Shiga Prefecture’s most distinctive feature is Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.
It looks like an ocean! Shiga has not only a beautiful landscape with Lake Biwa, but also numerous historical sites, which were stages for drama in history, due to its location close to Kyoto.
Make a little side trip from Kyoto or Osaka to Shiga and enjoy a relaxing and interesting time there.
1. A Castle with a Cute Mascot Hikone Castle (Hikone City)
As one of the five National Treasure castles in Japan, with more than 400 years of history, Hikone Castle gives a different impression with its beautiful white castle tower depending on the angle from which you are looking at it. When you are at this castle, you should see “Hiko-nyan,” a mascot character of Hikone City. He greets visitors to the castle everyday!
2. Relaxed Visit to the World of Karuta Omi Shrine (Otsu City)
This shrine is dedicated to Emperor Tenji, who moved the capital city to Otsu in the middle of the 7th century. Since the waka poem by Emperor Tenji is the first poem in Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (a classical anthology of 100 waka by 100 poets), this place hosts many competitions of Hyakunin Isshu karuta (card game). It is also the setting of the popular comic “Chihayafuru.” It offers a kimono-wearing experience session, in which you can walk around the premises wearing a traditional kimono.
Nearest station: JR Otsukyo Station
Kimono wearing experience: 1,000 yen and up
Kimono wearing and karuta making experience (reservation only): 1,000 yen
1-1 Jingucho, Otsu, Shiga
9:00 – 16:30 (10:00 – 16:00 for kimono wearing experience session and other sessions)
Open 365 days
3. Casual Trial of Ascetic Training Enryaku-ji Temple on Mount Hiei (Otsu City)
Founded by the Buddhist priest Saicho in 788, this is the main temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism and the entire large premises are registered as a World Heritage Site. The temple has long been a place of ascetic training, from which many high priests were produced. Enryakuji Kaikan hotel offers ascetic-training experience sessions, including zazen (seated meditation) and shakyo (sutra copying), as well as serving shojin-ryori (vegetarian) food.
Nearest station: Sakamoto Cable Enryakuji Station
Fees: 700 yen, Kokuho-den: 500 yen
Shakyo session and zazen session (reservation required in advance): 1,080 yen each
8:30 – 16:30 (varies depending on seasons and places)
Open 365 days
4. Visit a Spiritual Spot by Boat Chikubu Island (Nagahama City)
Chikubu Island in Lake Biwa is home to Hogon-ji Temple, the 30th temple of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, and Tsukubusuma-jinja Shrine, which is famous for kawarake-nage (a ritual in which you toss small clay discs to get good fortune), making the whole island a popular spiritual spot. To get to the island, you can take a daily cruise boat from Nagahama Port. Visit the island by boat feeling the breeze on the grand lake, and be immersed in the spiritual atmosphere of the island.
Chikubu Island entrance fee: 400 yen
Hayazakicho, Nagahama, Shiga
From Nagahama Port or Imazu Port
5. Resort Place with a Panoramic View Biwako Valley (Otsu City)
Arriving at the peak of the 1,100-meter mountain by Japan’s fastest ropeway, you will be at “Biwako Terrace.” You can have a grand, sweeping view of Lake Biwa, sitting on a sofa in a relaxing atmosphere. The place offers various activities in summer, such as an exciting zip line, and also serves as a popular ski area close to Kyoto in winter.
Ropeway (round trip): 2,500 yen
1547-1 Kido, Otsu, Shiga
about 10 min by route bus from JR Shiga Station
9:30 – 17:30 on weekdays (9:00 – 17:30 on weekends and holidays and in August)
6. Excursion trip MIHO MUSEUM
A museum exhibiting a variety of Japanese art works and ancient art works from all over the world.
桃谷-300 Shigarakicho Tashiro, Koka, Shiga
50 min by bus from JR Ishiyama Sta.
Enjoy delicious food in Shiga
From cows raised in abundant nature, Omi Beef is one of the four top Wagyu beef brands in Japan. The beef is characterized by its tenderness and sweet yet non-greasy fat. You can enjoy Omi Beef casually in an Omi beef burger.
Funazushi is a type of sushi, in which nigorobuna (round crucian carp) from Lake Biwa is salted and fermented with rice for preservation purposes, and it is a famous “smelly” Shiga specialty dish. It goes very well with sake.
Baumkuchen, a German traditional pastry, from Club Harie, has a surprisingly fluffy texture. It is available at its branches in Shiga Prefecture (Omihachiman, Hikone, etc.).
Club Harie Himurekan
Nearest station: JR Omihachiman Station
Open 365 days
9:00 – 18:00, Café last order: 17:00
A Variety of Kominka Cafes in Omihachiman
As a castle town formed in the Warring States period (15th-16th century) and that prospered as a town of merchants in the Edo Period (17th-19th century), Omihachiman still retains old streetscapes. The city has many kominka cafés, which are located in renovated old folk houses (minka). Have fun enjoying coffee and a unique atmosphere in these old buildings.
Unique Items from Shiga
Lake Biwa Stationery
Unique stationery, such as “Biwako template” that allows you to draw the shape of Lake Biwa, Lake Biwa-shaped paper clips, and masking tapes printed with various fish of Lake Biwa and with items related to travelling in Shiga, are available at souvenir shops in Shiga Prefecture.
Located in Nagahama City, “Kaiyodo Figure Museum Kurokabe Ryuuyukan” is operated by a globally famous toy manufacturer, Kaiyodo. The wide variety of items on display includes the latest figures, cute animal figures, and anime-based figures.
Nearest Station: JR Nagahama Station
13-31 Motohamacho, Nagahama, Shiga
10:00 – 17:00 (10:00 – 18:00 in summer)
Echigawa’s Binzaiku Temari
This is a traditional craft that has been made in Aisho Town for generations. It is a mystic item in which a beautiful temari (traditional toy ball) is placed inside a glass bottle with a small opening. It attracts attention with its delicacy and beauty. You can buy one at “Ruburu Echigawa.”
Echigawa Station Community House Ruburu Echigawa
Nearest Station: Omi Railway Echigawa Station
895-3 Ichi, Aishō, Echi District, Shiga
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