CocoShiga in Tokyo

CocoShiga in Nihonbashi, Tokyo.

Updated: May 4, 2018

Shiga Prefecture finally has a true and full-fledged “antenna shop” in Tokyo named “CocoShiga” (ここ滋賀). It opened on October 29, 2017 in the Nihonbashi district. People in Tokyo can now buy food, sake, crafts, and souvenirs from Shiga more than ever before. We can also have a drink at the bar and dine at the small, upscale restaurant upstairs.

CocoShiga is right outside Nihombashi Station (Exit B8) on the Tozai, Ginza, and Toei Asakusa subway lines. It’s also a short walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu or Nihonbashi Exit, and Takashimaya Dept. Store is nearby on the same road (Chuo-dori) that goes to Nihonbashi Bridge. (Address: 東京都中央区日本橋2-7-1 or see map below.)

CocoShiga is in its own little building on a corner of the main Nihonbashi intersection (Chuo-dori and Eitai-dori roads). The first floor has a shop named “Market” (open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) selling about 1,000 different Shiga products (mostly food and sake from 33 sake breweries), a bar (strangely named “Shiga’s Bar“) where you can try Shiga sake 10 a.m.–11 p.m., and tourist pamphlets from Shiga. The floor space is not huge, but big enough.

The second floor is an upscale restaurant named “Nihonbashi Jinomi” open for lunch (11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m.–11 p.m.). It serves Lake Biwa fish like funazushi (fermented Lake Biwa carp) and Biwa salmon as well as Omi beef. Dinner courses cost ¥5,000 and ¥8,500. The third floor is an open-roof Terrace with parasol tables. CocoShiga is open every day of the year except Dec. 31 to Jan. 3.

CocoShiga 1st floor shop.

CocoShiga’s 1st floor shop also converts into an event space.

Funazushi and Omi beef.

Funazushi fermented carp and shijimi clams in the refrigerator.

Shiga's Bar for sake.

Shiga’s Bar for mainly sake.

Lots of sake from Shiga.

Good variety of sake from Shiga.

Jinomi restaurant on 2nd floor.

Terrace on the 3rd floor.

Open-roof Terrace on the 3rd floor where you can consume what you purchased. It might be too cold in winter and too hot in summer though.

Nihonbashi has historically been Tokyo’s district for textile wholesalers and trading companies. Shiga has had close ties with Nihonbashi ever since Omi shonin merchants from Shiga opened shop here during the Edo Period to sell fabrics made in Shiga. The most famous Shiga clothing store in Nihonbashi was Shirokiya (白木屋) opened by Nagahama-born Omura Hikotaro I (大村 彦太郎) in 1662 on the site across the street from CocoShiga. (This was even before the Mitsui family opened the store that would become Mitsukoshi Dept. Store in Nihonbashi.) It was absorbed by Tokyu Dept. Store in 1958 which eventually closed this flagship store in 1999 where the huge COREDO Nihonbashi shopping complex took its place.

Although sadly Shirokiya no longer exists in Japan (only an offshoot store in Honolulu, Hawaii remains), Nihonbashi still has a good number of businesses originally from Shiga. Shiga Bank’s Tokyo branch is still in Nihonbashi and the Shiga Kenjinkai national headquarters is in Nihonbashi. Itochu’s Tokyo office was also in Nihonbashi for many years. So for Shiga, I agree that Nihonbashi is the ideal Tokyo location for CocoShiga. (Not to be confused with Nipponbashi in Osaka.)

Of course, Nihonbashi is most famous for its namesake Nihonbashi Bridge which was the starting point of the old Tokaido Road and Nakasendo Road both of which go through Shiga before reaching Kyoto. Nihonbashi thus became Japan’s most famous bridge (originally a wooden bridge) and Nihonbashi was destined to become one of Japan’s most famous places. The bridge is a very short walk from CocoShiga. In the old days, the road in front of CocoShiga went directly to Shiga along the Tokaido Road.

