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Japan Regional Information

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The largest lake in Japan - Omi-hakkei, that resembles the scene of Lake Tungtinghu in China
Shiga is situated at the center of Japan and has the Lake Biwa-ko, the largest lake in Japan at its center. It is an inland prefecture surrounded by Mt. Ibuki-san in the northeast, the Suzuka Mountain Range in the east, Mt. Hira-san and Mt. Hiei-zan in the west, and the Shigaraki Mountains in the south.

There is the Lake Biwa-ko Quasi-National Park that covers the Lake Yogo-ko, Mt. Ibuki-san, Mt. Hira-san and Mt. Hiei-zan around the Lake Biwa-ko that occupies one-sixth of the area of Shiga. Shiga has a number of scenic spots called Omi Hakkei, or eight scenic views of Omi, an old name for Shiga, which resemble the sights of Lake Tungtinghu in Hunan, China. As it is located at a pivotal point of the traffic between the western and eastern Japan, civilization flourished in this area since the earliest times. There are a number of precious historic heritages including Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji Temple designated as the World Cultural Heritage, Hikone Castle designated as the national treasure, and many famous Buddhist images. Shiga has the third largest number of national treasures and important cultural properties, after Nara and Kyoto.

You can also enjoy Shigaraki ware pottery noted for statuettes of raccoon dogs, Otsu-e Pictures with vivid colors and other traditional arts and crafts, traditional sushi with fermented fresh water fish called Funa-zushi which was documented as early as in the 8th century and Omi beef for your palate, as well as the Hikiyama-matsuri Festival where decorative floats parade through the city in spring.

Getting there
Take JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line for 2 hours and 15 minutes from Tokyo Station or for 15 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station. Then, take JR Tokaido Line for 10 minutes from Kyoto Station to Otsu Station.

  • Hikone
    The center of economy and culture on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa-ko - A white-walled castle tower counted as one of the four most beautiful castles in Japan
    Hikone is located in the central-eastern part of Shiga and is the center of economy and culture on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa-ko. It is historically an important point of transportation and developed as a castle town of the Ii family, a retainer who played an active part in an important position of the hereditary Tokugawa shogunate, which began in the early 17th century and lasted for more than 250 years.

    Hikone Castle is counted as one of the four most beautiful castles in Japan along with Tsugaru Hirosaki Castle in Aomori, Himeji Castle in Hyogo and Matsumoto Castle in Nagano. It sits on a slightly elevated mountain with a moat directly brought in from the Lake Biwa-ko all around it. With a white-walled castle tower in the center, there are scenic spots like Tenbin-yagura Guard Tower, Taiko-mon yagura Gate, and Genkyu-en Garden. With the symbol of the town and the national treasure, Hikone Castle, at its core, outside the Castle are historical sights related to Ii Family such as Genkyu-en that boasts of its beautiful garden, and streets around the Residence of Ashigaru-gumi on the right hand shore of the Seri-gawa River that retain the traces of this old Castle Town.

    Hana-shobu Dori Street that retains the appearance of the castle town and Yume-kyobashi Castle Road that reenacted the streets of the 17th century are famous tourist spots and popular with visitors. Also, it is said that among the five hundred Buddha's disciples who attained Nirvana at the Rakan-do of the Ten-nei-ji Temple, you will find a statue bearing a face that resembles the person you want to see.

    Getting there
    About 1 hour 40 minutes from Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, and about 55 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station. About 35 minutes from Nagoya Station to Hikone Station by JR Tokaido Honsen Line.


  • Mt.Hiei-zan
    Sacred mountain on which Enryaku-ji Temple, the World Cultural Heritage, stands On-top view spot affording a fine view of all over the Kansai
    Hiei-zan is a generic name for a south-to-north chain of mountains lying over Sakyo-ku, Kyoto and Otsu, Shiga, with Mt. Shimei-ga-dake and Mt. Ohiei-ga-dake in the middle. In there stand the Enryaku-ji Temple, the Tendai-shu sect's head temple opened by Saicho who founded the sect, dotted with more than 100 buildings and towers, including the Konpon-chudo, a national treasure, a big lecture hall and Shaka-do in a dense clump of old Japanese cedar trees. Since the mountains have been considered as a Buddhist sacred place where destruction of animal life is forbidden, now you can see a variety of birds there.
    The Konpon-chudo is the main sanctuary of Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji Temple registered as a World Cultural Heritage, in which ever-lasting lights of Buddhism have continued to be lit all along ever since the foundation in front of the image of Yakushi-nyorai to whom the temple is sacred. You can experience a bit of monks' discipline in Kojirin, a practice hall.

