Shiga Prefecture [滋賀県]
Shiga Prefecture is located at the northeast part of Kansai District, and is an inland prefecture.
The old name of this prefecture is Oumi (近江).
Shiga Prefecture is nearly oval, and there is the Japan's largest Lake Biwa (琵琶湖, Biwako in Japanese) in the center of the prefecture.
Mountains surround this prefecture, so the main area of the prefecture is in a big basin with Lake Biwa.
Most cities and towns are around Lake Biwa.
This prefecture is at the border between the Pacific side and the Sea of Japan side.
So, in winter, it often snows in the northern half of the prefecture but it is fine in the southern half.
Since ancient times, Shiga Prefecture has been the area with important traffic routes.
Kyoto had been the capital of Japan since the ancient times, and Osaka has been the big central city in the western Japan.
These are just to the southwest of Shiga Prefecture.
From the east, most important route from Tokyo and Nagoya runs along the east side of Lake Biwa, and is connected with Kyoto and Osaka.
From the Sea of Japan side, the route running around Lake Biwa had been convenient to go to Kyoto and Osaka.
Now, the important roads and railways run through Shiga prefecture.
There are much passing of people and materials, but most of them don't stay.
Then there is no large city in this prefecture.
Instead, the geographical and economic background has produced many efficient merchants.
They had left from Oumi, then done business at the other cities.
They had worked diligently and sincerely.
They has been called "Oumi-merchant", and created various revolutionary business know-hows.
The founders of many excellent companies were from Oumi-merchants.
Recently, the south part of the prefecture has become a commutable area to Osaka, and the population is increasing by gradation.
Tokaido Shinkansen runs along the east coast of Lake Biwa.
(Unfortunately, we cannot see the view of the lake on the Shinkansen.)
But the station of Shinkansen is only Maibara in this prefecture.
The prefectural capital is Otsu city (大津).
It is near the south edge of Lake Biwa, and is very close to Kyoto.
We can reach Otsu from Kyoto within only ten minutes by JR train.
Tourist Attractions in Shiga Prefecture
- To Otsu from Kyoto : About 10 minutes by JR rapid train.
- To Otsu from Osaka : About 55 minutes by JR rapid train.
- To Hikone from Kyoto : About 50 minutes by JR rapid train.
- To Maibara from Nagoya : About 25 minutes by Tokaido Shinkanen.
Main events in Shiga Prefecture
Oumihachiman Sagicho Festival (Mid-March)
Photo by Omihachiman Tourism Association
Sagicho Festival is an annual festival of Himure-Hachimangu shrine in Oumihachiman city.
Generally, Sagicho is the event that New Year's decorations are taken to shrines and burned when the New Year's period is over.
But the festival in this shrine has been held in March.
Several huge torches with many decorations are made, and they are carried by many men throughout the city.
And in the evening, they are burnt in the precinct of the shrine.
Many young men wearing woman's dress dance around the burning torches.
Otsu Festival (Early October)
Photo by Biwako Otsu Tourism Association
Otsu Festival is an annual festival of Tenson Shrine in Otsu city.
It has been held since the early 17th century.
Like Gion Festival in Kyoto, beautiful 13 floats parade throughout the city.
But unlike elegant Gion Festival, the parade is lively.
Each float has a wind-up dolls, and it is moved in front of the crowd.
And, a beautiful tapestry is set up on the float, and one of the floats has the 16th-century tapestry from Belgium.
Local foods and products in Shiga Prefecture
Funazushi means "sushi of crucian carp", and is a local food of Shiga Prefecture.
In spring, fresh crucian carp are salted and pressed under a stone.
The crucian carp is an endemic fish in Lake Biwa.
In summer, boiled rice is filled in the body of the fish, and they ferment in boiled rice in a tub for 6 to 12 months.
The rice melts into a sticky mess and stinks.
This food is "sushi", but this sticky rice isn't eaten.
Fermented crucian carp is sliced and served.
But it has an unusual odor and tastes very sour.
Saradapan is a bread stuffed with unique food.
The unique food is chopped "takuan" dressed with mayonnaise.
It looks like "salad".
Takuan is one of popular Japanese pickles made of daikon (Japanese radish).
Such unique sandwich has been sold by a small bakery "Tsuruya" in Kinomoto town at the north part of Shiga Prefecture since 1957.
It has been popular only among people in the town.
But after this sandwich had sometimes introduced on TV since 2000, it became very popular.
The price is only 155 yen, but Tsuruya is getting orders from all over the country now.
Shigaraki ware ("Shigaraki-yaki" in Japanese) is the pottery and stoneware made in Shigaraki area located south part of Shiga Prefecture.
The kiln is one of the oldest kilns in Japan, and the potteries have been created since the 8th century.
Shigaraki ware is usually created without glaze.
But the works are completed as if they were glazed.
By the simplicity, tea utensils for tea ceremony had been created in the middle ages.
Now various goods for everyday use are produced here.
Especially, the humorous ceramic raccoon dog of Shigaraki ware is famous as the symbol of Shigaraki.