Autumn festivals and foliage November 2017 in Shiga Prefecture

Recommended festivals (matsuri), events, exhibitions, and fall leaves in Shiga Prefecture in November–December 2017. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.)

Compiled by Philbert Ono. Updated: Nov. 8, 2017

Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade

Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade

November 3, 2017
♦ Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade, Hikone Castle, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Very elaborate costume parade of mainly kids dressed as samurai and Edo-Period ladies. Highlights include the Hikone Gun Battalion giving a matchlock gun demo (in front of Horse Stable), Ii Naosuke played by an actor on horseback, fireman acrobatics, and Sarugaku dancers. The parade route starts from Joto Elementary School and proceeds along the road to the castle and passes in front of the Umaya Horse Stable. Video here. Short walk from JR Hikone Station. Map | Video | Photos
小江戸彦根の城まつりパレード
English: http://www.hikoneshi.com/en/event/articles/220
Japanese: http://www.hikoneshi.com/jp/event/articles/c/parade

Saimyoji

Saimyoji

November 18th-27th, 2017
Koto Sanzan Temple Trio autumn foliage, Kora, Aisho, and Higashi-Omi
Koto Sanzan (湖東三山) is a trio of large Tendai Buddhist temples famous for autumn leaves in eastern Shiga. They are Saimyoji (西明寺) in Kora, Kongorinji (金剛輪寺) in Aisho, and Hyakusaiji (百済寺) in Higashi-Omi (see map below). They are also famous for structures that are National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.

During the autumn foliage period, convenient shuttle buses (Koto Sanzan Shuttle Bus) run every day between Hikone Station and these three temples. For more details and the shuttle bus schedule in English, click here.

Eigenji

Eigenji

November 4th-26th, 2017
Eigenji Temple Autumn Foliage and Light-up, Higashi-Omi, 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm for light-up
Although this temple is not one of the Koto Sanzan Temple Trio, it’s also famous for autumn leaves with 3,000 maple trees. Along with Saimyoji, Eigenji is also one of Japan’s 100 Grand Autumn Foliage Sites. Established in 1361, Eigenji belongs to the Zen Rinzai Buddhist Sect (Eigenji School). Since it’s a different sect, Eigenji is not a member of the Koto Sanzan trio of Tendai Sect temples. Impressive during the day, but also beautiful at night when the leaves are illuminated along with the walking paths. Admission 500 yen.

From Ohmi Railways Yokaichi Station, go to Bus stop 1 and take the bus going to Eigenji Shako (永源寺車庫) and get off at Eigenji-mae (永源寺前). Takes about 35 min. Bus schedule from Yokaichi Station on weekdays | Saturday | Sunday. Note that from Eigenji-mae, the last bus for Yokaichi Station leaves at 7:26 pm on Sat./Sun. and 8:27 pm on weekdays. Map
永源寺 ライトアップ
Japanese: http://eigenji-t.jp

Zensuiji

Zensuiji and maples.

November 16–December 3, 2017
♦ Konan Sanzan Temple Trio Autumn Tour, Konan, all day
Not to be confused with Koto Sanzan, Konan Sanzan is a trio of Tendai Buddhist temples in the city of Konan. A small city like Konan is lucky to have as many as four National-Treasure structures at the three Konan Sanzan temples. Like Koto Sanzan, Konan Sanzan temples are also noted for autumn leaves. During this period, a convenient shuttle bus plies between the temples and train stations.

The temples are Jorakuji (常楽寺), Chojuji (長寿寺), and Zensuiji (善水時). Jorakuji has not one, but two buildings that are National Treasures: the Hondo main hall and three-story pagoda. Chojuji means, “Long Life Temple,” and its small, but distinctive Hondo hall is a National Treasure. Zensuiji has the largest and most impressive Hondo hall (National Treasure) bearing elegant roof lines. Not to be missed by architectural buffs. The three temples are all in quiet, rural neighborhoods.

One thing you have to understand is that two of the temples (Jorakuji and Chojuji) are on one side of the train tracks and the third temple (Zensuiji) is farther away on the other side of the tracks. So there are two separate bus routes going to the three temples and there’s a train ride between Jorakuji/Chojuji and Zensuiji.

The Konan Community bus called Meguri-kun runs from JR Ishibe Station (JR Kusatsu Line) to Jorakuji and Chojuji once an hour from 8:24 am to 3:45 pm. From Jorakuji, you can take the bus to Chojuji. From Chojuji, take the bus back to JR Ishibe Station and catch the train to JR Kosei Station one stop away. From JR Kosei Station, take the bus to Zensuiji (get off at the “Iwane” stop). The last bus leaves Zensuiji (Iwane) at 5:16 pm for JR Kosei Station. You can also tour the temples in reverse order, starting with Zensuiji. In the morning, buses leave JR Kosei Station (north exit kita-guchi) for Zensuiji at 8:28 am, 9:25 am, 10:15 am, 12:20 pm, 1:45 pm, 2:45 pm, 3:50 pm (except on weekends and holidays). Bus fare is ¥250 per ride for adults. ¥130 for kids.
Bus schedule in Japanese | Map
湖南三山めぐり

Hiyoshi Taisha torii lit up in autumn.

November 11th–26th, 2017, 5 pm–8:30 pm
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine Maple Festival Light-up, Otsu
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine at the foot of Mt. Hie in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture is the head shrine for all Hiyoshi, Hie, and Sanno Shrines in Japan (around 2,000). The spacious grounds includes two shrines that are National Treasures and 3,000 maple trees lit up at night 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm during this period. Even the green leaves look great against the dark sky. Highly recommended if you’re in that part of the city. Near Hiezan Sakamoto Station on the JR Kosei Line and Keihan Line’s Sakamoto Station. Map | Photos
もみじ祭
http://hiyoshitaisha.jp/event/momiji/

Ishiyama-dera

Ishiyama-dera

November 18–December 3, 2017
Ishiyama-dera Temple Autumn Foliage Light-up
, Otsu, 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm (enter by 8:30 pm)
Founded in 749, Ishiyama-dera, belonging to the Shingon Buddhist Sect, is the 13th Temple of the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The temple is noted for National Treasure architecture, cherry blossoms, and fall leaves. The maples are nice even during the day, but the evenings will include LED lights. Mini-concerts on weekends at 6:30 p.m. Map
三井寺 秋のライトアップ
English:
Japanese: https://www.ishiyamadera.or.jp/guide/event/atarayo

November 17th-26th, 2017
Miidera Temple Autumn Foliage Light-up
, Otsu, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm (enter by 8:30 pm)
Established in the 7th century, Miidera temple, or Onjoji, is one of Otsu’s major temples and one of Japan’s four largest temples. It is the headquarters temple of the Tendai Jimon Buddhist Sect and former rival of Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei. It is a complex of numerous structures including National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. The temple bell is famous for being one of the Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Omi) depicted in ukiyoe prints. During this period, the temple’s three-story pagoda will also be open to the public. Map
三井寺 秋のライトアップ
English:
Japanese: http://miidera1200.jp/2017lightup-autumn/

Hyozu Taisha

Hyozu Taisha garden

November 17th-26th, 2017
Hyozu Taisha Shrine Garden Autumn Foliage Light-up, Yasu, 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm (until 9 pm on weekends and holidays)
Established in 717 (Nara Period), Hyozu Taisha Shrine has a noted Japanese garden with a pond ringed by small rolling hills and autumn leaves. The fall leaves certainly look colorful and impressive when illuminated in the evenings and reflected in the pond. Events and merchandise booths will be held on weekends.

