I’ve created “We love (heart) Shiga” banners (horizontal and square) for anyone to download and use. Feel free to use them on your Web site, blog, Facebook, business cards, letterheads, etc.
You can opt to link the banner to any Web site about Shiga. (It doesn’t have to be shiga-ken.com.) Or just tack it on your home page for decoration or self-expression. I also provide large sizes for printing on A4- or A3-size paper. Make a poster for your dormitory wall or create T-shirt iron-on transfers and bumper stickers. Free for non-commercial use.
Let’s spread the word that not just you love Shiga, but also your boy/girlfriend, wife/husband, parents, family, relatives, kids, friends, students, etc.
And oh, in case you can’t read Japanese, the kanji characters (left to right) read “Shi ga.” Keep in mind that kanji characters are cool. Quite a few people outside Japan have kanji character tattoos. These banners also make for a Japanese lesson. (Hover over the image to see the pixel dimensions.) You can also click on the “We love (heart) Shiga” banner in the sidebar of Shiga News or shiga-ken.com to go directly to this page.
We love Shigaのバナー用画像を作りました。だれでも無料でダウンロードできます。ホームページ、ブログ、FBプロフィール画像、emailや手紙のレターヘッド、名刺、ポスター等々自由に使ってもいいです（非営利的）。
Another video hosted by English-speaking kids. Since two of them were from Hikone, I decided to make a video of Hikone Castle, which I call one of Shiga’s Top Three tourist sights. (The other two being Lake Biwa and Enryakuji temple.)
I tried to make the video as short as possible, but even so, it turned out to be 34 min. Goes to show how much there is to see at Hikone Castle. There’s quite a bit of English text which, if you read, will give you a good primer on what the castle and Hikone lords are about. Besides the castle, I cover official mascot Hiko-nyan, the adjacent Genkyuen Garden and palace, and two autumn castle festivals.
Spent quite a bit of time editing the video. Much of the time was spent reading up (in Japanese of course) on all the castle structures and lords and trying to write explanations as short and concise as possible. In the process, my knowledge of Hikone Castle has expanded.
Tenbin Yagura (天秤櫓)
One major discovery was a common mistranslation of a key word. Even I had misunderstood and mistranslated this word all these years. That was Tenbin Yagura (天秤櫓). This is a storehouse with two turrets on each end so it looks symmetrical like a “balance scale” as all the English pamphlets and Web pages will tell you. However, this is incorrect.
Tenbin shoulder pole carried by Omi merchant.
Tenbin, in ths case, refers to the shoulder pole for carrying luggage on both ends like this Omi merchant in the photo. It was commonly used even in modern times in rural areas for selling goldfish even.
I hope to spread the word about this longtime mistranslation. This is what happens when a Japanese word has more than one meaning. But I wonder now if the tenbin shoulder pole was actually named after the balance scale. Probably. Or vice versa?
Hikone Castle saw over 700,000 visitors in 2012. This is not the most they ever had, but it’s a good number.
Here’s my video of the Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival (東近江大凧まつり Higashi-Omi Odako Matsuri) held on Sunday, May 26, 2013 in Higashi-Omi. Another one of my ongoing video series with local kids introducing the sights in English. We took three Japanese kids from Higashi-Omi who had never seen the kite festival (neither did their parents). The video also has a few cameo appearances by other local folks.
It was a nice day, somewhat hot under the sun, but cool in the shade with good winds. There were all kinds of kites in the air, many of them quite exotic from around Japan. Didn’t get to see them all though.
They flew the giant kite several times during the morning and afternoon sessions. Watch the video to see how high it flew. The giant kite festival was held at the Fureai Undo Koen Park in Notogawa for the first time this year in 2013 (map here). Since it is closer to Lake Biwa than the old riverside site in Yokaichi, the wind supposed to be better. The former site was also getting narrower with the river widening or eroding.
The new festival site was certainly large enough, but it was still too narrow to fly the big kite. If they could run across the length of the park, it might work. But they pulled the giant kite across the park’s width because the wind was blowing that way. So each time they pulled the giant kite, it went up, but immediately went down when they stopped pulling after running out of ground.
However, compared to the old site and compared to last year’s festival when they had no wind at all, this new site is way better. Videos of the giant kite last year showed that the kite couldn’t even leave the ground. At least it well got off the ground this year.
The new site is also a lot more convenient for people coming from outside Higashi-Omi. JR Notogawa Station is convenient on the Tokaido Line and they had free shuttle buses going to the park. The park had no public parking so they provided designated parking lots some distance away from the park. Too far to walk, so free shuttle buses also ran from the parking lots.
Another major change was the name of the festival. It was formerly called the “Yokaichi Odako Matsuri” until 2011. They changed the name to “Higashi-Omi Odako Matsuri” last year in May 2012. Some people opposed the name change and I feel sorry for people in Yokaichi (central area in Higashi-Omi) for losing a namesake that they’ve known for about 30 years.
The fact is though, the kite festival has a 300-year history. And it was not originally called “Yokaichi Odako Matsuri.” The festival was started by villages in the Yokaichi area that started flying kites for Boy’s Day in May to celebrate the birth of a boy. The villages eventually competed in kite-making and the kites got larger and larger. The kite festival was named after the respective village. When villages merged and got a new municipal name, the name of the kite festival also changed accordingly. So the name of the festival actually changed a number of times. That’s the way it goes when a festival is not held by a shrine or temple.
They build a new giant kite every three years. The kite we saw was three years old and flew for the last time that day. This summer, they will build a new giant kite to be flown for the next three years until 2016. Glad we got to see this kite before it was retired. The artwork is simply awesome. And the meaning too (explained in my video). If you missed it, you can see it displayed at the Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Museum (map here) during the next three years.
Higashi-Omi in eastern Shiga Prefecture is famous for its giant kite measuring 12 meters by 13 meters. It’s flown on the last Sunday of May at the annual Giant Kite Festival (Odako Matsuri). (Details below.)
For people who can’t see the festival, they should visit the Higashi-Omi Giant KIte Museum (東近江大凧会館 formerly Yokaichi Giant Kite Museum) not far from Ohmi Railways Yokaichi Station (map here). It displays the previous giant kite along with hundreds of kites from all over Japan and the world.
I made this video of the kite museum with three English-speaking local kids as the reporters. We went to the museum on May 5, 2013, Children’s Day, when the kite museum held an event for kids to paste stickers written with their wishes or dreams on the giant kite. They also attended a kite-making session.
We are gearing up to see the giant kite festival on May 26, 2013 to be held at Fureai Undo Park west of JR Notogawa Station. Free shuttle buses will run from Notogawa Station. They are holding the festival at a different riverside park now, closer to Lake Biwa where the winds are stronger. The old riverside festival site was getting narrower due to the river getting wider. Winds were also weaker. Also note that they changed the name of festival from Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival to Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival.
After a ceremony at 9:20 am, the Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival 2013 (東近江大凧まつり 2013) will start from 10:15 am with a kite flying contest. They will fly the giant kite twice, from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:30 pm to 3 pm when the festival will end. There will be some stage entertainment like taiko drumming, display of the giant kite on the ground, and an area to fly kites. They’ll have food and souvenir booths.
Free shuttle buses from JR Notogawa Station (from 8 am), the Odako Kaikan kite museum, and designated parking lots will run to the festival site at Fureai Undo Koen park.