Hyakusaiji & Fuji Honke

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I am trainee from Hunan Province of China. I joined a trip program of Shiga. Plase read my trip report.

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Last month, I had a Momijigari trip to one of the temples in Koton Sanzan which is one of the oldest temple in Omi, called Hyakusaiji Temple.

In autumn, Japanese people enjoy hanging out to have a view of autumn leaves, and they called this activity as Momijigari.

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The "Kotoh Sanzan(3 mountains on the eastern part of Lake Biwa)" is wonderful area to enjoy the beauty of Momiji.

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The approach to the main hall is very long. It's said it's the longest one in Kotoh Sanzan. Though, surrounded by lots of aging trees, you can still find the site to image a castle once stood here. There are lots of fallen leaves on the footsteps and rocks with moss, which let me sense the depth of history and time flies.

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On entering the Kikenin Garden, I was fascinated by the scenery. It's a typical pond style Japanese garden. The pond, falls, hills, trees, stones and so on are layout in a unique balance. Walking around the pond, I found the gradation of red, yellow and green leaves is changed from different views.

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Climbing to the top of this garden, a view of the Koto plain, Mt. Hiei and Mt.Hira is very wonderful.

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In a good weather, and introduced by NHK of the Momoji Report last day, many visitors came here this day. Although the color of leaves is a little fading, Hyakusaiji's fallen leaves carpet is very beautiful, just like what to be said.

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In the afternoon, we arrived at Fujii Honke, a sake brewery since 1831. The 5th Sigitama Festival is held on this day. It's the season for the new sake, so many kinds of new sake can be tasted in this Festival. What's more, we had a visit to the SakeKura(sake brewery). The owner made an excellent introduction of the brewery for us, and his preference for rice and water which moves me very much.

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The owner said that without richness in water, nature and environment of Shiga, Fujii Honke's Sake cannot be made, and only using the local rice for sake brewing, the sakekura can find the way it lives.

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Fuijii Honke's Sakekura is a place for make an old fashioned handmade style brewing. The brewery has high ceiling and earthen wall for suitable aging condition without air condition, which keeps perfect temperature and humidity, designed by the owner's mother. I was fascinated by the special design of this architecture, and had to admire Japanese people's wisdom.

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I don't like alcohol, but the amazake is so delicious that I drank 2 cups. What's more, a friend of us bought plum liquor for us, so we had a great plum liquor party in day. It's fortunate that I was not drunk.

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I bought the sake lees at last. It's so awesome I can enjoy yummy amazake and kasujiru in home.

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At last, show you a picture of Omichanpon which I had eaten that day. The restaurant is near Hikone Station, and I ordered a spicy one, of course it's delicious.

Lake Biwa Museum & Kusatsu Headquarters

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After having lived in Japan and on Lake Biwa for two months we were given the opportunity to visit the city of Kusatsu with the Biwako Museum and Aquarium being the first location.

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The entrance to the aquarium was a tunnel that made it feel like we were entering the lake itself!

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Our guide through the aquarium informed us of the various types of life that live in Lake Biwa. I was surprised by just how diverse the life can be within the lake! 

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I learned much more about aquatic life than I expected and was honestly taken aback by the vastness of Lake Biwa.

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I was able to see the catfish which usually does not show up . So luckey!!

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This is a fish petting area. Have a try!

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The museum also had an exhibit on Lake Baikal in Russia that had seals! The seals were very sleepy, but still cute. If you wait a while, maybe they will come out and play!

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Even on the microscopic scale Lake Biwa hosts a plethora of different forms of life. This room was equipped with microscopes that streamed a live feed from a Petri Dish that had microorganisms within it.

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I always appreciate "hands on" learning experiences and the microscopes reminded me just how interesting science can be and the applications it has.

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This room of the museum was outfitted with a geographical map of Lake Biwa spanning the entire floor! It was massive and really showed just how big Lake Biwa is!