A short bus ride from JR Yasu Station’s North Exit (Kita-guchi). Take the Yoshikawa Line (going to Nishi Kawahara 2-chome 西河原2丁目 or Ayame-hama あやめ浜) and get off at Hyozu Taisha 兵主大社. Buses are infrequent (schedule here). The last bus leaving Hyozu Taisha for Yasu Station leaves around 9:02 pm on weekdays and around 7:17 pm on Sat./Sun. Or take a taxi (costing about 2,000 yen from Yasu Station). Map
兵主大社庭園紅葉ライトアップ
Japanese: http://www.yasu-kankou.com/event/2017/10/post-35.html

Genkyuen

Genkyuen autumn foliage light-up.

November 18–December 3, 2017
Genkyuen Garden Autumn Foliage Light-up, Hikone, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm (enter by 8:30 pm)
Adjacent to Hikone Castle, Genkyuen was built as a castle garden in 1677 by Ii Naooki, the fourth lord of Hikone Castle. I would call this Shiga’s best place to view autumn foliage illumination. The pond’s reflection of the colorful autumn leaves at night doubles the impact. Hikone Castle in the background is also lit up for a perfect night scene. Reminds me of a master painter using a black canvas. Admission ¥700 (¥350 for jr high and younger). Short walk from JR Hikone Station. Map
錦秋の玄宮園ライトアップ
English: http://www.hikoneshi.com/en/event/articles/221
Japanese: http://www.hikoneshi.com/jp/event/articles/c/kinshu

November 18–December 10, 2017, 5:30 pm–8 pm (enter by 7:30 pm)
Kyorinbo Garden Autumn Foliage Light-up, Azuchi, Omi-Hachiman
Beautiful Japanese garden designed by Kobori Enshu. Part of a temple at the foot of Mt. Kinugasa. Autumn foliage at night is reputed to be most beautiful. Of course, you can also go during the day. Tripods/monopods and food are not allowed. No photography inside the buildings. The garden is usually open only on weekends and holidays, but it will be open every day during Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Admission 500 yen (200 yen for jr high and younger). From JR Azuchi Station, take a taxi for 10-min. ride. Google Map
石の寺 教林坊 紅葉ライトアップ
http://www.d1.dion.ne.jp/~marche/kyourinbou/

Toyosato

Toyosato Elementary School (Image: toyosato-kanko.jp)

November 25–December 27, 2017, Sunset–10 pm
♦ Former Toyosato Elementary School Evening Illumination, Toyosato
Pretty outdoor and building illumination in the evening. Christmas illumination during Dec. 16th–27th. Designed by William Merrell Vories the school has become nationally famous as the backdrop for the popular K-ON! anime/manga series. For groups of four or more, guided tours of the old school are provided for a fee.
Japanese: http://toyosato-kanko.jp/event/illumi2017/
豊郷小学校旧校舎群ライトアップ&イルミネーション

Shaka-do

Shaka-do

October 1–December 10, 2017, 9 am–4 pm (until 3:30 pm in Dec.)
Enryakuji Shaka-do Hall Hidden Buddha Display, Otsu
In the Saito complex of Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei, the Shaka-do main temple hall will open its doors to reveal its principal object of worship, a seated Buddha (Shaka Nyorai). The Buddha revealed to the public only once every 33 years. Visitors can also see the hall’s naijin altar area.
Japanese: http://www.hieizan.or.jp/archives/2556

December 2nd–3rd, 2017, 6:30 am
Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Biwa, Takashima, early morning
Dramatic sight of hot-air balloons crossing Lake Biwa. They start off very early in the morning at Omi-Shirahama Beach so you would have stay near this beach in Takashima. The balloons aim to land in Notogawa in Higashi-Omi across the lake. Note that weather conditions can cancel the event.
熱気球琵琶湖横断
http://www.takashima-kanko.jp/new/20171123_1704.html

Date and venue to be confirmed. 
♦ Tonda Ningyo Puppet Show, Nagahama, 1:30 pm
The famous Tonda puppet troupe will perform three acts. Admission 1,200 yen at the door.
At JR Nagahama Station, go to Bus stop 1 and take the bus at 12:27 pm going to Nagahama Shiyakusho Azai-shisho-mae (長浜市役所浅井支所前) and get off at Biwa Shisho-mae (びわ支所前). Takes about 20 min. Only three buses go there on Sunday. Or take a taxi if you’re rich or going with friends. Google Map
人形浄瑠璃「冨田人形」

December 3, 2017
♦ Tarobogu Shrine Fire Festival, Higashi-Omi, Noon – 4:00 pm
Held annually on the first Sunday of December, the Tarobo Shrine Fire Festival burns a big pile of 100,000 wooden prayer tablets called goma (護摩) collected from believers all over Japan. The tablet is written with the believer’s name, address, and prayer wish. The fire burns as a prayer for family health and safety. After the fire settles down, barefoot priests walk over the hot ashes. Very dramatic festival (photo here).
Short walk from Ohmi Railways Tarobogu-mae Station. Map
太郎坊宮お火焚大祭
http://www.tarobo.sakura.ne.jp/gyouzi.html

For art and museum exhibitions in Shiga, see Kansai Art Beat’s exhibition schedule for Shiga museums.

Koto Sanzan Temple Trio autumn foliage 2017

pagoda

Saimyoji’s 3-story pagoda, a National Treasure.

In 2017, the Koto Sanzan autumn foliage season will be November 18th–27th, 2017. Shuttle buses will run between Hikone Station and the three Koto Sanzan temples.

Koto Sanzan (湖東三山) is a trio of large Tendai Buddhist temples famous for autumn leaves in eastern Shiga. They are Saimyoji (西明寺) in KoraKongorinji (金剛輪寺) in Aisho, and Hyakusaiji (百済寺) in Higashi-Omi (see map below). They are also famous for structures that are National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.

Each temple has its own unique characteristics. Saimyoji’s main temple and pagoda are both National Treasures that you can enter. It’s also deservedly one of Japan’s 100 Grand Autumn Foliage Sites. Kongorinji has many colorfully dressed Jizo statues and a National Treasure main temple housing an 11-faced Kannon statue and 13 other statues that are Important Cultural Properties. Hyakusaiji is famous for giant straw sandals on a gate and a Japanese garden. Established by Shotoku Taishi in 609, Hyakusaiji is Shiga Prefecture’s oldest temple and one of Japan’s oldest. After entering the gate adorned with a pair of giant straw sandals, see the Hondo temple hall with an 11-faced Kannon statue carved by Shotoku Taishi, a prince credited with spreading Buddhism in Japan.

Until late Nov. or early Dec. 2017, all three temples will be holding a special display of their unique Buddha statues normally hidden from the public. Kongorinji temple is displaying its Daikokuten statue (大黒天), the largest in Japan.

Each temple charges admission ¥600 for adults.

