On Nov. 25, 2007, the 400th anniversary festival for Hikone Castle ended with a total attendance of 764,484 during the period of March 21 to Nov. 25, 2007. This far exceeded the break-even attendance of 550,000.
Visitors spent an estimated 17 billion yen or an average of 5,200 yen per person who came on a day trip and 23,300 yen per person who lodged in Hikone. Ten percent of the amount were spent on Hiko-nyan merchandise.
Three buildings at Hikone Castle which were closed to the public prior to 2007 will remain open to the public even after the 400th anniversary event ends in Nov. 2007. You can enter the Umaya horse stable, Tenbin Yagura turret, and Nishinomaru Sanju-yagura turret. However, the castle admission will be increased by 100 yen to cover maintenance costs.
Also, Hiko-nyan, the official mascot character created for the 400th anniversary of Hikone Castle, has proven to be so popular that the city has decided to retain Hiko-nyan as the city’s official mascot.
Did you know that there are 71 Shiga Kenjinkai associations/groups in Japan and overseas?
A Shiga Kenjinkai is a group or association of people outside Shiga who have ties to Shiga-ken. There is now at least one Shiga Kenjinkai in every prefecture in Japan (Hokkaido has three or four). I’m a member of the Tokyo Shiga Kenjinkai. I joined about a year ago.
Also, there is a Shiga Kenjinkai in 11 countries: USA (Seattle, Southern California, and Hawaii), Canada (Vancouver, Alberta, and Toronto), Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Hong Kong, Indonesia, France, UK, and Germany.
During Nov. 12-14, 2007, the 11th Shiga Kenjinkai International Convention 滋賀県人会世界大会 was held at Otsu Prince Hotel. This world convention is held once every few years in different countries, and this year it was in Otsu for the first time in 16 years. Governor Kada also attended a banquet and spoke in English:
I attended the convention during two days and met other Kenjinkai members. About 350 people attended, and about 160 came from overseas. I was surprised to hear that over 100 came from Canada. I didn’t know there were so many Shiga Kenjin in Canada. I met some of them during dinner and had some interesting conversations.
Some of them were bilingual, and others were not. A few came to Japan for the first time. They thought Japan was a really beautiful country. Most of them still had relatives in Japan or Shiga. One middle-aged Toronto lady I met told me that she met her cousin in Shiga for the first time.
The convention had speakers, symposiums, and presentations from overseas Kenjinkai. Governor Kada and other politicians gave speeches. Governor Kada spoke in both Japanese and English. She even taught the Goshu Ondo dance in English. The convention cost 20,000 yen (excluding lodging). Photos here: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=600
A common problem among the Kenjinkai was finding new members, especially younger members. The average age of most Kenjinkai members is quite high, maybe 70s. So they need younger blood. Most of the Kenjinkai were founded by people who were from Shiga originally. So they still have strong emotional and blood ties to Shiga. However, their children (2nd generation) were not born in Shiga, so they might not be as interested in Shiga as their parents. This also applies to overseas Shiga Kenjinkai.
In the US, Canada, and South America, most Shiga Kenjin were immigrants from Japan. In Europe, most Shiga Kenjin are transient or on temporary overseas assignment and not immigrants. In Japan, many Kenjinkai have Omi Shonin merchant roots. During the feudal era, eastern Shiga had many merchants called Omi shonin who traveled up and down Japan. They sold fabrics, lacquerware, medicines, etc., and established branch outlets all over Japan. (A few of them became major department stores and trading companies.) Thus, many natives of Shiga settled all over Japan to sell their wares.
In Japan, the Shiga Kenjinkai varies widely with regard to membership and activities. The Kenjinkai in Kyoto and Tokyo is very large, consisting of prominent business people. Kyoto even has a Shiga Kenjinkai Kaikan building. Meanwhile, Niigata has only 6 members. In Tokyo, we only have a New Year’s party and summer party at a nice hotel. It’s still difficult to meet other members, most of whom are elderly.
Overseas Kenjinkai usually have picnics and Japanese cultural activities. They also have difficulty recruiting new members. The Kenjinkai is quite important because they can help promote Shiga in Japan and overseas. Unfortunately, most of them still do not have a Web site.
On Oct. 20, 2007 (Sat.), an event called Umizukuri Boat Festa 湖づくりボートフェスタ was held. It was a dragon boat and canoe race between Otsu (near Ishiyama) and Ogoto.
After the race ended, a mini concert featuring cute kids playing the よし笛 reed flute (made from reeds in Biwako) was held in Ogoto (Opal) next to the lake shore. Jamie Thompson sang Biwako Shuko no Uta in English as they played the song with the flute. (Her twin sister could not attend and neither could I).
And then a surprise. Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko went on stage and began singing in English with Jamie!! (See photos above.)
Wow, what a great honor. She’s a real people’s governor.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Shiga Prefecture for the first time in 13 years during Nov. 10-13, 2007. The main reason was to attend the 27th Zenkoku Yutaka na Umizukuri Taikai (National Convention to Make Bountiful Oceans 第２７回全国豊かな海づくり大会) held in Otsu.
On the first day, they visited a nursing home called Care Town Karasaki in Otsu. Some 20 patients there sang Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) for the Imperial couple and the Emperor demanded an encore for them to sing it again. It is Shiga’s most famous song.
On the second day the 11th, they attended the formal opening ceremony of the National Convention to Make Bountiful Oceans held at the lakeside Biwako Hall in Otsu. In his speech, the Emperor reflected, “It hurts my heart that the blue gill fish I brought to Japan from America for human consumption is now damaging the ecosystem of Lake Biwa.” In 1960 as Crown Prince on a trip to the U.S., the Emperor brought back the blue gill fish given to him in Chicago, Illinois and intended it to be raised in Japan for human consumption.
Some of the blue gill subsequently escaped from a research facility and entered Lake Biwa. The fish multiplied rapidly during the 1990s. Since it eats the baby fish of native lake fish found nowhere else in the world, the blue gill (and black bass) has become a major ecological problem in the lake. After the formal ceremony, the Emperor and Empress went outside the lakeside hall and released baby fish of native lake fish into the lake. Some of the ceremonial pomp included water-spraying fireboats and fishing boats sailing in a procession on the lake. The convention also had pavilions and booths in the Hama-Otsu area for the public to become more aware of fisheries in Lake Biwa.
On the 13th, they visited Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei and returned to Tokyo via shinkansen train from Kyoto Station. It must have been a spectacle to see Shinto’s highest-ranking priest (the emperor) paying a visit to the headquarters of one of Japan’s largest Buddhist sects. Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko accompanied the Emperor and Empress during their tour in Shiga.