    Near the top of Hiei-zan are a rotating view spot affording a panoramic view of the Lake Biwa-ko, Kyoto, Suzuka and Tanba Mountains and even the Osaka Bay far beyond. There is also a botanical garden of alpine plants and an artificial skiing ground.

    Getting there
    Two hours and 15 minutes to Kyoto Station from Tokyo Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. Five minutes from Kyoto Station to Yamashina Station by JR Tokaido-Sanyo Honsen Line. By Keihan Line from Keihan Yamashina Station to Sakamoto Station for 45 minutes. Thirty minutes to Yamashina Station from Osaka Station by JR Tokaido Main Line.


  • Nagahama
    A castle town going back the 16th century, with glass artisans' workshops and galleries worth a visit
    Nagahama, located in the northeast of Shiga, was once a castle town that had prospered since warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi became the ruler of this area late in the 16th century. On the site of the Nagahama Castle to the west of Nagahama Station is Ho Park known for cherry blossoms. The castle tower reconstructed in 1983, is open to the public as the Nagahama Castle Historic Museum. The Mu-Byotan Meguri (six gourd tour) of visiting the temples and shrines which are closely related to Hideyoshi - Nagahama Hachiman-gu Shrine, Hokoku-jinja Shrine, Chizen-in Temple, Soji-ji Temple, Shana-in Temple and Jinsho-ji Temple - to collect six gourds, one at each place, is extensively popular among the people of Nagahama as a religious event to pray for health, peace, good luck and wealth.

    The Old Nagahama Station Museum, which is the oldest station building in existence in Japan today, is a red-brick Western-style building of so modern a design for those days that it can be well imagined how surprising it was to the people of Nagahama in those days. Adjacent to it stands the Nagahama Railway Culture Hall. At the newly born Kurokabe Square, you will find glass-craft galleries, glass artisans' workshops and restaurants standing along the Hokkoku Kaido Road that is still lined with old houses.

    Other places worth visiting to enjoy masterpieces of glass arts and crafts are the Narita Art Museum with a collection of the works of Rene Larique, a French glasswork creator who was active from the 19th century to early in the 20th century, and the Kurokabe Glass Kansho Kan, a glass art museum.

    Getting there
    Two hours and 30 minutes to Maibara Station from Tokyo Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. An hour and 10 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station. Ten minutes from Maibara Station to Nagahama Station by JR Hokuriku Main Line.


  • Omi Hachiman
    A castle town that extends itself on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa-ko , Boating excursion in the lakeside district
    Omi Hachiman that extends itself at the foot of Mt. Hachiman-yama in the central part of Shiga is a castle town of Hachiman-yama Castle built in 1585 on the eastern shore of the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa-ko, and is a base town for Omi shonin, or Omi merchants. The streets with a stretch of black mortar and lattice windows, as well as Hachiman-bori area that was the hub of marine transportation, are designated as a national important preservation districts for groups of historic building.

    Until the mid 19th century the town of Omi Hachiman was divided by Hachiman-bori, north of which was a residential area for the warriors and south for the townsfolk. The area for the townsfolk was further divided into the merchants' and craftsmen's areas. The current Shin-machi Dori Street is the former merchants' area that preserves the former residence of a wealthy merchant family, the Nishikawas, open to the public. Kyodo Shiryo-kan, the Local History Museum, built on the grounds of the former residence of an Omi merchant who traveled abroad, Nishimura Taroemon, and Rekishi Minzoku Shiryo-kan, the History and Folklore Museum that introduces the lives of the merchants, stand next to it. Along the Hachiman-bori are white-walled storehouses and old houses like Haku-un-kan, a building of western architecture and Japanese tradition well-matched, as well as Kawara Museum, the Tile Museum, that displays tiles from all parts of Japan.