Kongorinji

Kongorinji

Hyakusaiji

Hyakusaiji

Autumn foliage shuttle bus

Autumn foliage shuttle bus

During this year’s autumn foliage season from November 18–27, 2017, convenient, low-cost shuttle buses (Koto Sanzan Shuttle Bus) run every day between Hikone Station and these three Koto Sanzan temples. At Hikone Station, the first shuttle bus leaves at 9 a.m. and goes to Saimyoji, Kongorinji, and Hyakusaiji. From Hyakusaiji, the shuttle bus goes back to Hikone Station while stopping at the other temples along the way. (See the shuttle bus schedule below.) It will take most of the day to see all three temples so start as early as you can in the morning. (Unlike in previous years, the shuttle bus no longer runs to Eigenji and Yokaichi Station.)

Although you can pay the shuttle bus fare per ride (costing ¥300 to ¥600), I recommend buying the day pass called Momiji kippu (Maple ticket) for ¥1,200 (¥600 for kids). This day pass is good for riding the shuttle bus between Hikone Station and the three temples. Get on and off as much as you like for one day. So you start and end at Hikone Station. The Momiji kippu day pass is sold at Hikone Station’s bus stop at the west exit from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. If you like to take your time (for photography, etc.), you might not have time to see all three temples in one day.

There are also guided tour buses (teiki kanko bus) departing Nagahama, Kyoto, Maibara, and Hikone Stations that are much more expensive (around ¥8,000) and follow a set tour schedule. No English guides.

Koto Sanzan Foliage Shuttle Bus Schedule (Nov. 18th–27th, 2017), Hikone Station to Hyakusaiji (read down).
Bus StopBus 1Bus 2Bus 3Bus 4Bus 5Bus 6 
Hikone Station9:00 am9:35 am10:00 am11:10 am1:10 pm2:45 pm
Taga Town Hall9:25 am10:00 am10:35 am11:35 am1:35 pm3:10 pm
Seseragi no Sato9:30 am10:05 am10:40 am11:40 am1:40 pm3:15 pm
Saimyoji9:35 am10:10 am10:45 am11:45 am1:45 pm3:20 pm
Kongorinji9:45 am10:55 am11:55 am1:55 pm3:30 pm
Kongoen-guchi9:50 am11:00 am12:00 pm2:00 pm3:35 pm
Crefeel Koto9:56 am11:06 am12:06 pm2:06 pm3:41 pm
Yomiaido10:00 am11:10 am12:10 pm2:10 pm3:45 pm
Arrive Hyakusaiji10:10 am11:20 am12:20 pm2:20 pm3:55 pm
Koto Sanzan Foliage Shuttle Bus Schedule (Nov. 18th–27th, 2017), return trip from Hyakusaiji to Hikone Station (Read down)
Bus StopBus 1Bus 2Bus 3Bus 4Bus 5Bus 6 
Depart Hyakusaiji10:30 am11:50 pm1:25 pm2:50 pm4:20 pm4:50 pm
Yomiaido10:40 am12:00 pm1:35 pm3:00 pm4:30 pm5:00 pm
Crefeel Koto10:44 am12:04 pm1:39 pm3:04 pm4:34 pm5:04 pm
Kongoen-guchi10:50 am12:10 pm1:45 pm3:10 pm4:40 pm5:10 pm
Kongorinji10:55 am12:15 pm1:50 pm3:15 pm4:45 pm5:15 pm
Saimyoji11:05 am12:25 pm2:00 pm3:25 pm4:55 pm5:25 pm
Seseragi no Sato11:10 am12:30 pm2:05 pm3:30 pm5:00 pm5:30 pm
Taga Town Hall11:15 am12:35 pm2:10 pm3:35 pm5:05 pm5:35 pm
Arrive Hikone Station11:40 am1:00 pm2:35 pm4:00 pm5:30 pm6:00 pm

If you have time on another day, also see Eigenji temple (永源寺) in Higashi-Omi. Being a Zen Buddhist temple, it’s not part of the Koto Sanzan Trio and the shuttle buses do not run to/from Eigenji. Buses run to Eigenji from Yokaichi Station.

Eigenji

Eigenji

秋の湖東三山
Shuttle bus info in Japanese:
http://www.ohmitetudo.co.jp/bus/2017.10.31kotousanzan/index.html
Japanese pamphlet: http://www.ohmitetudo.co.jp/file/bus_shuttlebus_kotousanzan2017.pdf
Official sites: Saimyoji | Kongorinji | Hyakusaiji

UCC Shiga Factory tours in Echigawa, Aisho

Entrance

Entrance to UCC Shiga Factory in Aisho.

The UCC Shiga Factory (UCC滋賀工場) in Aisho, Shiga Prefecture (near Ohmi Railways Echigawa Station) started full-scale operations in March 2013 to make regular coffee in plastic bottles (930 ml) and cans (300 ml and 400 ml) with screw-on caps. It uses the clean water from the Suzuka mountains to make the coffee.

UCC is a very famous coffee brand in Japan synonymous with canned coffee since they invented and popularized canned coffee in 1969. “UCC” stands for “Ueshima Coffee Company” named after Ueshima Tadao who founded the company in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture in 1933. Coffee was one of the Western things that came to Kobe and he fell in love with the drink with his first cup. UCC’s innovative canned coffee got its big break at Expo ’70 in Osaka. With all those people drinking UCC canned coffee milk at the expo, it was a major PR coup.

In 1989, they started operating their own coffee plantation (UCC Hawaii) in Kona, Hawaii which also conducts tours for the public. They also have a coffee farm in the famous Blue Mountains of Jamaica.

UCC Shiga Factory Tours

The UCC Shiga Factory conducts free factory tours twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They offer two identical tours on both days starting at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The tour is about 80 min. long and up to 22 people can join the tour. Reservations are required at the UCC website (in Japanese). The reservations page shows a calendar indicating when space is available. An “x” means no spaces are available. A number indicates the number of spaces still available on that tour. You can make reservations up to three months in advance and it must be made by 4:00 p.m. the day before the tour.

They do not allow pets, baby strollers (can be stored), and wheelchairs (due to the stairs). Kids younger than jr. high school need to be accompanied by an adult. If there are enough foreigners, I was told that tours in English are also possible.

You have to get to the factory at least 15 min. before the tour starts. You can enter the factory up to 30 min. before the tour starts and enjoy a cup of coffee while waiting. If you come by car, parking is available in front of the factory. If you come on foot, follow the pedestrian path (follow the signs) toward the left of the giant coffee cup. There is a security gate where they will ask for your name. (In Japanese, say “kengaku” which means factory tour.)

When you enter the building, they will greet you and ask for your name. There is a lobby where you take off your shoes and wear house slippers. The lobby wall has a display of the products made at the factory. Photography is allowed only in this lobby (and outside). Photos and videos are not allowed anywhere else in the factory. Our friendly factory guides were women in red uniforms.

entrance

Follow the pedestrian path to the factory entrance ahead.

lobby

UCC Shiga Factory 1st floor lobby. Sign for selfies says, “Visited UCC Shiga Factory.”

UCC

Lobby displays coffee drinks made by the UCC Shiga Factory.

