If you happen to didn’t plan on visiting one of many oldest lakes on the planet whereas in Japan, you would possibly have to rethink. In lower than I week I noticed shrines, meditated, cruised round an island and drank sake! So, right here’s 16 of the most effective issues to do in Lake Biwa in Shiga to make you alter your plans.
Lake Biwa is Japan’s largest freshwater lake, and in addition one of many oldest lakes on the planet (some estimate 4 million years previous). There are 235km of shoreline to discover and it’s top-of-the-line locations for an journey vacation in Shiga. You may go to previous temples and shrines, scramble your manner up islands, take a cruise on the water and pattern sake!
I spent 5 days in Shiga in Autumn and had an exquisite time. I’d been invited on a press journey and didn’t actually have a lot of an concept of what there was to do there, so this was an incredible introduction to Shiga, and I need to present you what you may count on to see.
Shiga varieties a mountainous circle round Lake Biwa, and there’s a lot to do round right here. These are issues I obtained as much as, however you may also preserve studying to search out different causes to go to Lake Biwa, in addition to the most effective locations to remain.
High Issues to Do in Lake Biwa, Shiga
Whether or not you need to escape into Japan’s non secular previous or historical brewing practices, or just breathe within the nature, there’s heaps to discover on this fantastic area.
1. Hikone citadel/Genkyuen
Hikone Fort was by no means invaded, because of the impenetrable methods that went into the structure. So it’s one of the vital well-preserved castles in Japan, surviving wars, fires and the Meiji Restoration—when many castles have been dismantled.
It’s positioned within the metropolis of Hikone in Shiga Prefecture, alongside the jap shores of Lake Biwa. It was constructed in 1603-1622 by li Naokatsu in the course of the Edo interval. It was meant to be a logo of the li clan’s rule, who have been in cost over a number of generations.
Immediately, Hikone Fort is a well-liked vacationer vacation spot and top-of-the-line causes to go to Lake Biwa and is designated as a Nationwide Treasure by the Japanese authorities. It offers beneficial insights into Japanese feudal structure and the historical past of the Edo interval. Yearly, many guests climb to the highest of the primary preserve, which has nice panoramic views of Lake Biwa and the encircling metropolis.
2. Hachiman-bori Canal and waterway cruise
The Hachiman-bori is utilized in many Japanese TV reveals and movies as a backdrop for olde Japan. You may take a water cruise down the historic waterway or stroll alongside them.
The canal runs by means of Ōmihachiman Metropolis, Shiga Prefecture, close to Lake Biwa. It was a significant technique of transportation in the course of the Edo interval, designed to attach the town to the lake for commerce and strategic functions.
Ōmihachiman quickly developed as a key transportation and industrial hub, with rice, sake, and different items being transported through the canal.
If you happen to take a cruise down the Hachiman-bori Canal, you may see well-preserved conventional wood townhouses (machiya) and storehouses (kura) dotted alongside the best way, harking back to the Edo and Meiji intervals. There’s additionally a variety of quaint outlets, cafes, and eating places, in addition to the Himure Hachimangu Shrine.
3. Omi beef
Many individuals will let you know that Omi beef is healthier than Kobe beef, however the folks of Shiga are attempting to maintain it a secret to cut back demand. Right here you may attempt it in each kind attainable.
(Morishima/Omi Hachiman most important department)
Omi Beef is without doubt one of the ‘Three Nice Wagyu’ of Japan, alongside Kobe and Matsusaka beef. It’s been round for 400 years, recognised because the oldest beef model within the nation. You may immediately recognise it by its marbling, tender texture and deep umami flavour.
The cattle are raised within the Shiga Prefecture, with its lush pure surroundings offering a perfect setting. So should you’re curious to attempt Omi beef, it’s top-of-the-line causes to go to Lake Biwa, positioned in Shiga Prefecture. For extra meals you NEED to attempt, try my listing of the greatest issues to eat in Japan.
4. Koka-ryu Ninja Home
Koka, together with its counterpart Iga, was pivotal in shaping the historical past of ninjas within the nation – and it’s mentioned that the thought of the ninja was born right here. So whereas there are a number of causes to go to Lake Biwa, one in every of them is you could go to an precise ninja home right here.
It’s a labyrinth of surprises. With a number of lure doorways, hidden compartments, and elaborate escape routes, each nook reveals a narrative of survival, technique, and brilliance. It’s a construction designed for elusion and safety, a little bit of a distinction to vibes of Lake Biwa surrounding it.
You may tour Kok-ryu Ninja home and see demonstrations of ninja methods and weaponry like shuriken, katana and blowguns! There’s additionally interactive periods the place you may placed on ninja outfits and take a look at among the methods for your self. They even provide a fundamental coaching course!
5. Hieizan Enryakuji Temple and meditation
Sat on prime of Mount Hiei is the Hieizan Enryakuji Temple, which is without doubt one of the most important monasteries in Japanese Buddhism. It was based in 788 AD, turning into one of many prime locations for Buddhist scholarship and observe – equivalent to kaihōgyō (marathon monks).