This map was so accurate that we were even able to find The Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU)! We were plenty far away from it in Kusatsu, and exemplified even more just how massive the mother lake is.

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The facility even featured a wall that showed the progression of technology and culture in Japan by decade. It's always interesting to see just how much things can change in such little time.

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A later section of the museum displayed a few vintage Japanese style homes.

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There were many goods on display like pictures.

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After touring the entire building we found our way back to the the restaurant nestled near the entrance of the museum. I thought it was a little funny that the aquarium had a restaurant that served fish but, of course, it was incredibly delicious regardless.

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Next on our trip we found ourselves at Kusausujyuku Honjin, A historic lodging site for the Daimyo and other government officials. That said the building was rich with history from the earlier eras of Japan. It was incredible to see first hand!

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Of course a beautiful garden sits at the middle of the Honjin and seamlessly creates a stunning scene for the adjacent rooms. 

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Just walking through a building that has so much history behind it itself is humbling and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

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The art displayed here was nothing short of extraordinary, I have always loved traditional Japanese art style and how it was integrated into so many things such as making a door like this an incredible piece.

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For the final stop on our trip we visited Kusatsujuku Kaido Kouryukan, a institution focused on the history of the city of Kusatsu.

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The facility had a room where you could wear traditional clothes so of course we had to try some outfits on!

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There was even a full diorama set of Kusatsu on display. 

Who knew that one city could have so much history and significance, the museum was full of artifacts and was incredibly informative of the city's past.  

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Additionally we even got to experience the ancient Japanese practice of woodblock painting or Ukiyo-e. I had never had personal experience with this medium before and it was awesome to try for the first time! 

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We weren't one-hundred percent accurate with the template but art was never my strong suit anyway. The artistic experience itself was like none that I had done before. 

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Kusatsu was such an incredible city and I can not believe that I had not visited it until we were invited. It was saturated with knowledge of not only historic Japan but also the mother lake, Lake Biwa and the incredible impact it has on Japan. I would have never had this knowledge or experience without WE LOVE SHIGA inviting Anna and I out. 

Hachimanbori Matsuri(Festival) part.2

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During my short stay here in Japan, I was given the opportunity to travel with We Love Shiga・Biwako to Omihachiman.

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I'm never really sure what to expect when visiting a new city in Japan, but I wasn't let down with Omihachiman. This city of full of history, beauty, and entertainment; whether you want to enjoy a nice stroll in the city, enjoy the thrill of shopping malls, or even climb a mountain, there's something to do for most everyone.

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Our first stop was at a bead shop called "Rear Wood Beads Bijux"; the wood they use for beads comes from all over the world (I believe some comes from South America).

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Here, we made some nice wrist strap for cellphone. All in all, it was a fun experience (I've never made anything with beads before).

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After we had finished making our wrist strap, we were famished. Thus, we took a quick break at the sweet shop across the sidewalk (maybe 10 steps away). There was an assortment of delicious snacks to choose from, but since I can't resist the parfaits in Japan, I had to get one. It was pretty tasty, and the atmosphere of the shop was quiet and peaceful.

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I would say that one of my favorite things about Omihachiman is the scenery, it's spectacular. I couldn't help myself but to take as many pictures as my phone's storage could handle (it can handle quite a bit). Perhaps some of the best shots I took were of the river. Although I am quite a poor cameraman, the natural beauty made up for my budding skills (or lack there of). This shot was actually taken on top of a small bridge that overlooked this river. Omihachiman has some beautiful places to visit, and this is perhaps one of my favorites in the city.

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I can't mention beauty without mentioning Japanese temples and shrines. This particular shrine was a bit different than what I've experienced thus far in Japan. Usually, there will be a large red torii gate that gate that you have to pass through. In this case, the gate you see (frame of the picture) was brown, which made me think it was a temple.

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I won't spoil the inside of the shrine area for you, so please, if you have the opportunity then you should visit.