From the lobby, we were told to go upstairs to the “Theater Room” which is a nice coffee lounge with chairs, tables, small gift shop, and a video screen. As we waited for the tour to start, we were served free UCC coffee and we could choose which coffee to drink. The room also has a showcase tracing the company’s history with product displays. You can see how the UCC coffee can design has evolved since 1969. The tour started with a short video in Japanese introducing the company and its coffee farms in Jamaica and Kona, Hawaii.

Then we left the room and entered the factory after saying the “magic password” to open the factory door. We walked through a corridor with glass windows on both sides and saw mostly metal pipes going in all directions and large vats. One stop was in front of the production line where they fill coffee cans (800 cans of coffee per minute). Another stop was at a line where plastic PET bottles were being transported. Those 1-liter PET bottles were actually made from small test tube-size plastic pieces (called “preforms”) that is expanded and inflated at the factory into regular-size PET bottles. Amazing, I had never wondered how PET bottles were made until then. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to transport those small preforms to the factory than ready-made bottles which take up a lot more space. They also showed us the very thin films used for the PET bottle labels.

Unfortunately, the factory production lines were not operating when we were there. Apparently, their production quota had been reached so they weren’t operating. It wasn’t a 24/7 operation. So we didn’t see anything move. No noise, and almost no people. Looks very automated.

We also had a live video chat with a quality control inspector working in the quality control room. He explained how he samples the coffee through smell and taste to ensure product quality. I asked him (jokingly) how he prevents overdosing on caffeine while on the job. He said he doesn’t sample enough coffee to overdose on caffeine. He only samples a few cups of coffee worth per day for his job. (He says you need to drink tens of cups of coffee in a day to overdose on caffeine.)

Next, we were led to the “Coffee-Tasting Room” where we sat for a coffee-tasting session. We each had two tiny cups of different coffee to compare regular coffee and coffee made with a concentrate. They definitely smelled and tasted different. They explained how each type of coffee is made and how it affects the taste.

Lastly, we were led back to the “Theater Room” lounge where they introduced their latest coffee products and their little gift shop on a small shelf. If you buy something at the gift shop, they give you a door prize like packets of instant coffee. And if you buy at least ¥1,000 of gifts, they give you two free bags containing six instant coffee packets. Lots of freebies and there wasn’t anything expensive to buy. We also had time to taste UCC’s different canned and bottled coffee. I tasted them all and noticed differences in the taste, sweetness, milkiness, and smoothness. I concluded that coffee in small cans tasted better than the coffee in large PET bottles.

Since the factory is still new, the place is nice and clean and the staff were friendly and nice. After the tour if you have time, I recommend also visiting the Omi Jofu Traditional Crafts Center down the road and try hands-on weaving.

This gift set cost only ¥200 at UCC Shiga Factory gift shop.

canning date

Imprinted on the neck is the expiration date and “SGF” which indicates “Shiga Factory.”

Senbei

Coaster-shaped senbei crackers imprinted with “UCC Shiga Factory.”

Obviously I had to buy this Kona Coffee and little canvas bag (since I’m from Hawaii).

packets

Buy at least ¥1,000 of gifts and get this free. Six instant coffee packets in each bag.

Freebies

Free door prize (instant coffee) with any purchase.

Also see UCC’s photos of the Shiga factory here.

The factory is a 15-min. walk from Echigawa Station on the Ohmi Railways. Or 15 min. by taxi from JR Notogawa Station.

Coincidentally, I tried this large can of sweet UCC coffee during my last trip to Hawaii.

Shiga History May–August 2017

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s major and interesting news headlines for May–August 2017 (according to the year, month, day, and time posted at GMT).

Originally posted on Twitter under Shiga Headlines by Philbert Ono. Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters including spaces and links (shortened by Twitter). Dates and times below are based on GMT instead of Japan time.

