Photo/Illutration Buddhist monks with a replica of a lantern encasing the eternal flame at Enryakuji temple in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on June 11. (Jiro Tsutsui)

OTSU, Shiga Prefecture--Burning continuously for 1,200 years, Enryakuji temple's eternal flame will be divided for long road trips in a relay to “pilgrimize” Japan starting from April.

The 14-month tour was created to mark the 1,200th year of the death of the monk Saicho (767-822), founder of the Tendai school of Buddhism, in 2021.

Enryakuji, a World Heritage site, is the headquarters of the Tendai school of Buddhism.

“I am hoping that the pilgrimage will help people learn about Saicho’s teachings,” said Doyu Toda, a senior monk of the sect.

The eternal flame, called Fumetsu no Hoto, traces its origin to when Saicho offered it to the statue of the healing Buddha that he created in 788 while training at the temple.

The flame still burns inside the Konponchudo facility at the temple.

The flame will be divided into four at the temple on April 1, with each encased in a small replica lantern. Each of the flames will be sent to one of four regions from Hokkaido to Kyushu, where they will visit Tendai sect temples.

The flames will return to Enryakuj before the 1,200th year of Saicho’s death on June 4, 2021.