Results tagged “Shiga”

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)

Explore - Omi Hachiman

It was a blessing for me to have the opportunity to visit Omi-Hachiman. It was wonderful, unique experience to Japanese history and culture. I was able to go with my good and royal friend Tyleen Wilson (2nd year in JCMU) , and together we spent an amazing afternoon exploring this beautiful city.

We began our journey to Omi-Hachiman with visiting Himure Hachimangu Shrine.


The gate of Himure-Hachimangu Shrine.

There is a giant torii (holy gate) in front of this stone. The torii functions as a divide between the sacred ground and the rest of the world.


The history of the shrine goes all the way back to the Kamakura period. The god worshiped in this shrine is Hachiman, the god of martial arts. Personally, as a fan of Edo period architecture, I enjoyed the old, authentic temple buildings from Edo period.


The shrine is not only historically significant, but also extremely beautiful. I was lucky that I visited shrine in the Fall because the leaves set special moods for the visitors. I would also be interested in coming here during the spring and summer because I was taught that Himure Shrine is also famous for its festivals.


And, there are golden birds.





There is a mountain right next to Himure Shrine. Hachiman Yama (Hachiman Mountain), is an amazingly gorgeous mountain which also has a rich history with samurais. Our tour guide informed us that there was an epic battle between the ruler of Japan and his own stepson. The walls of the castle where the battle took place still exists.


The good thing about Hachiman Yama is that there is a lift that goes up to the top. You do not have to climb (yay). I particularly enjoyed the beautiful colors of autumn leaves. Tyleen liked a little Buddhist altar along the road.


There is a castle in the mountain where samurai used to live. It is a castle that shows the mixed style between Edo period and Sengoku period. All of the stones are natural - neither carved nor modified.


At the top of mountain.

Normally, one could see the Lake Biwa from mountain with all the famous places in Omi-Hachiman. However, this day was little cloudy, so we instead enjoyed the scenery.


After we finished Hachiman Yama, we moved to the boat ride. It was my first time riding that type of Japanese traditional boat. It was very quiet on the river, no people, only nature, birds, fish, and calm wind.



It was so tranquil. From the boat ride, we could see the mountain far away, the winding river, and traditional houses all at the same time.

It was an overall wonderful experience. In places such as Kyoto and Tokyo, while they may be exciting and popular places, they are full of noise and people. This, I think, takes away from the true beauty of Japan. In Omi-Hachiman, I experienced a place where the history can be seen in its natural beauty. For those who wish to observe the quiet beauty of Japan, I recommend a visit to Omi-Hachiman. Tyleen and I had a wonderful time.

(Author : Kim Younghoon)

Trip by Ohmi railway


On March 25, We got up bright and early for a day of sightseeing along the Ohmi Railway!


The experience was very different from that of the JR lines we're used to taking, but it gave me the feeling of going back in time.


The sites were also really pretty along the way with spring just beginning.


We got off at our first stop in Minakuchi, and headed to the Kafuka Ichigo Orchard for all-you-can-eat strawberry picking.


For 45 minutes, Michaela and I were allowed to eat as many strawberries as we could,and we definitely tried to make the most out of it!


The strawberries were really juicy; it was sometimes hard to pick the best ones to eat because they all looked so good!


I think that strawberry picking at Rokushin would especially be a great activity for families; it was so fun.


Next, we took the Ohmi Railway to Higashiomi,


and stopped to visit the house of Hikoshiro Fujii, who was a prominent yarn merchant, with a home that used an interesting mix of European and Japanese inspired architecture and decoration.


My favourite part was the garden in the back; it seemed so effortlessly beautiful, and though you could see traffic from afar, it was so peaceful and quiet.


Afterwards, we took a short walk around the neighborhood, until we reached Menmen Tanaka, which was a restaurant that served soba and udon noodles. Both meals were delicious!

I got the soba with a vegetable tempura, and Michaela got udon, which was served with a side of sweet beans and sakura shrimp from Lake Biwa. It's called ebimame, which we were told was a famous food in the Bikwako area.


When we finished out meal, we hopped back on the Ohmi Railway for one more stop before heading home; Toyosato Elementary School.


Our destination was a bit of a walk from the train station, but it was well worth it! Toyosato Elementary School was recently made famous by the japanese anime K-On!,


but it was designed by William Merrell Vories, who was a prominent architect in Shiga during the first half of the 20th century.


It was really interesting to see the interior of the school building; there's so much attention given to detail, and our tour guide was really wonderful about pointing everything out.


My favourite thing about the school was the main staircases, which had small bronze turtles and rabbits along the railing, meant to symbolize the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.


After finishing the tour it was finally time to say goodbye, so Michaela and I headed back home from a long day out, tired but happy!