2017-05-09 00:54:22 Otsu Mayor Koshi Naomi was interviewed in English by Foreign Press Center Japan in March. https://t.co/B2gAEFGYFW
2017-05-09 11:41:34 In Moriyama this morning, Yoshimi Elementary School teacher Nakano Keiji (中野啓治, 59) arrested for DUI as he was driving erratically to work.
2017-05-09 11:56:02 Age 22 Inoue Yuta 井上裕太 & two age 14 boys arrested for breaking windows w/rocks at 4 primary & junior high schools in Omi-Hachiman in April.
2017-05-11 17:27:21 Former Kora Town Hall tax worker Kojima Takayasu (30) 小島崇靖 arrested for embezzling ¥30 mil.+ from tax-paying residents by falsifying data.
2017-05-11 17:38:02 Food Bank for accepting corporate food donations will be established to supply food to 63 Kodomo Shokudo kitchens for kids in rural Shiga.
2017-05-14 07:07:20 2nd video of our mini concert in Imazu featuring Biwako reed flute players Kikui Satoru & Kondo Yumiko. So pretty! https://t.co/hwjhfqFGiX
2017-05-16 21:10:00 Shiga Lakestars’ 1st season in the new B.League’s B1 Div. ended with 21 wins & 30 losses, putting them in last place in the West Conference.
2017-05-17 11:07:36 KEPCO’s No. 4 nuclear reactor at Takahama in Fukui was restarted today despite widespread opposition and anxiety in Shiga.
2017-05-17 11:19:14 All shinkansen between Gifu-Hashima & Maibara had to stop tonight for 30 min. when someone went on the tracks at Maibara Station at 5:50 pm.
2017-05-18 11:24:53 98.5% of Shiga’s 2,166 high school graduates in 2017 have found employment. An increase of 0.5% over 2016 & exceeding 98% 4 years in a row.
2017-05-19 10:40:49 The problem with this New York Times article is that “Shiga” is not mentioned at all. Only “near Kyoto.” https://t.co/hJ2SDfsGwB
2017-05-23 11:12:09 Since 2001, 502 non-serious traffic accidents caused by Shiga Prefectural Government employees went unpunished. This oversight now finally corrected.
2017-05-24 23:00:28 Shiga Pref. Gov’t male worker suspended for 2 months for sexual harassment of female worker verbally, forcing lunch date, touching her chest
2017-05-24 23:01:28 Shiga Prefectural Government managerial male worker suspended 4 months for sexual harassment of 2 female workers, touching her hip & thighs, emailing.
2017-05-24 23:02:14 The names, dept., and age of the two male Shiga Prefectural Government workers suspended for sexual harassment have not been disclosed as required.
2017-05-24 23:02:45 Despite widespread opposition and anxiety in Shiga, KEPCO’s No. 3 & 4 nuclear reactors at Oi in Fukui passed safety standards for a restart.
2017-05-26 06:48:47 After 3 seasons, Shiga Lakestars head coach Toyama Koto 遠山向人 will be leaving the team upon completing his contract. His replacement TBA.
2017-05-26 06:50:58 Higashi-Omi Odako giant kite festival will not be restarted until ongoing litigation over the death & injury of spectators in 2015 ends.
2017-05-26 10:16:53 Moriyama city has signed a cooperative agreement with Sagawa Art Museum to offer art education & free admission to local kids & residents.
2017-05-28 08:35:56 Nagahama Royal Hotel’s kitchen suspended for 3 days from May 27 for causing norovirus food poisoning of 36 tourists from Kobe on May 20.
2017-05-29 12:10:38 Delicious lunch today with samurai chopsticks at Azai Sanshimai (sisters) Roadside Station in Nagahama (opened in March 2017). #道の駅浅井三姉妹の郷 
2017-05-31 11:24:55 Huge lotus pond at Karasuma in Kusatsu decimated since summer 2016. Expert says, “Sandy soil is bad, very little chance of recovery.” Sad! 
2017-06-01 14:38:12 Near Nagahama Castle in Hokoen Park today, they started building the new Biwako Shuko no Uta Verse 3 song monument. First the foundation… 
2017-06-02 10:21:57 Taga-native and Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Takahiro Norimoto got double-digit strikeouts 7 games in a row, breaking Hideo Nomo’s record.
2017-06-04 11:00:39 Great show by the Blue Impulse aerobatic team over Hikone today to celebrate the castle’s 410th anniversary. Sakura in the sky and more. 
2017-06-06 13:44:56 KEPCO’s No. 3 nuclear reactor at Takahama in Fukui was restarted today despite widespread opposition and anxiety in Shiga.
2017-06-06 13:51:13 51-year-old Australian Shawn Dennis has become the Shiga Lakestars’ new head coach. Previously an assistant coach for Tochigi Brex.
2017-06-06 14:05:08 Age 43 male worker at JA Kita-Biwako agricultural cooperative embezzled ¥44.77 mil. from people’s accounts for 2 years from Feb. 2015.
2017-06-13 04:56:05 American Jesse LeFebvre, an ordained Shingon (Buzan) Buddhist priest doing the Saigoku Pilgrimage, appointed as Otsu’s Tourism Ambassador.
2017-06-16 14:30:11 Founded in Hikone in 1933, Takata Corporation (4 factories in Shiga) is applying for financial rehabilitation due to massive airbag recalls.
2017-06-16 14:51:38 Official warnings issued to 6 of 36 educators in Shiga who received money/favors from textbook publishers to evaluate textbooks under review
2017-06-18 18:42:13 Yokozuna Hakuho & Miyagino Stable are lodging in Nagahama for the Nagoya tourney. He treated local kids & fans with sumo demo & chankonabe.
2017-06-27 15:45:22 Ninja birthplaces Koka and Iga have signed an agreement to work together to attract more tourists.
2017-06-27 15:56:29 Takata Corporation’s bankruptcy is causing anxiety in Shiga with 4 factories & over 50 subcontractors. Sharp, Toshiba, & now Takata. So sad!
2017-06-28 08:26:29 To mark the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song), the Japan Post Office issued these stamps sold only in Shiga. https://t.co/b8vnhQ8qRz
2017-06-28 08:33:00 The annual Biwako Shuko no Uta choir contest held in Imazu on June 25 was extra special this year with singer Kato Tokiko also appearing. 
2017-06-28 08:35:21 After the choir contest, 120 rowers sang in front of the song monument at Imazu Port including singer Kato Tokiko & former Gov. Kada Yukiko. 
2017-06-28 08:41:29 Also on June 25, a new song monument (Verse 3) was unveiled near Nagahama Castle with Kato Tokiko attending. It’s a glass bench. 
2017-06-28 08:43:19 On June 24–27, 120 rowers took turns rowing around Lake Biwa on 3 boats. They sang at each song monument along the way. Here’s Mt. Ibuki. https://t.co/mwgX6mCiWS
2017-06-28 08:56:40 なぞり周航の最後に大津市の越市長もよく述べた:「周航の歌が世界にも広がることを期待する」(毎日新聞6月28日の滋賀版)。 https://t.co/la8viiqbRZ
2017-06-28 09:25:16 なぞり周航が無事に終わって本当にお疲れ様でした。その企画と実行が大変だったと思いますが、皆さんがよく連携・協力して改めてこの歌のパワーが感じさせられました。凄いなと思いました。滋賀ってやればできるよ。Rowers sing at the Verse 5 monument. https://t.co/86G7dCAUvM
2017-06-30 16:58:23 The 1st Biwako Ongakusai concert at Biwako Hall last night ended with everyone singing Biwako Shuko no Uta for the grand finale. #びわ湖音楽祭 
2017-07-01 09:32:10 RT @Lefa_heart: びわ湖音楽祭、フィナーレの写真です

英語版、琵琶湖周航の歌を作詞された

オノフィルバートさんよりご提供いただきました

本当にたくさんの人のご縁がこのステージに導いてくれました!

2017-07-05 15:40:59 NHK滋賀より:「外国人へ情報発信するのが下手」。延暦寺だけの問題ではない。県内のほとんどの名所や観光施設はそうなんです。英語があってもその質または量が低い。大津が個別に対策をとってもあまり効果はない。まず、滋賀の全体の改革が必要(全市町で)。個別の連携ではなく、全体的の連携を。
2017-07-09 13:49:56 Talked about Lake Biwa Rowing Song at my university lecture in Japanese in Tokyo on July 8. #都内の国立大学 
2017-07-09 13:59:25 Child kabuki from Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri (Kasuga-zan) & Asakusa performed today at Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo. #長浜曳山祭東京公演 #子ども歌舞伎 #浅草こども歌舞伎 
2017-07-10 12:47:04 Maibara City Hall manager (40s) in health/welfare dept fired on June 28 for falsifying his work hours to receive ¥2.7 mil. in overtime pay.
2017-07-10 12:47:42 Last week, a Hino High School teacher (31) was charged with displaying obscene materials electronically. The principle apologized to parents
2017-07-10 12:48:00 Hino High School math teacher Kitanaka Ryosuke (北中涼裕, 25) arrested for spreading malicious rumors on social media about an 18-year-old woman.
2017-07-10 12:48:36 The new shopping complex “Ekimachi Nagahama” that replaces the old Heiwado in front of Nagahama Station will open on July 29. #えきまち長浜
2017-07-11 11:58:20 At Otsu District Court, former Kora Town Hall tax worker Kojima Takayasu (小島崇靖, 30) pleaded guilty of embezzling ¥440,000+ of tax money.
2017-07-11 12:00:58 Former Kora Town Hall tax worker Kojima Takayasu (#小島崇靖, 30) had previously been indicted of embezzling ¥1.64 mil+ of tax money.
2017-07-12 05:51:04 オリテ米原。頑張っているから批判したくないけど、普通の方は「降りて」ではなく「織り手」をイメージするじゃないの?そしてこのネーミングは外国人には対象外、無縁となっている。例えば、2020年にニュージーランドの東京五輪のホッケー選手にOrite Maibara!と言っても通じない。
2017-07-12 06:23:58 「市役所」を”City Hall”に統一することは賛成です。その標識や表示を変えるのが大変ですね。
2017-07-12 06:35:49 滋賀県内の道路管理者たちが標識の英語表記を統一するためにガイドラインが作ったそうですが、この一部を見てもまだよくない英語表記が多い。Mt.の後に一個のスペースが必要。「長浜鉄道スクエア」もMuseumの代わりにSquareにしろう。2017年6月9日の中日新聞滋賀版より 
2017-07-13 12:41:18 Summer 2017 fireworks schedule in Shiga: https://t.co/O392NMg8p4 #滋賀県花火大会情報
2017-07-14 13:49:10 Shiga policeman (20s) charged with driving w/o a driver’s license for 11 days in May. Punished with a salary reduction, but he has resigned.
2017-07-14 13:59:24 Hikone Welfare Center worker Fujimoto Toshiya (34, #藤本稔也) arrested for exposing himself to a jr. high school girl on the street from his car
2017-07-14 14:31:35 Shiga Prefectural Government Enterprise Dept. (企業庁) worker (51) punished with a mere 10% pay cut for 15-mo. sexual harassment of female co-worker. #ヤツの名前を公表しろう
2017-07-18 12:59:01 Trial runs of self-driving mini buses from Oku-Eigenji Keiryu-no-Sato (奥永源寺渓流の里) roadside station in Higashi-Omi are planned for this fall.
2017-07-19 09:48:30 Rainy season ended yesterday in Kinki Region. Hot & sunny days are forecast for the next 7 days. Have a fun & safe summer.
2017-07-19 10:29:16 「熱中症」は和英辞書がいつもheatstrokeとなっているが、heat illnessが一番近いと思う。Heatstroke(熱射病)は一番重度で死の危険性がある。「夏バテ」も適当な英語はないけど、summer fatigueかしら。皆さんも暑い夏に健康第一、ご自愛ください。
2017-07-30 14:46:06 Former Biwako Visitors Bureau Tokyo Office Manager Ito Masahiro (60, 伊藤雅博) charged with falsifying & pocketing ¥1.24 mil in travel expenses. Shocking!!
2017-07-30 15:04:02 In Moriyama, Hotel Laforet Biwako renovated, rebranded, and reopened on July 28 as Lake Biwa Marriott Hotel (琵琶湖マリオットホテル).
2017-07-30 15:21:12 The new Ekimachi Terrace replacing the old Heiwado in front of Nagahama Station had a grand opening on July 29. https://t.co/480Sn2gVTS
2017-07-30 15:30:43 Shiga’s new “floating school” under construction will be named “Uminoko” (Child of the Lake) (うみのこ), the same name as the current ship. 
2017-08-02 05:13:25 日野町立図書館でお子さんたち用の英語のイベントが無料で8月23日、25日に開催される。オーストラリア人のセーラ・ニシナさんから。 https://t.co/aEW4OcNVmy
2017-08-06 03:06:53 Kusatsu Basho sumo exhibition tournament held at

