On March 3, 2009, the six northern Shiga towns of Torahime, Kohoku, Takatsuki, Kinomoto, Yogo, and Nishi-Azai (虎姫、湖北、高月、木之本、余呉、西浅井) signed a letter of agreement (協定書に調印) to merge with the city of Nagahama on Jan. 1, 2010. The letter signing was witnessed by Governor Yukiko Kada who gave her blessing to the proposed merger.
By March 17, 2009, all the town councils and the Nagahama city council passed a bill to merge. They will then submit an application to merge to Shiga Prefecture for approval. On March 25, Governor Kada will submit a bill to the prefectural assembly to approve the merger.
This merger was proposed a few years ago, but failed. This time, they reopened merger talks in Oct. 2007 and met eleven times to finally sign the letter of agreement.
The letter of agreement stipulated the following major points:
- The six towns are to merge into Nagahama.
- The name of the newly expanded city will remain “Nagahama.”
- The new city will inherit all the assets and liabilities of the six towns.
- The current total of 93 city and town council members will shrink to 63 after the merger.
- The city hall will remain at the Nagahama City Hall.
After the merger, the total population of the city will be about 124,000, making it Shiga’s second most populous city and largest city in area with about 680 sq. km. I hope each town will retain their old place names (Yogo-cho, Takatsuki-cho, etc.).
I think that Nagahama and Maibara will also merge someday as well. They would make a good couple.
Shiga LakeStars (in white) vs. Tokyo Apache
Just uploaded photos of Shiga LakeStars vs. Tokyo Apache held on March 6, 2009 at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo. They wear white uniforms for away games. Very exciting game that went into overtime. LakeStars won.
JT article here: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/sk20090307b1.html
The Shiga LakeStars’ four American players have been writing a blog in English. It’s nice to see that they are enjoying their stay in Shiga and doing some local sightseeing. Bobby Nash and Brayden Billbe recently visited the Ninja house in Koka.
This first season is ending soon, so go and see them play when you can. The roster of players for next season will likely change, so see the current team if you can. Hope Bobby stays in Shiga.
Ryan Rouke’s blog:
Official Web site: http://www.lakestars.net/
Radio station FM Kusatsu has started broadcasting on March 22, 2009. When you’re in the Kusatsu area, tune to 78.5 Mhz. Their studio is in Kusatsu Yume Honjin (くさつ夢本陣). They should reach about 80,000 households.
They will offer local programming during 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays, and 9 am to 5 pm on weekends. I hope they will include some international programs as well.
Maibara Station corridor. Click image to see more photos of the station.
The new Maibara Station has been under construction since Feb. 2006. It will be completed in Aug. 2009.
For a long time, we could not go through the train station from the west exit to east exit and vice versa without having a train ticket. (We had to go around far away through a tunnel.) We can now freely pass through the corridor between the east and west exits from March 21, 2009. This is the last major stage of construction to be completed. A ceremony was held on the 21st to mark the opening, complete with Shiga LakeStars cheerleaders. There are also elevators and escalators.
The city of Maibara is dishing out 4,100,000,000 yen for the new station which sees about 20,000 passengers using it every day.
Japan’s largest kawau cormorant colony is found in Lake Biwa. These birds are flying off from Shiga and spreading over a wide area.
Kawau cormorants from Lake Biwa have been found in Kumamoto in Kyushu, over 580 km away, the furthest distance away confirmed so far. Previously, the furthest away where they were found was in Chiba.
Seven years ago, foot rings were attached to cormorants born on Chikubushima island. A bird wearing such a ring was found in Sagara village in Kumamoto Pref. in Sept. 2008.
The problem is that Shiga is too poor to effectively eliminate these fish-depleting birds, so they plan to seek assistance from the national government.
Hino matsuri float
Miki Ito (伊藤みき) from Hino town snagged the silver medal (Uemura Aiko got the gold) for the women’s dual moguls of the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Inawashiro, Fukushima Prefecture on March 8, 2009. This has assured her a spot on Japan’s winter Olympic team for Vancouver in 2010.
