Results tagged “japan”

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)


Trip report in Portuguese is here

I have been to Sunai no Sato a few times and every time has always been surprisingly different. The place is located next to the mountains, which is definitely a selling point to me, and gets especially beautiful during autumn, but even more when it snows. After living in Japan for a few years I came to abhor the ever so popular "you can enjoy the four seasons" type of ads, but believe me, it really deserves a visit at least once per season and not only because of the nature.

One of interesting aspects there is the traditional houses turned into restaurants, classrooms for handcrafts and traditional sweets, stores and a tea ceremony room, proving that it is indeed possible to maintain this kind of buildings, keep its atmosphere and still make them convenient enough to use today.


To get there we went first to Ishiyama station, where we hoped into a free shuttle bus to Sunai no Sato. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Getting off the bus at the parking lot, we met our guides and went to the first stop of our trip, a place called Irori Chabo.


Specially on this day they would do mochitsuki, a traditional way of making mochi (pound rice cakes) using a japanese stomp mill and pestle that looks a lot like a wooden mallet. As incredible as it sounds, in 5 years of Japan I have never tried mochitsuki, and could finally try my hand at it. Although I was a bit worried, doing my best not to hit the person folding the rice inside the mill, everything went fine and I really enjoyed the whole thing! (Nothing like hitting something with a mallet to relieve your stress.)


After it, we ate the freshly pounded mochi with kinako (toasted soybeans sweet flour), tsuboan (sweet azuki beans) and oroshi (grated radish).


The warm, freshly pounded mochi had an exquisite texture, soft and chewy, that goes along perfectly with the toppings. Although I liked all of it, I must admit the oroshi version, which I never had with mochi before and was delicious, pleasantly surprised me.


After getting our bellies stuffed, we walked to Santokuen, where the stores, classrooms for crafts / sweets, and tea ceremony room are located.


Our guides then gently helped us during our next activity: making mochibana, an ornament made traditionally during New Year's to pray for good harvest and happiness. Each of us received a branch of yanagi (willow) and some white and pink hot mochi. The process is rather simple, and you just need to cut small pieces of mochi and use it to decorate the branches.


When finished, they look l covered in flower buds, turning it into a beautiful ornament you can bring home. Since we were talking to the staff while we made, time really flew by and we had a lot of fun.


Last, we also participated on a tea ceremony. Their main idea is that you can enjoy tea in a very relaxed atmosphere, without being worried with all the etiquette inherent to the traditional ceremony. The tea, delicious and velvety, is perfectly served and the tearoom itself is charming, with a view to the garden. The person in charge of the ceremony also explained to us their choices on apparel, sweets and the tokonoma decoration, which they choose according to the seasons.


We then said our goodbyes to the staff and took the free bus back to Ishiyama. On the short trip back, I felt I must come back, if not for the snow, at least in March, when the Ume flowers are in bloom.


(By Rodrigo Brinca)

Biwako Valley, Kaizu's Cherry Blossoms


One pleasant morning in April, we found ourselves at Biwako Valley, a mountain resort in western Shiga.Biwako Valley is more well-known for its Winter Season ski slopes, but this time we visited at the start of their Green Season. The base of the resort is also famous for its cherry blossoms.


Biwako Valley is on the summit of a mountain, so to reach it we rode the Biwako Valley ropeway. Here we got our first glimpse of Lake Biwa and the surrounding countryside.


Mrs. Tarao was kind enough to give us a tour of the facilities. The snow was still melting, so not all of the Green Season attractions were up and running. Later in the spring and summer, Biwako Valley offers zip-lining, a ropes course, and a space for kids called "Summer Land."


One of the newer areas at Biwako Valley is The Biwako Terrace, a cozy café with a beautiful deck overlooking the lake.


The Biwako Terrace had a nice homey atmosphere and huge windows, so even on cold days customers can enjoy the view. There is also a separate room for groups to rent out.


The day we visited was pretty foggy, but on a clear day you can see all the way to Mt. Ibuki and the Suzuka Mountains - literally the other side of Shiga Prefecture.


Maybe it was just us being constantly hungry, but the first thing we noticed upon entering The Biwako Terrace was a display of delicious-looking gelato. Flavors ranged from local tea and fruits to the ever-popular cookies 'n' cream (referred to here as "biscuit").


We chose the three local flavors: Adoberry, a berry-bearing bramble from Takashima (say that three times fast), and Omi Wa Koucha and Omi Genmaicha, two different kinds of tea grown in Shiga.