Kusatsu Gym on July 31. Sold-out crowd of 3,288 saw Yokozuna Hakuho & other sumo stars. https://t.co/ZwKyuV2d1V

2017-08-06 03:15:32 One of Japan’s oldest train stations in operation since 1916, Hino Station is undergoing major renovations and now looks bold & modern.
2017-08-07 04:28:40 Not a good day to visit Shiga today. Typhoon No. 5 (Noru) passing through until tonight. Lots of rain in northern Shiga too.
2017-08-07 06:25:32 Due to the typhoon, some trains (Shin-kaisoku) will be canceled on the Tokaido/Biwako Line.
2017-08-07 06:27:07 Trains are not running on the Kusatsu Line between Kibukawa and Tsuge and beyond to Kameyama, Kamo, and Iga-Ueno.
2017-08-07 06:56:42 Heavy rain & wind warnings issued for the entire city of Konan. Eight evacuation centers have opened in the city. https://t.co/OIlhpIeiKC
2017-08-07 07:34:23 All boat cruises on Lake Biwa, including Michigan paddle wheeler, have been canceled today. Shigaraki Kogen Railway trains also canceled.
2017-08-07 11:42:31 Most of Shiga is now under the windiest part of the typhoon. No reports of major damage nor injuries so far. Stay safe everyone! https://t.co/QHWiioMm08
2017-08-07 14:18:22 @missyukky 録画して見ました。湖南の皆さん(特に藍染の師匠)が元気そうで嬉しかったです。下田焼の奥さんも映って欲しかった。ほとんどは夫婦や家族で頑張っているので素晴らしい。いつか下田なすも食べたいな。
2017-08-08 03:08:36 Very slow-moving Typhoon No. 5 drenched Shiga well over 12 hours, but no injuries. Anegawa River overflowed in Nagahama flooding a few homes
2017-08-08 03:41:55 Trains not running on JR Hokuriku Line between Maibara and Tsuruga, and on JR Kosei Line between Omi-Maiko and Omi-Shiotsu.
2017-08-08 03:46:55 Hikone Higashi High School beat Hasami (Nagasaki) 6-5 today in the 1st game of the Summer Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2017-08-08 07:53:50 Trains now running on JR Hokuriku Line and JR Kosei Line, but on a slower schedule. Other train lines in Shiga running normally.
2017-08-10 12:35:31 In Moriyama, Yoshimi Elementary School teacher Nakano Keiji (中野啓治, 60), arrested for DUI in May, was suspended for 6 mo., but resigned today
2017-08-10 12:39:03 Prince Akishino, wife Kiko, and son Prince Hisahito visited a traditional brush maker in Takashima today as part of their summer vacation.
2017-08-14 09:55:09 Hikone Higashi High School lost to Aomori Yamada 2-6 today in their 2nd game of the Summer Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2017-08-14 10:11:00 Hikone City Hall, undergoing renovations for earthquake resistance until May 2019, has temporarily moved into AL Plaza Hikone, 3rd & 4th fl.
2017-08-14 10:14:46 Hikone-native sprinter Kiryu Yoshihide & teammates won the bronze for the men’s 4x100m final at IAAF World Championships London on Aug. 12.
2017-08-14 21:04:46 8月11日にNHKラジオ「ラジオ深夜便」の番組が「琵琶湖周航の歌」を紹介しました。聞き逃した方のためにホームページで聞けます。2017年8月11日のスライダーを21:40にします。~Lefa~の歌声と歌の研究家の飯田忠義先生が出演。https://t.co/GFIJ5v8Vcs
2017-08-14 21:06:20 Biwako Shuko no Uta 100th Anniversary photo essay in English: https://t.co/88LckAT4Ci
2017-08-18 16:11:02 At Lake Biwa Museum, the Baikal seal tank is too small. The 2 seals can hardly swim around. Very shy, couldn’t see their faces. #バイカルアザラシ 
2017-08-22 04:35:34 Nice to see my “We love Shiga” logo spreading around, even in Brazil. Free to use! 
2017-08-25 19:35:42 Epic war movie “Sekigahara” opens in theaters today in Japan w/Okada Jun’ichi as Nagahama-native Ishida Mitsunari. 
2017-08-28 09:56:53 Shiga’s 6th graders & 3rd-year jr high kids scored lower than the nat’l average on all scholastic achievement tests in April.#学力テスト4年連続平均下回る
2017-08-30 14:55:26 映画「関ヶ原」を見た。三成がメインでまぁまぁ面白かった。「近江」や「琵琶湖」が頻繁に聞く。滋賀のロケも多い(彦根城、龍潭寺、百済寺、延暦寺、日吉大社、愛知川など)。秀吉への三献の茶の場面と三成の斬首前に秀秋や家康との対面が面白い。架空の人物もいるのでやはりフィクションの作品。
2017-08-31 13:30:52 Due to fewer sales & customers, Otsu Parco shopping complex closed today after 21 years in business since 1996. Movie theaters remain open.