Needless to say, Nihonbashi is a high-rent district and CocoShiga is sitting on one of Tokyo’s prime locations next to a subway station. CocoShiga’s rent has been reported to be a whopping ¥8.6 million per month. That’s about ¥286,666 per day, not including personnel costs. CocoShiga is a five-year project by Shiga Prefecture which is investing over ¥1.3 billion. In return, they are expecting ¥252 million worth of PR and inbound tourism to Shiga during the five years. Shiga is finally shooting for the big time with CocoShiga. I don’t know what’s going to happen after five years though. Whether they will renew the lease or move or shut down. For now, please help Shiga recoup its investment by buying stuff from CocoShiga whenever you’re in town.

CocoShiga is a huge leap over its previous incarnation called “Yume Plaza Shiga” (“yume” means “dream”) in Yurakucho. Yume Plaza was Shiga’s tourist information office and small gift shop in the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building next to Yurakucho Station (one stop from Tokyo Station). This large office building still has a few other antenna shops like from Hokkaido, Akita, and Nagano Prefectures. The problem was, Shiga’s Yume Plaza was on the second floor where there was little foot traffic. Meanwhile, Hokkaido’s large Dosanko store on the ground floor facing the main road and Yurakucho Station was always packed with people. The ground floor saw heavy foot traffic while few customers bothered to go upstairs.

The Yume Plaza antenna shop was just a small room where they sold a few trinkets and non-perishable food. It was more a tourist information office than a shop. I never took my friends there. It was too embarrassing.

Also, for many years, they were closed on weekends just when people in Tokyo have free time to go shopping or plan trips. It certainly didn’t make sense to be closed on weekends. But they later managed to stay open on weekends. The atmosphere was lax and the former Biwako Visitors Bureau Tokyo Office Manager (Ito Masahiro, 60, 伊藤雅博) who worked there was charged in July 2017 with falsifying & pocketing ¥1.24 million in travel expenses. Such shocking news.

Chabara in Akihabara.

Chabara in Akihabara.

Shiga section in Chabara.

Shiga section in Chabara.

We were all well aware of Shiga’s Yume Plaza shortcomings. But we got some relief in Sept. 2015 when a small mall called “Chabara” (Nippon Hyakkaten Shokuhinkan) under the train tracks next to Akihabara Station opened. Chabara is a store with shelf space for many prefectures including Shiga. People in Tokyo could finally buy funazushi, Omi beef, sake, Omi rice, confections, and more year-round. The Shiga section in Chabara is still open and I noticed many of the products are also found in CocoShiga.

Then on March 21, 2016, Nagahama boldly opened its own little museum in Ueno, Tokyo called “Biwako Nagahama Kannon House” (びわ湖長浜 KANNON HOUSE). It exhibits one precious kannon Buddha statue (Goddess of Mercy) brought over from Nagahama which has many kannon statues and temples. Small and beautiful museum to connect with Shiga culture, but they don’t sell Nagahama merchandise. One thing CocoShiga is missing is an exhibition space.

When it was announced that Shiga was planning to open a large antenna shop in Nihonbashi, it was very exciting news. It was hard to believe, after all these years of obscurity when other prefectures were already operating high-traffic antenna shops in prime locations in Tokyo. Shiga’s dinky and barren outpost in Tokyo lagged so far behind. Now it has leapfrogged to Nihonbashi.

Store sign above the front entrance (no English).

CocoShiga logo above the front entrance. On the left is the shape of Lake Biwa. But there’s no English.

“CocoShiga” (ここ滋賀) literally means “Here’s Shiga” and has nothing to do with hot chocolate (cocoa) or coconuts. Although in Japanese it’s short and easy to remember, it’s not very original and not easily understandable by foreign tourists whom CocoShiga is also targeting (think 2020 Tokyo Olympics).

