I absolutely suggest you to join this tour, it was the best part of our visit in Japan! You have the opportunity to see and learn how the roof and tiles that you in the temples and shrine are made....More

    1  Thank woolfItaly
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded 3 April 2019

    Thank you so much for your wonderful review! We were amazed that you almost understood the artisans' explanations before Shino started to translate. These workshops offer a truly precious opportunity to show their finest works and we are so happy you evaluate them highly. Thank...More

    Reviewed 26 October 2018

    This is the second time we have taken a tour with Tour du lac Biwa. We were so happy with this tour and found the craftsman fascinating. This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity that shouldn't be missed. It was a perfect day...More

    Date of experience: October 2018
    Thank HaveTrunk
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded 21 November 2018

    Hi, welcome back to Shiga! We've all remembered you and were so happy to have another opportunity to host the tour. The proud roofers are truly amazing and we are sure you had a great time at their workshops. The beautiful & delicious Soba restaurant...More

    Reviewed 17 October 2018 via mobile

    Excellent opportunity to learn about the craft and to connect with the master craftsmen and their families. Our guides were very knowledgeable and personable. We were very curious about where the materials came from and the methods used and the craftsmen were very open and...More

    Thank Kiyoshi1952
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded 1 November 2018

    Thank you so much for joining our roof masters tour. It is such a rare chance to peep behind the scenes of the workshops which support the UNESCO class temples/shrines, and we are glad you fully enjoyed the experience with the craftsmen and our guide....More

    Reviewed 30 September 2018 via mobile

    We booked the artisan roof workshop tour and had high expectations... and we were still completely blown away by the craftsmanship of these masters. Beyond that, we also felt very fortunate to have Misako be our tour guide. It was a pleasure to spend the...More

    1  Thank hollyybb
    LacBiwa, マネージャー at Tour du Lac Biwa, responded to this reviewResponded 10 October 2018

    Thank you for posting a great comment on our tour. The roof masters are eager to devise the display and demonstration to show the process more clearly, so we are glad to know that you had a wonderful experience with them and our super tour...More

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