Shiga History January–April 2017Chronological History of Shiga | Shiga History Sept.–Dec. 2017

Biwako Shuko no Uta 100th Anniversary

Rowing on Lake Biwa with Mt. Ibuki and Chikubushima in the background. (June 26, 2017)

June 2017 was the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta (琵琶湖周航の歌 aka Lake Biwa Rowing Song), Shiga’s most famous song and one of Japan’s best hometown songs.

To mark this milestone, a series of events were held in late June 2017 in Shiga. They included a four-day rowing excursion around Lake Biwa during June 24–27, a choir contest in Imazu on June 25, the unveiling of a new song monument in Nagahama on June 25, and a major concert at Biwako Hall in Otsu on June 30. I didn’t see everything, but I did get a glimpse of the major events.

The rowing excursion was named Nazori Shuko (なぞり周航) which means “Tracer Rowing Excursion.” It traces the rowing route the Kyoto college boys took in 1917 around Lake Biwa, going clockwise from Otsu and on to Omi-Maiko, Imazu, Chikubushima, Nagahama, Hikone, Omi-Hachiman, and back to Otsu. The rowers lodged in Omi-Maiko, Imazu, and Hikone. The rowing excursion was largely organized by Kyoto University Rowing Club’s alumni association (Noseikai 濃青会) with the cooperation of water sports organizations and fishing cooperatives in Shiga. About 120 rowing club alumni took turns rowing on three modern boats designed for long-distance rowing.

For four days, they rowed from around 5 a.m. until early afternoon. This is when the lake waters are most calm and air temperatures are cooler. The rowing excursion also had the participation of local people (住民参加). At times, the rowers were escorted by yachts, canoes/kayaks, and even standup paddleboarders. And at each major stop, the rowers were greeted by local folks including taiko drummers, dancers, and other well-wishers. The rowers also sang the song at each song monument around the lake.

The four-day rowing excursion started at Otsu on June 24, 2017. The rowers started out at the Kyoto Univ. Rowing Club boathouse on Seta River at 5 a.m. and stopped by here at Mihogasaki, in front of the rowing club’s original boathouse in 1917. They left Mihogasaki at around 7 a.m. as people cheered.

At Mihogasaki, Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi (center) and former Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada (event committee chairperson) saw the rowers off. The man with the flag is an alumnus of the old No. 3 High School (university) (第三高等学校) that merged with Kyoto University. The old school’s logo with a cherry blossom and three stripes is on the flag and old boathouse.

Rowers pass by Ukimido Floating Temple in Katata, Otsu.

Taiko drummers greet rowers at Omi-Maiko.

Rowers sing “Biwako Shuko no Uta” on the white-sand beach at Omi-Maiko. This is where they lodged the first night.

Official T-shirts were also sold to the public. They came in white, dark blue, and green. Orange T-shirts were reserved only for the rowers. The back says “Ware wa Uminoko” (We’re children of the lake) and the front had a small 100th anniversary logo (insert).

On June 25, the second day, rowers leave Omi-Maiko and head for Imazu up north.

Rowers pay their respects at Shirahige Shrine in Takashima, famous for the torii in the water.

Rowers receive a warm welcome as they arrive at Imazu, the song’s birthplace. The large banner on shore reads, “Welcome to Imazu!” (ようこそ!今津へ)

Imazu’s annual Biwako Shuko no Uta choir contest was also held on June 25. After arriving at Imazu, the rowers went to the concert hall (Takashima Shimin Kaikan) and went on stage with singer Kato Tokiko and Kada Yukiko (in green) to sing the song as guest singers.

Kada Yukiko and singer Kato Tokiko at the center of the singing rowers swaying on stage.

Also attending the choir contest were these three alumni from the old No. 3 High School which merged with Kyoto University in 1949.

After singing at the choir contest, the rowers walked to Imazu Port and sang in front of the song monument. A busy day, but it wasn’t over yet.

Biwako Shuko no Uta song museum (琵琶湖周航の歌資料館) in Imazu had special exhibits about songwriter Oguchi Taro and composer Yoshida Chiaki. The museum sells CDs of the song (including the English version) and the museum staff is very friendly.

Very nice to see yoshibue reed flute players from Takashima greeting visitors at Omi-Imazu Station during June 24–25, 2017. They continuously played only the rowing song. Their flutes are made of Lake Biwa reeds grown in Harie, Takashima. 針江よし笛


New song monument for Biwako Shuko no Uta Verse 3 unveiled in Nagahama on June 25, 2017. (長浜歌碑・除幕式)

Also on June 25, a new song monument in Nagahama was unveiled in Hokoen Park near the lake shore near Nagahama Castle (map here). In summer 2016, a  group of Nagahama residents formed a nonprofit (長濱歌碑でつなぐ会) to plan, design, finance, and build this new monument. They solicited donations to help foot the cost of about ¥8 million. Although they weren’t able to get more than ¥4 million in public donations, they somehow managed to pay for the new monument in full.

Since Nagahama is a noted glass maker, they decided to make the new monument out of glass made in Nagahama. The new monument also functions as a park bench where you can sit and watch the sunset over the lake. It is perhaps Japan’s most expensive park bench. Seating four people, the glass bench is engraved with Verse 3 of Biwako Shuko no Uta where it mentions Nagahama. (“Today is Imazu or, Nagahama, huh.”)

The opening ceremony was held at around 5:30 p.m. for sunset, but it was too cloudy. The ceremony was attended by a substantial crowd who came to see singer Kato Tokiko, former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko, Nagahama Mayor Fujii Yuji, and local singers Kitagawa Akihiro and Matsuura Yoko help unveil the new monument.

Earlier in the day in Nagahama, they held stage entertainment and boat cruises with local singers. (Couldn’t see any of it because I was in Imazu.)

June 25 (Sun.) was the busiest day because it was the closest weekend to the actual 100th anniversary on June 28. That night, I went back to Imazu and stayed at a hotel near the station.

While holding a copy of the concert program, singer Kato Tokiko gave a few words and mentioned the 1st Biwako Ongakusai music festival to be held on June 30 in Otsu. Holding the PR poster is Kitagawa Akihiro, ~Lefa~ vocalist.

Kitagawa Akihiro and Kato Tokiko sing behind the new song monument and later everyone released balloons.

Verse 3 of Biwako Shuko no Uta is engraved on the center segment of the glass bench. Bolted down in concrete and made of solid glass, it is a park bench shaped like a boat. The top is wavy like water, inspired by nami-makura (rolling with the waves) in the song.


The rowers prepare to depart Imazu at around 5 a.m.

On June 26, the third day of the rowing excursion, I checked out of my hotel near Omi-Imazu Station at 4:30 a.m. and joined the Kyoto University Rowing Club’s official photographers on a fishing boat. We followed the rowers from Imazu to Osaki, Chikubushima, Nagahama, and Hikone and kept our cameras busy.

Alumnus of the old No. 3 High School (第三高等学校) at Imazu to see off the rowers at around 5 a.m. He was also at Otsu. At the center of the cherry blossom is the kanji for “san” (three).

They first rowed from Imazu to Osaki where they would change rowers.

This boat is named “Uminoko” (Child of the Lake). The other two boats are named “Tomari-bi” (Light/Fire on Shore) and “Sazanami” (Lake Ripples). They are named after a key word or phrase found in the song.