Born in 1987, Ito graduated from Hino Jr. High School and Omi Kyodaisha High School. She’s currently a student at Chukyo University in Nagoya. Both her sisters are also free-style mogul skiers. Vancouver will be her second winter Olympics. At Torino in 2006, she placed 20th.
The March 8, 2009 edition of The Japan Times had a travel article about the city of Koka. It featured Shigaraki, Miho Museum, and ninja. Unfortunately, it did not mention the shukuba towns of Tsuchiyama and Minakuchi.
But I’m happy to see another Shiga-related article in the JT in less than a month since the last one about Azuchi:
Shiga is slowly getting more media attention.
Caffee or Caffy (キャッフィー) has been called back to duty. The mascot character used for Sports Recreation Shiga 2008 has been sworn in by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko on March 4, 2009 as one of Shiga’s official mascots, especially for sports events.
I saw an awful lot of Caffy mascot costumes last year at Spo-rec Shiga and wondered what they would do with Caffy afterward. His (or her) last appearance was at the Hikone Yuru-Character festival in Oct. 2008. I asked what would become of Caffy, and I was told that it would be discontinued.
Well, it will be good to see Caffy back again. He (or she) is a Lake Biwa catfish (ビワコオオナマズ), one of the native species of fish in Biwako found nowhere else in the world.
Held annually for 64 times since 1946, the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon is losing a major sponsor after March 1, 2009. Kyoto-based electronic parts maker ROHM Co., Ltd. has stated that it will no longer be a sponsor of the marathon after the 64th race on March 1, 2009. The company had shouldered about half the cost of holding the marathon.
The 42-km men-only marathon is held on the first Sunday of March mainly in Otsu, with part of the route in neighboring Kusatsu. The city of Otsu contributes 15 million yen, while Shiga Prefecture shells out 30 million yen to the hold one of Japan’s oldest marathons. With ROHM gone, officials are scrambling to find ways to make up for the shortfall and continue holding the marathon.
The marathon has seen numerous famous runners in the past, including winners Abebe Bikila in 1961 and 1965, Frank Shorter in 1973, and Toshihiko Seko in 1988. To qualify to enter the race, you must have recently run a full marathon within 2.5 hours.
Hikone View Hotel
The familiar white building with a triangular roof on Hikone’s lake shore has been a stand-out structure since 1981 when it opened as Hikone Prince Hotel. Ohmi Railways operated the hotel under the well-known Prince Hotel brand. In recent years, the hotel has struggled financially and we wondered what would happen to it. First I thought the neighboring Japan Center for Michigan Universities should acquire the property to expand the school and offer dormitory facilities.
Well, the hotel has been sold and it is being operated by a Tokyo-based company called Study, Co., Ltd. The hotel is now part of the Itoen Hotel Group, and on March 1, 2009, it was renamed Hikone View Hotel (彦根ビューホテル). I think it’s a good name, the hotel certainly gives a great view of Lake Biwa. However, it is not related to the View Hotels Group (viewhotels.co.jp) as in Asakusa View Hotel and Narita View Hotel.
In Oct. 2007, Ohmi Railways announced that it was looking to sell the Hikone Prince Hotel (along with three ski resorts) due to red ink.
The Itoen Hotel Group is a chain of over 30 hotels and ryokans mainly in the Kanto area (especially the Izu Peninsula). The company is known to acquire struggling or closed hotels and hot spring ryokan inns and offer cheaper rates to customers.
Indeed, the hotel rates at Hikone View Hotel is now cheaper than before. It costs only 7800 yen for one night and two meals. Whereas Hikone Prince charged 12,000 yen for the same deal. The hotel rates remain the same throughout the year as well. They don’t raise the rates during peak periods such as Golden Week and summer vacation. Lower rates are of course, very welcome. The hotel is also the place for people in northern Shiga to hold weddings, etc. I’ve attended a few wedding receptions there too, for my cousins. Let’s hope the company can turn around the hotel’s fortunes.
Hotel Web site: