Spring in Shiga
Shiga is located almost in the center of Japan.
This makes the prefecture easily accessible: just an hour and a half by train from both Kansai International Airport and Chubu Centrair International Airport, and just 10 minutes from Kyoto.
At the center of Shiga rests Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan and which accounts for no less than a sixth of the prefecture's total size. The lake is also surrounded by verdant mountains, providing the blessings of both water and greenery.
Lake Biwa is said to have four million years of history, and the tranquil scenery that comprises the lake and its environs allows visitors to enjoy everything that each brilliant season has to offer.
Shiga is also a transport hub, and has flourished as a center for culture and finance since ancient times. Therefore, even today you can find many historical and cultural assets in the region, closely linked to Japan's proud past. These include the traces of samurai heroes from the turbulent Sengoku period of civil war and townscapes reminiscent of ancient times.
Shiga also boasts an impressive number of castles, including the ruins of Azuchi Castle, built by Nobunaga Oda, Nagahama Castle of which Hideyoshi Toyotomoi was the first master, and Hikone Castle which was home to the powerful Ii family during the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Long ago, Shiga was known as "Omi Province", and traces of the name "Omi" can still be found in the region today. One of the most obvious is the delicious "Omi Beef," one of the three most prized types of Japanese beef. Characterized by a high degree of marbling, along with a melt-in-your-mouth richness and wonderful aroma, this beef is loved both domestically and abroad.
The largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa, is home to a wide variety of fish, providing for a range of fish dishes from the region. Unique local specialties include "funazushi," sushi made using fermented carp.
Furthermore, the unique customs of this region, influenced by the lake and its surrounding mountains, have led to many unique breweries and alluring sakes originating from Shiga, and it is a veritable treasure trove of alcoholic delights.
Being located close to the long-standing Japanese cities of Kyoto and Nara, and having prospered as a center for culture and finance since ancient times, Shiga is also characterized by its many festivals influenced by culture brought in from other regions or with ties to famous Sengoku period warlords.
Among them, the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival is counted as one of the Three Great Float Festivals of Japan. A long standing tradition at Hachiman Shrine in Nagahama, it is said to have begun with Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
There are other fun events to enjoy in Shiga throughout the year, including the Plum Tree Bonsai Exhibition in springtime, which has the longest history and largest scale of any such event in Japan, and wonderful fireworks displays in summer, with colors brilliantly reflected on the surface of the lake.