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After walking around inside the shrine for perhaps 20 minutes, the sun decided to make way for dusk. Actually, Japan is perhaps at it's most beautiful during the hours when the sun is just rising or just sinking, in my opinion.

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Here's actually another torii gate that you walk through in order to get to the aforementioned shrine (it also leads over the bridge mentioned earlier as well).

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Japan really likes to light places up, especially here in Omihachiman. Actually, the day we explored this city (Sept. 17th)there was a festival going on. As you may be able to see from the background, the whole river way is lit by candlelight. Simply beautiful.

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Walking around the town at night was a lot of fun; there were many vendors selling food (like omi beef skewers, takoyaki, corn on the cob, and more), people singing, and lots of hustle and bustle.

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Omihachiman is the "City of Merchants". What I mean by that, is that many many years ago, merchants from all over Japan would gather here and trade. These merchants had built large houses, and so you will see many such houses in Omihachiman. Furthermore, these very merchants went on to actually found some of the most well-known cities in Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto).Perhaps it could be said that Omihachiman is the heart of Japan (my thoughts).

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This painting is one of dozens that has survived for many hundreds of years. I forgot who created such beautiful works of art, but their work is well remembered by the people of Omihachiman. I often wonder what it was like to live in Japan many hundreds of years ago; is it in some ways similar to now, or perhaps vastly different. What about my home country, America, or other places around the world? Going to these merchant houses really made me think about the past, present, and future. If you have the opportunity, again, please visit them.

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The last piece on our itinerary was riding a gondola up to the top of a nearby mountain. Let me just say that the view was spectacular, and my pictures can't even hold a candle to the real thing. There's something awe-inspiring about being above the clouds and looking over something so vast and being able to see it all. Perhaps humbling. The pictures at the bottom are just a couple more shots from the night.

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Omihachiman holds so much beauty and history, it's really an amazing city. I probably never would have experienced this if I wasn't invited.

Hachimanbori Matsuri(Festival)

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Roughly since I came to Japan and started living in Hikone I had thought Omihachiman would be a nice place to visit.

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I had really wanted to ride the cable car there.

Not only was I able to ride said cable car but was also given the opportunity to enjoy various food and live music during a festival going on when I had visited.

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Firstly, me and my compatriots from JCMU visited a place called Rear Wood Beads Bijoux, where we made some bracelet-like accessories with wooden beads originating from various places all over the world.

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This was actually quite difficult, but the accessories came out well.

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I ended up giving mine to JCMU's Student Services Coordinator who had sarcastically joked about me making one for him--the joke's on him because I actually made one!

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I also had a parfait at a local restaurant called Hosa Amana.

The restaurant was a nice little place with an interesting upstairs seating arrangement.

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Such kind of places are a bit rare where I am from in Michigan. The service was amazing and, as parfaits go, it was definitely something I would recommend to anyone who goes to Omihachiman.

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After eating, my classmates and I went to a shrine that had some pretty cool statues and enjoyed the shrine's architecture.

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I taught one of my classmates that is less experienced with Japanese culture how the hand washing custom works at shrines,and one of the people with us noted how I Japanese my cultural knowledge makes me seem, which is funny because there is still so much I do not yet understand fully about Japanese culture.

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Around the time we visited the shrine there was a small festival going on, so we spent some time enjoying the river that was lite up with candles. It was quite a sight!

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We then saw someone play an ocarina (which was way cool!) and went to this old building with a bunch of beautiful art in it.

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The ocarina is what I would say was the coolest live music I saw during the trip and the water color paintings were also a sight to behold. I treasure having witnessed both.

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We ended the night by taking the Omihachiman cable car to the top of the near-by mountain.

The night time view quite spectacular considering how dark it was.

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Omihachiman has a bright skyline, which makes the city a marvel to behold at both day and night time.I would like to return and use the cable car again in the day time to compare.

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There was a couple playing live music up there as well. With both the live music and vew from the mountain it a spectacular experience!