The Japanese word “Coco” (koko ここ) meaning “here” has become a popular prefix in business names. In Shiga, we already have Kokocool (online shop in Shiga) and Kocopia (roadside station in Konan). Outside Shiga, there is kokoka (Kyoto International Community House), Coco Miyagi (Miyagi Prefecture’s antenna shop in Tokyo), and Nagoya-based convenience store chain Cocostore before it was recently bought out by a rival chain. Perhaps the most famous “Coco” in Japan is the Coco Ichibanya curry restaurant chain (eight branches in Shiga). So please Shiga, let’s not have any more “Coco” names. It’s like “Yume” (dream), “Dream,” “Rainbow,” and “something-pia” (as in Utopia) which are popular and unoriginal names across Japan as well.

Other problematic English names are “Shiga’s Bar,” Shiga’s Concierge,” and “Shiga’s Guide” in CocoShiga. CocoShiga’s bar, concierge, and guide do not belong to any person named “Shiga.” They are just a mistranslation of the Japanese. In English, it came out as a possessive which does not reflect the intended meaning. Their monthly magazine “Shiga’s Guide” has columns named “Shiga’s People,” “Shiga’s Map,” “The Shiga’s Story,” and “Shiga’s Trip Guide” recommending what you can do on “Days 1” and “Days 2.” Somebody really loves the apostrophe “s”. (But why no “Shiga’s Market” and “Shiga’s Restaurant”?) Oh well, so much for correct English in Shiga. Let’s hope the English-learning kids won’t pick it up.

Preparing rice balls made of Omi rice at Shiga’s Bar.

menu

Still no English menus in the 2nd floor restaurant.

Restaurant’s vegetable salad and most food served on Shigaraki pottery.

Tourist brochures.

Shiga tourist brochures (no English) at CocoShiga.

As you may have guessed by now, antenna shops in Japan do not sell antennas. They sell food, crafts, and souvenirs from a prefecture, municipality, or company. Prefectural antenna shops also provide tourist information and may include a restaurant. Many Japanese prefectures have an antenna shop in central Tokyo to promote their products (mainly food) and inbound tourism. They supposed to be feeler (like insect antennae) or feedback shops to gauge what products are popular.

Prefectural antenna shops are an outgrowth of prefectural tourist information offices in Tokyo. Once upon a time, most of the prefectural tourist information offices were conveniently concentrated in a building right next to Tokyo Station. This made it easy to pick up tourist brochures before hopping on your train to the prefecture. Some of them, like Okinawa’s huge Washita Shop in Ginza, had enough space to sell their prefectural products.

However, the convenient building next to Tokyo Station (Yaesu side) that housed these prefectural tourist information offices was eventually torn down as part of the station’s redevelopment. Those prefectural tourist information offices moved out and scattered around in Tokyo. Many remained near Tokyo Station and Yurakucho Station (especially inside the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building which also housed the Japan National Tourist Organization). It then became quite inconvenient to pick up tourist brochures from multiple prefectures, but the Internet changed all that when much tourist information went online. So now, having a shop to sell physical goods (especially food) became more important than having a tourist information office for the public.

Reed decoration on the 1st floor ceiling.

Reed decoration on the 1st floor ceiling.

Have to look closely to see what's what.

Have to look closely to see what’s what.

Even with Chabara and CocoShiga or any store selling Shiga merchandise, they can never stock everything that Shiga has to offer. Even though CocoShiga’s 1,000 different products sounds impressive, they still don’t have things that I want to buy (mainly as gifts for friends). Like the hilarious “Koka Cola” from Koka (I hope it’s not a trademark infringement), Funazushi Pie cookies from Moriyama, more Adoberry confections from Takashima, Omi-jofu fabrics, more Shigaraki ware, and Lake Biwa pearls. The shop is not big enough to have everything.

If you enter CocoShiga without knowing anything about Shiga, it might be difficult to figure out what the most popular Shiga products are. There are a few signs explaining about funazushi, etc., in Japanese, but they are too small. Of course, nothing is in English. You would think that with an investment of over 1,300,000,000 yen, they would have some money for foreign language translations in Japan’s most international city. But apparently not.

Shiga businesses who want to sell their products at CocoShiga have to undergo a product screening. Not all businesses applied to sell at CocoShiga and not all products passed the screening. So we only see a small sample of Shiga products. But CocoShiga plans to change or rotate the product lineup every season so we may see more different products later.