Being able to experience so many things in Shiga was really fun, and I'm so grateful that we were able to take part in such a fun day. Shiga is a wonderful prefecture with a lot of history and beauty; my hope is that many more people get to learn about what makes this region of Japan special!


[Facebook]We Love Shiga Biwako

Trip to Nagahama part.2


Got to explore Nagahama with Molly DeDona! We found some real gems on our day out!


First, we went to make our own blown glass cups.


It was a little scary at first, but they were so nice and guided us through every step.


They were professionals and made me feel like I was in good hands.


Next, at the same shop, we made our own designs on cups to be sandblasted.

Sandblasting basically adds a cool, frosted effect to your class.

We both decided to do it the difficult way so it took some time, but the result was worth it!


After all of our hard work, we got some food that is a specialty of Nagahama.


It's a kind of udon soup. It was deli0cious! The broth was thicker than most and it had a giant mushroom in it! :)


Next, we walked around Nagahama. We looked at a few shops, including the shop of the figure museum in Nagahama.

It seemed like a cool museum and I wouldn't mind checking it out next time I go!


We visited also visited a temple as we walked around. While they didn't have an English brochure, just looking at the temple's structure and beautiful shrine inside was worth the visit.


There were also shops nearby that looked like they sold Yukata. I'll have to stop by and check them out some time!


Also, the animal that represents that temple or the area is a fox. So, there were lots of cute pictures of foxes on our way to the temple.


We eventually made our way over to the Plum Blossom exhibit on the other side of the tracks to make our Plum Sake! It was a once in a lifetime experience and I enjoyed every minute! We had visited the Plum Blossom exhibit before, however we had no idea that there was such an event held there.


Japanese people can make sake in their own house so they had this class.

There was a taste test before where we tried 11 different kinds of sake.

Then, they explained why each sake was different and showed us how to make it.

There was even a company sponsoring the event, so we got a free can of plum juice and sake that we could drink right away.


I have to shake the plum sake glass jar everyday, but I'm excited to try my own homemade sake when it's ready! :)


Still, we saw some goodies back in the shopping area that we had to buy so we stepped out for a minute.


However, when we got back, they lit up the garden out back and it was beautiful.


After drinking some tea and enjoying some mochi, we took some pictures and said farewell.


In the end, I honestly never would have thought there would be such gems in Nagahama. I loved exploring and getting to learn more about the opportunities in Shiga. I can't wait to choose another city and explore again!

Trip to Nagahama kurokabe & Bonbai Exhibition


This is a little overdue, but here is an overview of my super fun Saturday in Nagahama!

Me and Kate had the chance to go to Nagahama, a bit North of Hikone and try out some of the activities and specialties of the region.


So, the first place we went to in Nagahama was Kurokabe Glass House.

While we were there, Kate and I had the chance to make our own glass cups.


While the glass artists did most of the work, we did get the chance to shape the hot glass a little bit. It was difficult to do, the glass was molten hot!


It was really fun though, we got to choose what colors were added to the glass, but we did not get to take it home right away, since it has to cool.

However, the cup arrived in the mail today, and it looks great! I am excited to get to use it!!


At the same business, you can decorate a cup or plate, and have it sandblasted permanently with a design.

I made mine represent Lake Biwa, and I marked out Hikone and Ootsu in relation to it.


It was really fun, and it is not very expensive (about 15 dollars). I would totally go again; and I would really like to sometime this semester, I highly recommend it.


We got to eat Noppei udon, which features a huge Shitake mushroom in with the noodles.


The broth is really thick, almost like thick cornstarch gravy. It was delicious though!

We ordered a lunch that also came with a rice bowl, which had salmon and soy sauce drenched rice, which was also delicious.


Lunch was really close to Kurokabe Square, a great shopping center with a wide variety of stores in the arcade style mall, as well as many places to buy souvenirs, mostly of glass figures and tableware.


There were at least three really nice stores to buy a wide variety of glass cups, plates, hina masturi (For the national Girls day holiday, displays of Heian era court figures are popular to display) figures, and jewelry.

You can also buy Shiga-prefecture specific food specialties.


We also made plum sake, which was really fun.

I didn't understand everything that was being said because it was all in Japanese, and since I was tired and it was warm in the room, I almost fell asleep for a minute!


We got to try various umeboshi sake, they were all a lot sweeter than I expected, but I definitely want to try to buy some and bring it home to share.


I had been to the bonbai exhibit once already, (like bonsai trees, but blooming plum trees instead)

but this time we went closer to sundown, and we got to see all the special lights on both inside and outside the exhibit, it was really pretty at night.


so,when we went to the bonbai exhibit, it was nearing dusk, and we excited to se the light-up of the exterior garden that wold happen after dark.


Even through I had been there once before, it was during the day, so we missed the light-up part of the exhibit. The plum trees themselves were rather amazing,some are nearly 400 years old!

They are given constant attention and pruning from their caretakers, and only the best are selected to be displayed in the exhibit.