The unanimous favorite was Adoberry. Omi Wa Koucha (black tea) was subtle and fragrant, with just the right amount of sweetness. The Omi Genmaicha was, as Roddie put it, "not for beginners." At first glance, it looks like matcha, but its flavor is distinctly that of Genmaicha, a type of green tea combined with roasted brown rice.


The multi-level decks outside the café are lined with blue reflecting pools, which complement the colors of the sky and lake.


There's another lookout point beyond the deck called "Lover's Sanctuary." It is shaped like - surprise! - a heart.


Speaking of love, here's something we all love: buffets. Since we couldn't decide what to eat, we ended up getting a little bit of everything, from tempura to local red konyaku.


They also had a good variety of Japanese-style sweets, fruits, and yogurt for dessert.


Near the ropeway station at the base of the mountain there was a small marche with stalls from all over Kansai selling malasadas (Hawaiian donuts), bagels, and more classic festival food, like yaki imo (baked sweet potatoes).


Next, we took the scenic train up to Makino, a town in northern Takashima City. Across the station was a small place to rent bicycles.


From the station, it was only about a five minute ride to Makino Sunny Beach. The day had cleared up, and the crystal clear water made for some gorgeous photographs.


After another ten or fifteen minutes of cycling, we stopped to take some more pictures. From this one, you can see the cherry blossoms that line Kaizu Osaki Peninsula, our next destination. There were also lots of ducks and a few black kites soaring overhead.


We finally made it to Kaizu-Osaki Peninsula, which is part of the Biwako Quasi-National Park. It is said to be famous for its 600 Yoshino cherry trees, and it was no lie. There was a great number of families and couples picnicking and wandering among the trees.


There are a couple docks along the peninsula where you can join boat tours to enjoy views of the cherry blossoms from the lake.


The landscape of northern Shiga is completely different from the cityscapes of Otsu. In this picture, you can see how sparkly the water was on that sunny day.


Even for people who like to be present and savor the moment, it's impossible to resist taking pictures (and the results are well worth it!).


A few stores along the way to the peninsula were selling locally-made sweets. We felt it fitting to have some sakura-mochi (sweet pounded rice wrapped in pickled cherry blossom leaves).


We took a few more pictures before getting back on the bikes.


This is a humble example of the kind of photos you can take. The contrast of the delicate cherry blossoms and the lichen-covered bark is especially striking.


The unique part of Kaizu-Osaki Peninsula is that the journey itself is beautiful. Instead of visiting different attractions and then getting back into a car or onto a bus, here you find yourself surrounded by pink blossoms and sparkling blue water. It was an easy twenty-minute ride to Osaki Temple, and we loved every minute of it.


Here we are at Osaki Temple. It's actually partway up the mountainside, so you can't see it in the picture, but there's a beautiful view here as well.


This is a person from the temple signing Maddie's shuincho, a book for collection of shrine and temple seals.


After getting all spiritual, we stopped by a little shop and bought some tempura made with ayu, a small fish endemic to Lake Biwa. The shop was also selling funazushi, among other things.


This photo was taken mere minutes before our photographer was drenched by a rather large wave. Fortunately, the two of us and our food got away unscathed.


A close-up shot of the deep-fried goodness: ayu tempura.


It was an idyllic spring day by the lake, and we hope to come back again next year.

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

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.

2016.07 008.jpg

It tasted great and the water was gorgeous.

2016.07 010.jpg

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.

2016.07 011.jpg

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

2016.07 012.jpg

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!

2016.07 004.jpg

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

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

2016.07 003.jpg

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!

2016.07 005.jpg

Lastly we visited Hakodateyama Lily Park and Kokia Park!

2016.07 006.jpg

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

2016.07 007.jpg

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

2016.07 000.jpg

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

with staff members from the Shiga Visters Bureau this weekend.

2016.07 001.jpg

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

The village is a place with history and beauty.

2016.07 002.jpg

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.

2016.07 008.jpg

It tasted great and the water was gorgeous.

2016.07 010.jpg

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.

2016.07 011.jpg

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

2016.07 012.jpg

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!

2016.07 004.jpg

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

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

2016.07 003.jpg

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!

2016.07 005.jpg

Lastly we visited Hakodateyama Lily Park and Kokia Park!

2016.07 006.jpg

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

2016.07 007.jpg

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