There are over 300 temples up on the Hieizan Enryakuji temple, and it’s one of many highest factors across the Lake Biwa. It’s chilly up there however completely definitely worth the climb for the views. And you may even e-book onto a Buddhist monk zen meditation expertise to hone your meditation expertise.
The Hieizan Enryakuji Temple is definitely a World Heritage Web site. It was partially destroyed through the years however rebuilt in the course of the Edo interval. It’s a extremely beneficial place to go to round Lake Biwa, and should you do select to meditate there – makes for an excellent non secular pause.
6. Shirahige Jinja shrine
Go to the Shirahige Jinja shrine to see the attractive Torii gate. It’s one of many lesser-known however most lovely in all of Japan. Go to at sundown to see these nightfall colors doing their factor. You may take boat rides out, and discover the temple, but it surely’s this view that retains folks coming again.
The remainder of the shrine can be price visiting too. Shirahige Jinja Shrine means ‘White Beard Shrine’. It is because it’s among the many oldest shrines in Japan, with its historical past stretching again over 1,900 years. As legend has it, the shrine venerates the deity Sarutahiko-no-mikoto, who’s believed to be the god of longevity and good well being. So when you’re right here, be sure you search these blessings for a protracted and affluent life.
7. Sugaura and a Chikubushima Island cruise
Take a strolling tour round Sugaura to be taught extra concerning the fascinating historical past of Shiga, and to see the temples and relic gate of the village. Solely 100 folks stay right here and it’s arrange as an idyllic commune, in a very idyllic place.
Though most cruises to Chikubushima Island happen from Nagahama, Imazu, or Otsu, Sugaura is a quaint and historic fishing city with conventional wood homes. It’s price wandering round earlier than you head off to see the island, which is fairly shut by.
That is positively one of many prime issues to do in Lake Biwa.
From Sugaura, catch the ferry over to Chikubuhsima Island to see extra of the non secular facet of Lake Biwa.
8. Chikubushima island
When you get to the island, you may climb up the steps to get a unbelievable view over Lake Biwa. You’ll additionally get to see Hogonji Temple and Tsukubusuma Jinja shrine too.
Attempt throwing a disc off the highest and try to should you get it by means of the Torii Gate, your want is claimed to come back true! It’s dates again to the late 1500s and is the place the goddess Benzaiten is enshrined.
The island can be lined in woodlands, vibrant avian life, and tranquil strolling paths for a pleasant little escape in the course of a lake!
9. Kawashima Sake Brewery
Wander by means of the village of Harie Shozu to see their carp farms, and learn the way their water irrigation system makes for among the cleanest water in Japan. Which, makes for wonderful water for sake. Yay!
The Kawashima Sake Brewery relies right here, and has been since 1865. Pop in for a tour (though it is perhaps a fast look should you don’t have a translator) and to attempt their completely different sakes too.
As a substitute of manufacturing for big firms, Kawashima devoted itself to crafting Sake solely for its clientele, concentrating on creating its signature model, “Matsu no Hana”. So be sure you give that one a go!
Extra issues to do round Lake Biwa
It was unimaginable to do completely every part Lake Biwa and the Shiga area has to supply in simply 5 days. Not as a result of I didn’t profit from it, however simply because it’s such a dynamic and fascinating a part of the world to discover with a lot to see and do.
And should you’re there for a good shorter time period, planning is essential, which is the place my 4-day to-do listing for Shiga turns out to be useful.
So listed here are among the issues I didn’t have time for, however are positively price contemplating. They’e a part of the various causes to go to Lake Biwa and Shiga, drawing in vacationers year-round.
10. Omimaiko Seashore
The white sands of Omimaiko Seashore are on the west facet of Lake Biwa. It’s simple to get to by prepare, the place you may cease at Omimaiko Station shut by.
Omimaiko’s sands stretch generously alongside the lake, offering a number of house for each rest and recreation. There’s additionally backed by pines so it’s a very lovely place of the world to be. You can even play volleyball, and even kayak or paddleboard to soak up the views of mountains from the water.
11. Ogoto Onsen
Additionally on the west facet, Ogoto Onsen is a well-liked sizzling springs space with many lodges. Some are open to day trippers for a small payment.
Ogoto Onsen’s historical past is steeped in legend and spirituality. It’s mentioned to have been found over 1,200 years in the past and is carefully related to the revered Buddhist monk and scholar, Honen, who purportedly utilised these sizzling springs throughout his retreats.
The new spring waters of Ogoto Onsen are alkaline in nature, identified for his or her silky texture that’s mild on the pores and skin. Wealthy in helpful minerals, these waters are sometimes sought out for his or her potential to alleviate quite a lot of illnesses, together with muscle ache, joint stiffness, pores and skin situations, and fatigue.
