A Photogenic Stroll through Western Shiga
ReleaseAugust 19, 2021
Takashima is a city west of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, which comprises one-sixth the area of Shiga Prefecture. Today we are exploring this lesser known locale of Shiga, which nevertheless has many picture postcard-worthy attractions all around.
Let’s start the journey off by taking a scenic drive through the Metasequoia Namiki – a 2.4km avenue lined with Metasequoia (dawn redwood). Not only is it selected as one of “New Japan’s 100 best roadside tree views,” but its face-changing throughout the seasons prompts one to return again and again. I visited in mid-summer, where the verdant greens glistened in a clear blue sky and the tall, sturdy branches arched over the sunlight, creating a cool tunnel for pedestrians and casting curious lines of shadow along the road. Come autumn, the entire avenue turns into romantic crimson, so surreal-looking you will wonder if it is really just a painting. And in winter, the bare trees turn white in a fairy-tale like manner, beckoning travelers to admire the stunning snowscape. This is the reason why, I always say, that one visit per prefecture is never enough.
Next up on the list is Biwako Hakodateyama, one of the many ski resorts in the prefecture as Shiga is one of the top destinations for skiing in the Kansai region. Come summer time, the resort turns into a floral paradise that is full of shutter opportunities at every corner you turn.
First of all, a gondola ride takes you up to an elevation of 630 meters, where a breathtaking panoramic view of Lake Biwa and lush green paddy fields unfold before your eyes. And then, a path lined with rainbow-colored wind chimes greets you with its soothing jingle, signaling that the summer time is here.
As you walk further up, you sigh at the magnificent display of rainbow-like curtains – called Takashima Chijimi – swaying gently in the cool breeze, slowly revealing a stunning vista that makes you wonder if you have, indeed, walked into an Instagram wonderland. And, indeed, Biwako Hakodateyama is just such a place.
Take a moment to appreciate the grandeur of Lake Biwa which stretches beyond the horizon, seeming vast as the ocean. On a clear, sunny day, this gorgeous view is definitely one memory that you will cherish for a long time!
If you need to be impressed even more, head over to Lamp cafe, which serves their specialty rainbow-color parfait in, yes, lamps.
Do note that a plethora of flowery beauty is in bloom according to the season, including lily, sunflower, petunia and kochia. You just need to make sure that your camera is fully charged.
Finally, we are coming to the legendary Shirahige-jinja Shrine, which recently often makes the top of Instagram’s explore page when it comes to scenic destinations. While you are likely to come across many other floating torii gates if you look beyond the most iconic one in Miyajima of Hiroshima Prefecture, Shirahige’s picturesque torii standing tall in Lake Biwa is one with lots of historical significance.
Access to the shrine is not so easy, especially with public transport, but you may be delighted to know that since you have come all the way here, at least as a reward you will be blessed with longevity for praying at the shrine, as the deity enshrined here is Sarutahiko no Mikoto, who is known as a god with a long white beard (which is called “Shirahige” in Japanese, hence the name of the shrine), and will bestow the divine favor of granting visitors the blessing of long life.
Hopefully, we all live long enough to be able to return to Shiga Prefecture many more times to explore the endless hidden charms it has to offer.
[Day 1] A Historical Walk Down Northeastern Shiga
*The information herein is as of August 2021.