    You can also enjoy boating excursion around the Nishi-no-ko Lakeside district, a tour by hand-rowed houseboat through a waterway akin to maze. This tour is said to have been started by warriors in the 17th century who imitated the boating excursion enjoyed by aristocrats.

    Getting there
    About 2 hours 20 minutes from Tokyo Station to Maibara Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. About 40 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station. About 22 minutes from Maibara Station to Omi Hachiman Station by JR Tokaido Honsen Line.


  • Otsu
    A prosperous post town on the Tokaido Road and gateway to Lake Biwa-koEnryaku-ji Temple at Mt. Hiei-zan, the birth place of Japanese Buddhism
    Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Biwa-ko, Otsu is the main city of Shiga, and once flourished as a post town along the Tokaido Road (between Tokyo and Kyoto) in the southwestern part of the prefecture. Numerous historical sites and cultural assets such as the Mii-dera Temple and Ishiyama-dera Temple and six scenic spots known as the Biwa-ko Hakkei, are found in the city. The best known is the Enryaku-ji Temple at Mt. Hiei-zan, the birthplace of Japanese Buddhism.

    Visitors can enjoy a cruise on Lake Biwa-ko by taking a sightseeing boat from Nagisa-koen Park at Hama-otsu, where mirages sometime appear. Off the shore of Otsu-ko Harbor, the "Biwa-ko Hana-funsui," one of the largest fountains in the world sprays out water in various shapes, and is a marvelous sight.

    The Otsu-matsuri Festival is held every fall, and 13 floats covered with rich decorations and karakuri mechanisms travel around the city. The Otsu-matsuri Hikiyama Tenjikan Exhibition Hall exhibits full-size floats as well as a reproduction of the bustling city streets on the festival day, where visitors can hear matsuri-bayashi or festival music and observe the karakuri mechanisms more closely.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station, 2 hours 15 minutes by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Station, change to the JR Tokaido-honsen Line, 9 minutes to Otsu Station. From Shin-Osaka Station, 40 minutes by JR Tokaido-honsen Line rapid train to Otsu Station.


  • Shigaraki
    Experience ceramics-making and painting - Home of Shigaraki ware, one of the six oldest kilns in Japan
    Shigaraki is a ceramic town in the southern part of Shiga known as a home of Shigaraki ware, one of the six oldest kilns in Japan and a historical supplier of good clay. Shigaraki, which name is said to have derived from "shigeru ki" meaning woody, dense mountain, is full of green, on a highland area 300 meters above sea level. Shigaraki ware is said to have begun when tiles were made in 742 for the construction of Shigaraki-no-miya Palace. Nowadays you can see Shigaraki raccoon dogs at every corners of the town, and when you see them you cannot help a smile.

    At Soto-en, a Shigaraki pottery, you can see the largest Nobori-gama in Japan. Nobori-gama is a step-like kiln constructed on the slope. The fire is set from the lowest compartment and when the temperature in that compartment reaches a certain level, the fire is set in the next compartment followed by another. Depending on the number of compartments, the kiln is kept kindled for seven to nine days. After three days and nights of cooling down, the wares are finally brought out. You can experience making and painting Shigaraki ware in Shigaraki.

    Shiga Prefectural To-gei-no Mori has a collection of museums and ceramics ware halls specializing in ceramics, as well as cultural facilities like Shigaraki Sangyo Tenji-kan and Sosaku Kenshu-kan. The To-gei Ceramics Festival held every summer is popular with ceramics lovers looking for lucky finds.

    Getting there
    Two hours 20 minutes from Tokyo Station to Maibara Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. An hour 40 minutes from Maibara Station to Yokkaichi Station, transferring at Kibukawa Station to Shigaraki Station by Omi Tetsudo Line. An hour 20 minutes from Osaka Station to Kibukawa Station by JR Tokaido Honsen Kusatsu Line. Twenty-five minutes from Kibukawa Station to Shigaraki Station by Shigaraki Kogen Tetsudo Line.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.


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