12. Windsurf or go crusing
Lake Biwa’s geographic orientation typically leads to constant winds, notably throughout sure seasons, so it’s the proper location for windsurfing. There are a number of windsurfing or crusing colleges or leases dotted alongside the lake you could enquire at.
If you happen to’re a professional or identical to watching, Lake Biwa ceaselessly hosts windsurfing occasions and competitions, drawing fanatics from throughout Japan and past.
13. Okishima island, also referred to as cat island
One among Japan’s cat islands, Okishima island is without doubt one of the greatest causes to go to Lake Biwa should you love felines! They outnumber folks, which might be because of the truth bikes are the previous mode of transportation right here so that they’re much less more likely to be scared by automobiles, or that there’s solely 350 folks residing right here.
Both manner, should you love cats it is advisable to get your self to this floating island. Even should you don’t, it’s a fairly place to go to – but it surely’s useful should you do give they’re all over the place.
14. Biwako Valley
Biwako Valley might be probably the most well-known attraction round Lake Biwa. It’s a ski resort within the winter, the place a number of folks come to ski or snowboard. Nevertheless it’s additionally open year-round for Shiga hikers, who can climb the mountains in hotter months the place there’s no snow.
The Biwako Valley Ropeway, one of many space’s highlights, takes guests on a panoramic ascent, offering superb views of Lake Biwa under.
15. Tarobogu Bonfire Competition
On the primary Sunday in December, you may take pleasure in bonfire shows on the mountains by Tarobogu Shrine. On the day, there are many shuttles taking you from Tarobogu-mae Station to the shrine, or you may climb the 700 steps to get to it.
As soon as the bonfire will get going, 100,000 goma prayer tablets from throughout Japan are burnt within the hearth. The competition is a part of Shinto and Buddhist practices, utilizing hearth to keep off evil and cleanse the soul and physique.
16. Miho Museum
If you happen to love structure or artwork, the Miho Museum is one other of the highest causes to go to Lake Biwa. It’s designed by world-famous architect I. M. Pei, providing guests a formidable fusion of synthetic and pure magnificence.
The museum’s entrance is especially noteworthy. Guests cross a luminous tunnel and a futuristic suspension bridge, which is meant to be a symbolic journey of transitioning from a chaotic outer world to the peaceable realm of artwork and nature.
Inside, the Miho Museum homes a set of over 2,000 artworks, with about 250 on show at any given time. These vary from historical civilisations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, to treasures from Silk Highway cultures, and even embody items from numerous Asian nations.
Methods to Get to Lake Biwa
Lake Biwa is within the Shiga Prefecture, but it surely’s very easy to get there from Kyoto.
You will get the prepare simply from Kyoto Station to Otsu. This prices ¥180 – ¥250 and takes simply ten minutes. Go to Otsu if you wish to be on the southern tip of Lake Biwa, or catch the prepare to Hikone if you wish to be on the east facet.
There’s additionally a bullet prepare from Hikone and Maibara stations. Take the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Maibara Station. From Maibara, native trains or buses can take you to numerous factors round Lake Biwa. An alternative choice is to get off the Shinkansen at Kyoto after which take the JR Biwako Line as talked about above.
You may go to Shiga direct from Kansai Airport. Simply get the Haruka restricted specific prepare to Otsu from Kansai Worldwide Airport in round 80 minutes.
An alternative choice is to lease a automobile from Kansai Worldwide Airport. Main automobile rental firms like Nissan Hire-a-Automobile, Toyota Hire-a-Automobile, Nippon Hire-a-Automobile, Orix Hire-a-Automobile, and Instances Automobile Rental have counters at Kansai Airport. They typically have a variety of autos obtainable, from compact automobiles to bigger vans.
The place to remain round Lake Biwa
There are many choices to remain shut by Lake Biwa and discover the area.
A number of the greatest choices are in Otsu, the place you could possibly select to remain at Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Lodge; a towering luxurious resort providing magnificent views of the lake. It’s additionally conveniently positioned with easy accessibility to each Kyoto and Shiga. Or there’s a number of conventional Japanese inns generally known as Ryokans, the place you may expertise genuine Japanese hospitality, full with tatami rooms and onsen (sizzling spring) baths.
Or why not keep in Hikone, which is a historic city with a citadel proper by the shores of Lake Biwa. You will discover all kinds of contemporary locations to remain like Consolation Lodge Hikone and Hikone Fort Resort & Spa.
To the north of Lake Biwa lies Nagahama, one other metropolis with a citadel and panoramic lake views. Nagahama can be identified for Kurokabe Sq., the place conventional black-walled buildings home glassware outlets – a nod to the town’s famed glass craftsmanship. The Nagahama Railway Sq. is one other attraction, celebrating the town’s historic connection to railways.
You can additionally look into tenting round Lake Biwa, the place there are many campsites to pitch your tent. This provides you extra speedy entry to the realm’s pure options and is a extra budget-friendly choice to attempt.