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.
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
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
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.
Sacred mountain on which Enryaku-ji Temple, the World Cultural
Heritage, stands On-top view spot affording a fine view of all over
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A prosperous post town on the Tokaido Road and gateway to Lake
Biwa-koEnryaku-ji Temple at Mt. Hiei-zan, the birth place of
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.