Omi Curry & Friendship Adventures

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Our trip started at this small and cozy restaurant near Ishiyamadera temple called Koshu!

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This place specializes in shijimi gohan (freshwater clam rice) and is quite popular with temple visitors looking for a place to rest while enjoying delicious food.

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This time we tried Shijimi Kamameshi Curry.

It's one of the dishes made especially for "Otsu Ohmi my curry", a project in which 17 shops in Otsu created new curry recipes using local ingredients.

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This particular curry is meant to be eaten in three different ways, one after the other. After waiting about a minute to let the rice rest, we removed the wooden lid of the kama (rice pot) and had our first look at the shijimi gohan!

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Then we mixed the shijimi and rice together.

Being hungry as we were, we kinda forgot to take a picture of the first way to enjoy this dish, which is to spoon some rice on to the plate and eat it straight.

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Here's another picture of the whole set. As you can see, it comes with ice-cold green tea, which was refreshing.

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The second way to eat this dish is to pour some curry over the rice...

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...and eat it with these lightly roasted and seasoned fresh vegetables, locally grown in Shiga.

This time we had gôya (bitter melon), kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), nasubi (eggplant), and a couple kinds of potatoes.

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Oh me! Oh my! The star of the show, the Ôtsu Ohmi my curry.

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Don't get too excited and eat the whole thing, though: the last way to savor this dish is to pour the remaining curry on the leftover shijimi gohan inside the kama, top it with the remaining vegetables and cheese, put the lid back on...

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...and give it back to the waitress, who will cook it to savory perfection.

Yet again, we failed to take a picture, but you just eat it straight from the pot this time.

The crispy rice at the bottom of the pot gives the dish a really nice texture.

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After lunch, we took a 15-20 minute car ride to Friendship Adventures!

This is the only place in Japan where you can try River Bugging, a sport which originated in New Zealand and is kinda like rafting in an inflatable armchair.

Here's a picture of us nervously smiling in front of a vaguely threatening sign.

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Here we are in full gear: life vest, helmets, wetsuit and a light waterproof jacket. Maddie also had a GoPro attached to her helmet.

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To move while floating you gotta use both hands and feet. Here, we were choosing which color paddle mitts to wear.

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In this picture, you can see our instructor Chin giving us some points before we jumped into the river.

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Learning how to maneuver the river bug.

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Next, we learned how to use the paddle mitts, which are rubber webbed gloves.

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Once we were in our bugs, we had a chance to get used to maneuvering them in calm water.

From the river, you can see the tiled roofs of Japanese style houses and the lush green mountains.

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Chin told us that it's actually possible to stand on a River Bug, so we decided to try while we were in calm waters. Here's Maddie!

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Roddie on the other hand......had some trouble...

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...but escaped unscathed

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After a brief explanation of how to pass through safely, we finally entered our first rapid.

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Despite her confident showing earlier, Maddie flipped out almost immediately...

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...but recovered and we both made it out alive.

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We paused to regroup and enjoy the scenery. (Should I mention that Roddie lost one of his fins? Oops. Well, Chin helped him with a new pair.)

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The three of us celebrating our first success.

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Some rapids were more difficult than others, but Chin always gave us tips in advance and soon we were comfortable enough to try going backwards or sitting on our knees. Chin even surfed one.

He fell out. We laughed. But it was impressive nonetheless.

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Towards the end of the river there were no rocks and it was deep enough for us to float around without the bugs.

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Some more action before the end of our adventure.

I'm not posting the photo that shows the exact moment I fell out. I'll leave that to your imagination.

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Back at the base camp! Most of the rapids in Setagawa are beginner level, so it is great place to start.

The staff is friendly and knows their stuff. This was the best adventure we had in Shiga so far, and we totally recommend it.

Boat Race Biwako

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We have been to the Biwako Boat Racing Arena once before, but the weather was not that great at the time.