The three boats they used belong to the Kyoto University Rowing Club. Thanks to donations from rowing club alumni, they were built in Shiga several years ago and designed especially for long-distance rowing around the lake. The boats have sliding seats and are quite stable in the water. They can also expel water automatically. It’s a far cry from the wooden, fixed-seat boats they used 100 years ago.

The boats are normally used by freshmen members of the Kyoto University Rowing Club to row around the lake every summer.

Rowing toward Chikubushima on a sparkling lake. Luckily, the weather was good during the four days.

On sacred Chikubushima island, non-rowing alumni sing the song in front of the Verse 4 monument while the three boats solemnly look on. This was around 8 a.m. I wish more people could have witnessed this most interesting and unusual scene, but it was well before the arrival time of tourist boats. Besides myself, only a handful of official and press photographers were here to see this. The Mainichi Shimbun reporter hired his own boat just to photograph this.

Mt. Ibuki in view as they row toward Nagahama.

Our friendly boat captain knew well about lake currents and conditions. The waves got a little rough off Nagahama and slightly flooded the boats. Also on our fishing boat was the BBC (Biwako Broadcasting Co.) cameraman. The NHK TV crew also hired a fishing boat to film the rowers. In July, both BBC and NHK aired special TV programs about the rowing trip.

After reaching Nagahama at around 11 a.m., the rowers sing the song next to the new Verse 3 monument at Hokoen Park near Nagahama Castle. Nagahama was also a lunch break.

The song leader (大杉耕一) directs the singing, backed by many local dancers (日本3B体操協会 滋賀支部). The new park bench song monument is behind him.

Rowers pass by Hikone Castle.

In front of the Verse 5 monument at Hikone Port, former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko (event committee chairperson) asserted that the “old castle” mentioned in the song must be Sawayama Castle (Ishida Mitsunari’s castle) instead of Hikone Castle since the latter was never attacked (“sharp arrows buried deeply”). She’s got a valid point, but I’ve always assumed that it included all the old castles in eastern Shiga (Hikone, Nagahama, Sawayama, and Azuchi). This is another thing I love about the song. We can all have our own interpretations of it.

After reaching Hikone Port in the early afternoon, the rowers sang in front of the Verse 5 song monument. They sang here again in the early evening with a local school band and lodged in Hikone.

I had fun following and photographing/filming the rowers on the lake, but I declined to follow them again on the next (last) day. (Too much sunburn.)

On June 27, the fourth and last day of rowing from Hikone to Otsu, they took a break at Omi-Hachiman (near the song monument at Horikiri Port) and even danced the Goshu Ondo (folk dance native to Shiga).

Rowers finally return to the Kyoto University Rowing Club boathouse on Seta River in Otsu at around 5 p.m. It was a long haul taking about 12 hours. They changed rowers four times.

In front of the Kyoto University Rowing Club boathouse (Seta Karahashi Bridge in the background), rowers sing the song after a safe and successful four-day rowing excursion. Congratulations to all!
*Thanks to Tetsuo Oshiro for providing some of the photos on this page.

Major newspapers like Chunichi Shimbun covered the 100th anniversary events. (Click on image to enlarge.)


The rowing excursion was soon followed by the 1st Biwako Ongakusai (Music Festival) held on June 30, 2017 at Biwako Hall in Otsu. It was organized by a committee led by former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko and produced by singer Kato Tokiko who made Biwako Shuko no Uta a national hit in 1971. Headlining the concert were top artists Miyazawa Kazufumi (Shima Uta was fantastic), Gospellers, the Tokiko Band (great musicians), and ~Lefa~ from Nagahama. The first half had local youth groups and choirs from Shiga, Kyoto, and Osaka. The second half featured the headlining artists and Kato Tokiko herself.

This is the first Biwako Music Festival and they plan to hold this concert annually around Lake Biwa in the places mentioned in the song. So next year in 2018, it will be held in Omi-Maiko at Biwako Seikei Sport College whose president is former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko. Then in Imazu in 2019. Kato Tokiko will be the producer of the annual concerts. It will take several years before the concert is held in each place mentioned in the song.

One major objective of the Biwako Music Festival is to perpetuate Biwako Shuko no Uta to the younger generations since it is not really taught in schools in Shiga. That’s why you will see local youths performing as well.

At the 1st Biwako Ongakusai Music Festival, a short film about the rowing excursion was shown while concert goers entered the concert hall. It also mentioned the English version of the song and showed footage of our mini concert held in Imazu in April. The short film was shot and edited by Biwako Broadcasting Co.

The 45-page Ongakusai program booklet included this two-page article I wrote about Lake Biwa Rowing Song. I was honored to explain why and how I created the English version. (Click image to enlarge. Sorry, I don’t have it in English yet.)

The concert was held in Biwako Hall’s beautiful Large Hall seating about 1,800. This is ~Lefa~ performing in the audience area for their first number.

~Lefa~ vocalist Kitagawa Akihiro (北川 陽大) also sang “Lake Biwa Rowing Song” in English. His partner Kono Hiroyuki (河野 弘行) played keyboard. Performing at Biwako Hall was their biggest venue so far, a dream come true.

At the end for the finale, all the performers got on stage and sang Biwako Shuko no Uta. So nice to see so many young people singing the song. The audience also stood up and sang.

At the center are the former and current Shiga governors, Kato Tokiko, and other headlining artists all singing Biwako Shuko no Uta.

It was a wonderful concert showcasing a wide variety of music and artists, both amateur and famous. We look forward to the next concert next year in Omi-Maiko.

Otsukaresama and thank you to Kada Yukiko, Kato Tokiko, Kyoto University Rowing Club and their alumni association (濃青会), and everyone else who worked so hard to plan, coordinate, and execute these memorable events like never before. It got many local people involved and I was honored and happy to take part.

This hometown song must definitely be perpetuated to current and future generations. It’s an important part of Shiga’s history and cultural heritage and should be designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property (重要無形文化財). I hope that local educators and parents will come around and realize how precious this song really is to Shiga. Showcasing not only pretty scenes in Shiga, but also life itself. And the melody is classic and timeless. The story behind the song and its creators is also most fascinating. At the same time, the song retains an aura of mystery and intrigue.


On April 16, 2017, we at shiga-ken.com also celebrated the song’s 100th anniversary by holding a Lake Biwa Rowing Song mini concert in English in Imazu. Jamie and Megan Thompson visited Shiga for this occasion and we also had Kikui Satoru and Kondo Yumiko play yoshibue reed flutes as a duo named “Lake Reed.” Here are two videos of our event:


Video link: https://youtu.be/9G94IppUiiE


Video link: https://youtu.be/PjnY67sIcqE

Commemorative events in Shiga are largely over, but not in Kyoto. Kyoto University will be celebrating the song’s 100th anniversary on Nov. 25, 2017 with the unveiling of a song monument plaque on campus and a lecture (by song researcher Iida Tadayoshi) and concert during their autumn school festival. I will be attending as well and looking forward to meeting guests from Okaya, Nagano (songwriter Oguchi Taro‘s hometown) and Niigata (melody composer Yoshida Chiaki‘s hometown).

PR flyer for Kyoto University’s 100th anniversary song event on Nov. 25, 2017.

The Japan Post Office issued a sheet of stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song). Available while they last at post offices in Shiga.

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