CocoShiga is being managed by Tokyo-based company UDS Ltd. They have a branch office in Omi-Hachiman and have experience in the hospitality industry, managing a few hotels and restaurants. They seem to be well-qualified to run CocoShiga, but the staff are not from Shiga. The General Manager is from Okinawa. Being newbies to Shiga, the staff visited Shiga multiple times over a year to learn about the products CocoShiga would be selling. There are positive things about hiring outsiders since they can perceive things Shiga people might not be able to. But you can’t talk to them about home in Shiga, like at the bar while drinking or in the restaurant. For Shiga travel inquiries (“Concierge”), I believe they have staff from Shiga in the back office.

CocoShiga had a grand opening on Oct. 29, 2017 just when a typhoon hit Tokyo. The tape-cutting was done by Shiga Governor Mikazuki, noted journalist Tahara Soichiro from Hikone, and pop singer Nishikawa Takanori (T.M.Revolution) who is from Yasu and a Shiga tourism ambassador. Hiko-nyan was there too. About 2,300 customers came on the opening day, lining up in the rain. Many had to wait two hours to get in.

In mid-Dec. 2017, CocoShiga announced that they saw 100,000 customers after a little over a month in business. That’s about 2,300 customers a day. So far, so good (except for the English).

CocoShiga website

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」

Tarobogu Shrine Fire Festival

Tarobogu Shrine Fire Festival

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

Autumn festivals and foliage November 2016 in Shiga Prefecture

Recommended festivals (matsuri), events, exhibitions, and fall leaves in Shiga Prefecture in November–December 2016. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.)

Compiled by Philbert Ono. Updated: Nov. 26, 2016

Eigenji's hidden Buddha

Eigenji’s hidden Buddha

November 8–27, 2016, 8 am–5 pm
♦ Eigenji Hidden Buddha Display (本尊『如意輪観世音菩薩』の御開扉), Higashi-Omi
Eigenji is one of Higashi-Omi’s major temples, famous for autumn leaves. This month in November 2016, they will be showing their hidden Kannon statue for the first time in 30 years. It is the temple’s main object of worship is 60 cm high with a peaceful, golden face. A smaller Buddha said to have been carried by Genko is also on the top of the Kannon’s head. It is to mark the 650th anniversary of Zen Rinzai Sect priest and poet Jakushitsu Genko (寂室 元光 1290-1367) who founded Eigenji. 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 | SaturdaySunday.
Temple admission: ¥500

Ishiyama-dera reveals its hidden Kannon (center).

Ishiyama-dera reveals its hidden Kannon (center).

March 18–December 4, 2016, 9 am–4 pm
♦ Ishiyama-dera Hidden Buddha Display (本尊『如意輪観世音菩薩』の御開扉), Otsu
Ishiyama-dera is one of Otsu’s main temples and attractions, famous as the place supposedly where Lady Murasaki wrote the epic novel The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). The temple’s main object of worship is a seated Kannon statue (Important Cultural Property) three meters high and normally behind closed doors in the main Hondo hall (National Treasure). This year in 2016, this main Kannon statue is open for public viewing. They open this Kannon statue’s doors only once every 33 years! The main Kannon statue is a Nyoirin Kannon (Omnipotent One) with six arms dating from around 1096. It is worshiped for finding a marriage partner, safe childbirth, and happiness and prosperity. They say that it is Japan’s only Kannon that was ordered by the emperor to stay hidden (勅封秘仏). Because of its large size, it’s truly awesome. You may have to stand in line for a few minutes before you can see the statue. It has so much detail. Quite breathtaking and surprisingly it’s not a National Treasure (but an Important Cultural Property). (Photography of the Kannon statue is not allowed.) In addition, they are displaying four little Kannon statues dating from the 7th and 8th centuries that were found inside this main Kannon statue in 2002 (本尊如意輪観音像胎内佛像). A separate admission is charged to view the main Kannon statue. The spacious temple grounds also has autumn leaves and other National Treasure structures like the Tahoto pagoda. For this occasion, they are also allowing people to ring the temple bell (for ¥300) in the tall bell tower. I recommend doing that too, quite unique. Near Ishiyama-dera Station on the Keihan Ishisaka Line accessible from JR Ishiyama Station.
Temple admission: ¥600 + Kannon display ¥500
Official site: http://www.ishiyamadera.or.jp/ishiyamadera/gyouji/gokaihi/index.html
Photos | Map