On this day, however, we had beautiful weather, albeit a bit windy,

so we could properly enjoy not only the races, but also the gorgeous scenery.

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This is the arena as seen from Lake Biwa's side.

I gotta say it looks way better from here, with nice glass windows.

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Here's another photo of the scenery.

Something you might find interesting is that you can actually watch the Lake Biwa summer fireworks display from here.

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The second floor is general seating, and there is no smoking allowed (you can smoke on the first floor). It has a nice view...

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... and a lot of vendors. You can find snacks, beer, coffee, boiled eggs (?) and more.

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The third floor is reserved seating, which costs a little bit more, but has nicer seats and a better view.

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Here we are enjoying the view. In the distance, you can see Mt. Mikami, also known as Omi Fuji.

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There's a small computer where you can check the odds from your seat.

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From the window we actually had the chance to see Umi no Ko, the floating school.

Fifth graders all around Shiga take an overnight field trip on this boat to learn about Lake Biwa.

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We also saw the Michigan boat, which runs daily cruises around the lake.

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Maddie poses with the Boat Race Bible...

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...a thorough guide to the boat races.

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If you are not Japanese-savvy, there's also an English pamphlet that gives you the basics.

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To the left you can see one of many leaflets filled with statistics on the day's races. It includes info on the riders, engines etc.

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Here's a close-up of the betting card. There are many options and you can bet from 100 to 500,000 yen.

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Since the second floor has no computers for you to check, you might as well use one of the huge displays that show the odds and other valuable info for betters.

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There are automated betting machines so you don't have to interact with a human being.

Especially good if you are worried about your poor Japanese skills.

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I bet 100 yen and won about 1 million dollars, baby! Just kidding. I lost.

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One interesting aspect of boat races in Japan is that they happen simultaneously all around the country.

While you are waiting for your race to start, you can watch (and bet on) races happening in other arenas, such Kyushu and Okinawa.

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This giant clock is used to time the start of each race. (It's also a pokestop.)

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This is what a start looks like. Go number 1!

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Once the boats get near to the corner, they have to slow down to make the turn.

This is a decisive moment because if they pull it off right, they can get a big lead.

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Heading for the finish line! Come on, number 1!

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And we have a winner! IT'S... number 6... sadly...

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Did you win? Did you lose? Beer makes everything better.

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If you feel the need for something more substantial than a snack you can check the small cafeteria.

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Here's the curry we had. It has a nice assortment of toppings.

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These are the boat race girls. They look like Power Rangers and are in a lot of posters all around the place.

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This is a behind the scenes shot: Special thanks to these guys from Biwako Boat Racing for hosting us and showing us how to bet!

Harie Fresh Water Village & Hakodateyama Lily Park

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I had the amazing opportunity to visit some great places around Shiga Prefecture

with staff members from the Shiga Visters Bureau this weekend.

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In the morning we visited the Hattie Fresh Water Village in Takashima village.

The village is a place with history and beauty.

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I was able to see the community around the clean water and even got to taste some of the water myself.

If you have the opportunity to tour the village, I would highly recommend it.

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It tasted great and the water was gorgeous.

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And the natives of the village live with technology of the past and future.

They use the fresh water for drinking and watering plants and even washing their food.

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They're able to use the water in tandem with modern day technology to create a really interesting, unique lifestyle.

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And in this village also exists a temple and various old sculptures and buildings.

If you go, make sure you try some of the water for yourself because it's delicious!

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Afterwards I was able to eat an amazing lunch at Kawashin. 

If you're feeling adventurous, try an amazing lunch at Kawashin!

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We had fresh water fish from Lake Biwako and it was truly something else.

I don't think I'll eat a meal that good for a long time!

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Lastly we visited Hakodateyama Lily Park and Kokia Park!

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The Gondola ride up Hakodate Mountain was scary but definitely worth it!

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The view was amazing and I even got to drive some dune buggies!