One of the great parts of the exhibit is the interaction you can have with the flower blooms, you can lean over and smellthe blooms, and they sure do smell good!


There are two floors of the exhibit, and the upstairs has a little place where you can sit down and have tea and light snacks. I had matcha tea, and a small sweet, and as we were drinking and eating, we could look out the window as the lights were turned on out in the garden. There is also a really nice gift store on the way to exit the exhibit, you can get a variety of sweets, teas, and other local food products.


It was a really fun exhibition, it would recommend it to anyone.

Otsu trip part2


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

Otsu trip7.jpg

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!

Otsu trip8.jpg

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

Otsu trip9.jpg

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.

Otsu trip10.jpg

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.

Otsu trip 11.jpg

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.

Otsu trip11.jpg

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.

Otsu trip 13.jpg

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.


Otsu trip13.jpg

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.

Otsu trip14.jpg

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.

Hyakusaiji& Fuji Honke part3


On November 26th, I had the opportunity to visit Hyakusaiji temple, as well as a sake brewery to taste sake and see how it was made.


First, we went to Hyakusaiji temple. Hyakusaiji is one of the oldest temples in Japan.


We saw the garden first, and it was beautiful! Because it was fall, there were beautiful maple leaves with vibrant colors. So we sat and enjoyed the peacefulness of the garden and the beauty of nature.


The main temple is on top of a mountain, so after climbing for about ten minutes, we reached the main temple.

There, we went inside, and then outside of the temple, where a large bell was, we each rang the bell and then prayed for something.


After our temple visit, it was lunchtime. So, we ate Omi Chanpon near Hikone station.

It was my first time eating chanpon, and it was delicious! I also found out that it was a special food to Shiga, which was also interesting.


After our lunch, we headed to Inae station, and after a train ride, took a short bus ride to a sake brewery, where we learned how sake was made.

Before that, we played a game where we tasted different kinds of sake and had to match them to their bottles.

Needless to say, I couldn't tell which sake was which.


After the sake-making tour and the sake tasting game, we had a chance to look around the market area that was inside of the main building.

We tried many local Shiga foods, and drank amazake as well as plum sake. Amazake is not only good for your health, but it is also delicious and great for a cold day!

I don't like alcohol very much, but the plum sake was pretty tasty!


After a long, fun-filled day, we headed home. I learned a lot about Shiga and its' local foods and culture during this trip, and I am grateful for the chance I had to explore Shiga. It was a great day!

Hyakusaiji & Fuji Honke part2


At 8:00am Saturday morning, I woke up with Mina and took a bus to Hyakusai Temple to see the fall maple leaves (Momiji).


It was my first visiting this temple along with viewing momiji. I was really able to appreciate the beautiful scenery I was surrounded by.

The actual temple was quite a hike, but during our journey up the mountain we came across a Japanese garden which settled well into the season perfectly.


When we got to the top of the mountain we reached Hyakusaiji temple and purified our hands before entering inside the temple. As we entered it felt like we entered into whole different area.

The atmosphere was different and you could tell that temple had a lot of history and stories behind it. I watched people rub the head of a Buddha statue and pray for good health as the smoke of incense filled the room.


Outside the temple there was a tree that has survived for more than 1,000 years. Next to a tree was a large bell that people ranged after they prayed so that that gods can receive their prayer. I found it mesmerizing and decided to join in as well.


After our trip went near Hikone station and went to Omichanpon and tried spicy chanpon which is a noodle based soup with a variety of vegetables.

It was my first time having omichanpon and it was delicious! It wasn't as spicy as I thought it was going to be, but it's definitely good to have when you are sick. I wondered why it took me so long to actual try.


Once we finished eating we went to Inae and visited the Fuji-sake brewery.


We received a sake cup and had to try out 5 different types of sake and compare which ones were the same. I tried sake for the first time and i didn't find it to appetizing.There was a variety to taste some were sweet, most were bitter, and one had no taste at all. Most of the time sake is drunken when it is warm.


I had a chance to try Amasake which was really good! It is made hot and sweeter while containing only a small amount of alcohol compared to most sake beverages. We got a tour of the brewery and got to see how it is process. I enjoy Japanese sake a lot more than American alcohol. I think the taste isn't as overwhelming compared to American alcohol and it doesn't burn your throat!


At the end we met the manager of "We Love Shiga" who purchased plum-flavored sake for us which was sooo good! Along with the appetizers we had with it.


All in all this fun a fun experience and I'm glad I was able to go. Thank you for this opportunity!

Hyakusaiji & Fuji Honke


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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! 


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


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


This is a fish petting area. Have a try!


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!


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.


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


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.


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.


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


There were many goods on display like pictures.


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.


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!


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


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



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.


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


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


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.  


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! 


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. 


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


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


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.


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).


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).


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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)


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


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!

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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!