Hikone Castle light-up

Hikone Castle light-up (Image: 光とアートで発信するブランディング事業 彦根・多賀地域連携組織委員会)

October 1–December 31, 2016 evenings
♦ Light & Art – Dramatic Legacy Castle Light-upHikone Castle, Sunset–10:00 pm
New evening event with Hikone Castle’s moat, stone walls, and moatside structures lit up with patterned and colored lighting. Check out the Sawaguchi Tamon turret. Looks beautiful at night.

Taga Taisha light-up

Taga Taisha light-up (Image: 光とアートで発信するブランディング事業 彦根・多賀地域連携組織委員会)

October 1–November 30, 2016 evenings
♦ Light & Art – Dramatic Legacy Shrine Light-upTaga Taisha Shrine, Sunset–10:00 pm
New evening event with colorful LEDs and laser light shining at the shrine, including tori and trees. Looks surreal and dreamy at night. Special event on Nov. 11, 12, and 13.

Matsuri in Nagahama

Matsuri in Nagahama

October 29–30, 2016
Japan Matsuri in Nagahama 2016 (日本の祭り in ながはま), Nagahama and Kinomoto
First-time festival extravaganza over the weekend in late Oct. Streets and plazas in central Nagahama near JR Nagahama Station and JR Kinomoto Station will host festivals from Nagahama and other parts of Japan. If you missed seeing this spring’s Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri, you can see all three hikiyama floats perform in front of the Hikiyama Museum on Oct. 30 from 10 am to 3 pm. Yogo’s Chawan Matsuri will also be performed in Kinomoto on Oct. 30 at 3 pm. Other festivals include Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri and Awa Odori from Tokushima on Oct. 30 in central Nagahama. Tonda Ningyo Bunraku puppet show, Dosukoi from Kagoshima, and taiko drummers from Shimo-Yogo and Yokaichi (Nagahama) on Oct. 29 in central Nagahama. Omi-Hachiman’s Sagicho will be on Oct. 29 and 30 in central Nagahama. It may be difficult to decide what to see because you can’t see everything. Free admission. They have a pdf in rough English here, but it does not have detailed schedule of events.
Pamphlet in Japanese has detailed schedule: http://matsurinagahama.jp/oshirase01/program.pdf

Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade

Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade

November 3, 2016
♦ 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

Hiyoshi Taisha torii lit up in autumn.

November 12–27, 2016, 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/

Saimyoji

Saimyoji

November 19-27, 2016
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 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.

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

Eigenji

Eigenji

November 6-27, 2016
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. Shuttle buses from Hyakusaiji also run to Eigenji during Nov. 16-Dec. 1. Map
永源寺 ライトアップ
http://eigenji-t.jp

Hyozu Taisha

Hyozu Taisha garden

November 17-30, 2016
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. Mini concerts will be held during the foliage illumination in the evenings.

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

Genkyuen

Genkyuen autumn foliage light-up.

November 12-27, 2016
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

Zensuiji

Zensuiji and maples.

November 13-30, 2016
♦ 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. The last bus leaves Zensuiji at 5:17 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 schedule in Japanese Map
湖南三山めぐり
http://www.burari-konan.jp/konan3zan/

November 12–December 4, 2016, 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/

December 3–4, 2016
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 so you would have stay near the launching beach in Takashima. Note that weather conditions can cancel the event.
熱気球琵琶湖横断
http://www.takashima-kanko.jp/

December 4,  2016 
♦ Tonda Ningyo Bunraku Puppet Show, Nagahama, 1:30 pm
The famous Tonda Ningyo Bunraku 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 4, 2016
♦ 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.

1 2 3 7