Results tagged “Otsu”

Explore Otsu City

On February 17th, we had the opportunity to go to Otsu city, the capital of Shiga Prefecture, and visit Ogoto Onsen and Miidera temple. We got to try a few different things; at Ogoto Onsen we did a foot bath, and at Miidera temple we participated in Zazen and made our own personal Juzu!


We first went to the Ogoto Onsen, the oldest onsen in Shiga prefecture, to try a hot foot bath. We expected the water would be hot, of course, but it turned out to be so hot that we couldn't even keep our feet in it at first. Although, once we got accustomed to the heat, it really did feel fantastic. It was a very soothing experience.

DSCF1652.JPGAfter the footbath, we ate lunch at the Onsen. We both ordered some Ohmi beef Gyudon, and it was delicious. The beef was juicy and flavorful, and it was a wonderful meal.

DSCF1671.JPGAfter having lunch at Ogoto Onsen, we went to the Miidera Temple, which is one of the four largest temples in Japan.


A monk from the temple took us on a tour of the temple grounds and various temple buildings, while teaching us about the history of it.

DSCF1684.JPGFrom the main gate, which is called the Niomon Gate, we went to the bell pavillion which houses on the Japan's three famous bells.


This bell is known for having a beautiful tone, and Tom and I were both allowed to ring it. We also saw Reisyo-do, another bell that was built in the 8th Century.


We then walked around the main hall where we saw statues of many different Buddhas.


We were also able to see the Issaikyo-zo, which is a library for the temple's scriptures, and To-in, which is the mausoleum of the temple's founder.

DSCF1757.JPGAt this time we made our way over to a building that was outside of the usual tour route. Here, we learned about Zazen meditation, and were able to try it ourselves. It was a little difficult to maintain the proper sitting posture, but we thought the experience was very interesting.

DSCF1772.JPGHere, we learned about Zazen meditation, and were able to try it ourselves. It was a little difficult to maintain the proper sitting posture, but we thought the experience was very interesting.

IMG_20180217_142358.jpgNext, we walked over to the Bimyo-ji Temple to make our own juzu, which is a bracelet of beads often used as a charm.


The juzu consist of three stone beads and 24 wooden beads. The different kinds of stone and wood represented different things. We ended up picking beads that will help us in times of stress and in our studies.


We all had trouble tying the elastic string together at the end, but all our bracelets turned out very nicely!


Lastly, we walked up to Kannon-do where we said a prayer at the temple and took a picture with our guide.


The tour of Miidera Temple was fascinating and we both enjoyed it very much. The trip to Otsu has left us excited and eager to visit more places in Shiga and to learn more about Japanese history.


(Author : Charles Hill)

Otsu trip part2


Yesterday, Chelsee and I had the opportunity to tour around Biwako and visit many wonderful locations.

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Our first stop was at a pottery store called Karahashiyaki. Almost everything inside had an owl theme.

We learned that, in Japan, owls symbolize wisdom and scholastic achievements. Their name can be taken to mean many things, such as "no hardship" and "luck kept in a cage for you".

Later on in our trip, we noticed these owls in other locations!

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We then headed to the owner's workshop to learn how to make some pottery of our own.

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I made a mug for my dad, Joe. We had to leave them there to dry, but I am excited to see the finished product!


Next, it was time for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant called "That Calendar" that had a fun, relaxed feel to it.

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Our guide told us that the restaurant had a capsule hotel attached to it, and that occasionally a DJ would come and play music for everyone.

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On our way back from lunch, Chelsee, our guide, and I stopped in Otsu station, which was also attached to the restaurant.

It was a large information center with many pamphlets full of different events and attractions that were available in the area.

There were even information booklets written in different languages, for foreigners.

Outside, bicycles were available for rent, which I have only ever seen before in large American college towns. The bicycles looked to be very good quality, which made us a little jealous.

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After that, it was time to go visit Omi Jingu, a beautiful Shinto shrine built in 1940.

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We were told it is customary for people to wash their hands before entering in order to purify their bodies.

It was my first time visiting a Shinto shrine, and I found myself wanting to see more in the future.

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Chelsee and I were led to a room where we could pick out our favorite kimonos and try them on.

Even though it was freezing outside, I will admit that this was my favorite part. The kimonos were beautiful and surprisingly comfortable!


Finally, it was time for our last stop: the Biwako Otsu-Kan.


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Former hotel turned (primarily) wedding venue, the Biwako Otsu-Kan had once hosted many famous visitors such as Emperor Showa, Hellen Keller, John Wayne, and various other celebrities.

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It was also home to a large light garden, which we were able to go explore.


All in all, touring around Biwako was an amazing and I feel so lucky to have had the experience. Chelsee and I are already making plans to go back!

Otsu trip


Carly and I previously had the opportunity to take the Biwako tour, with Hashizume-San as our guide.

This tour allowed us to see some of the old and the new parts of Biwako.


★First Stop:Karahashiyaki

Karashiyaki is a small pottery shop in Otsu-shi. It's main theme in pottery is the owl, or Fukurou, which is a symbol of scholastic achievement.


The designs of the pottery reminded me of something you'd see in a whimsical-like movie.


During our visit, Carly and I were invited to take a pottery class and make our own cups.


Our instructor was a nice man, who we'll call Mr. PPAP, and was also really funny -- he made a PPAP cup in reference to Piko Taro's song and cracked lots of jokes.


We ended up having to leave our cups to dry, for them to be mailed to us when complete. Before leaving I made a purchase of my own, and hope to return to Karahashiyaki someday before I leave Japan.Next Stop: The Calendar!


★Second stop : The Calender

Next, we stopped for lunch at The Calendar. The Calendar is a restaurant that's connected to Otsu Station.


The restaurant had a modern contemporary setting, with a relaxing vibe. On the inside you could find two different seating areas -- one Japanese style and the other side Western style. A bookstore was also included inside the restaurant, but one would think that the books are for show upon first glance.There was also a beautiful outdoor terrace, in which BBQs are held during the warmer seasons.


For the food it seems that the menu may be weekly or maybe even seasonal, with only a few select entrees that come with a small cup of soup and a tiny salad.

I found it interesting that there was a capsule hotel attached to this restaurant. Next stop: Omi Jingu!


★Third stop: Omi jingu

Omi Jingu, constructed in 1940, is a shrine dedicated to Emperor Tenji. This point of the trip will be one of my most cherished memories.

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Carly and I had the opportunity to pick out our own Yukata and walk around the temple.



The process allowed us to see how to properly wear a Yukata. Although cold, the experience was amazing. Final stop: Illumination Show!


★ Last stop: Illumination Show

Our last stop for the evening was an Illumination show held at Biwako Ostu-Kan.


Biwako Ostu-Kan used to be a hotel, but has since shut down the rooms for booking. Instead, people can now book the hotel venue for weddings, class reunions, and art seminars.


The illumination show was beautiful, but cut a little short due to the incoming snow storm -- which was even more beautiful in that it started to look like a winter wonderland.


All in all, with the guidance of Hashizume-San, this trip was amazing. Carly and I hope to return when the weather is warm.

Omi Curry & Friendship Adventures


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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


...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.


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


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...


...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.


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.


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


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


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


Learning how to maneuver the river bug.


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


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.


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!


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


...but escaped unscathed


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


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


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


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.)


The three of us celebrating our first success.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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

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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


Maddie poses with the Boat Race Bible...


...a thorough guide to the boat races.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!