Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s news bits for January-December 2007. Compiled by Philbert Ono.
Hikone Castle 400th Anniversary
March 21, 2007: Hikone Castle celebrates its 400th anniversary with an 8-month-long festival lasting until Nov. 25, 2007. Three castle structures (Umaya horse stable, Tenbin Yagura turret, and Nishinomaru Sanju-yagura turret), normally closed to the public, are open to the public during the festival period. Official mascot Hiko-nyan (a helmeted cat) soon becomes nationally popular.
May 5, 2007: At the Expoland amusement park in Suita, Osaka, the Fujin Raijin II roller coaster derails, killing Yoshino Kogawara, 19, from Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture. Nineteen others are injured.
June 16, 2007: The English version of Shiga’s most famous song, Biwako Shuko no Uta, called Lake Biwa Rowing Song, is issued on CD sold by the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan museum in Imazu.
Sept. 6, 2007: Shiga’s very first pro sports team, the Shiga LakeStars, was approved to join the bj League, Japan’s fledging pro basketball league. The LakeStars will start playing from the fall 2008-2009 season.
Oct. 11, 2007: The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Japanese government against an Osaka High Court ruling which deemed illegal the Eigenji No. 2 Dam construction project in Higashi-Omi, Shiga Prefecture. Local residents of Eigenji had filed a lawsuit claiming that the Eigenji No. 2 Dam project was unnecessary and seriously flawed. The residents’ claims were supported by the Osaka High Court. The government then appealed to the Supreme Court unsuccessfully. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry now must revise its plans from scratch.
Oct. 28, 2007: During a meeting 新駅設置促進協議会 in Otsu between Governor Kada Yukiko and the mayors and local assembly members of Ritto and neighboring cities, the Governor announces that the project to build a new shinkansen train station in Ritto is officially cancelled. The governor reiterated that her election in 2006 reflected the will of the people who were against the shinkansen station which would have cost Shiga and Ritto 24,000,000,000 yen. The mayor of Ritto, who had pushed hard for this new station, expresses great regret. The cancellation makes national headlines.
Nov. 10-11, 2007: 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 is held in Otsu with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in attendance on the 11th for the formal ceremony held at Biwako Hall. The Emperor gives a speech saying that “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. The blue gill has multiplied rapidly in Lake Biwa from the 1990s and eats the baby fish of native lake fish. After the ceremony, the Emperor and Empress release baby fish of native lake fish into the lake. The Hama-Otsu area also serves as a venue for the public to become more aware of fisheries in Lake Biwa.
Nov. 10-13, 2007: Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit Shiga for the first time in 13 years. On the first day, they visit a nursing home called Care Town Karasaki. 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. On the second day the 11th, they attended the Zenkoku Yutaka na Umizukuri Taikai and afterward took a boat ride to Kusatsu to visit the Lake Biwa Museum. On the 12th, they visited Shigaraki Ceramic Park and the ruins of Shigaraki-no-Miya which was a detached palace of Emperor Shomu. On the 13th, they visited Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei and returned to Tokyo via shinkansen train from Kyoto Station.
Nov. 25, 2007: The 400th anniversary festival for Hikone Castle ends with a total attendance of 764,484 during the period of March 21 to Nov. 25. This far exceeded the break-even attendance of 550,000. They 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.
Dec. 27, 2007: A second meeting between the mayors of the six northern towns of Torahime-cho, Kohoku-cho, Takatsuki-cho, Kinomoto-cho, Yogo-cho, and Nishi-Azai-cho and the mayor of Nagahama meet at Takatsuki Town Hall to discuss the proposal to merge the six towns and Nagahama. The neighboring city of Maibara is also cited as a candidate to join the municipal merger. The mayors formally agreed to clearly call their meetings for the purpose of merging, instead of making it vague (広域でのまちづくり協議) as they did at their first meeting in the summer in Nagahama. The next day, they went to the Prefectural capital to request their support.
Dec. 27, 2007: At the Otsu District Court, a court settlement was reached between a citizen’s group and the town of Toyosato over the preservation of Toyosato Elementary School’s old school building designed by William Vories in 1937 and the funding of the construction of the new school building. The citizen’s group sought to have former town mayor Ono Wasaburo return the over 1.8 billion yen spent to build the new school building since the money was appropriated without obtaining the approval of the town assembly. Both sides agreed to the court’s proposal that the former mayor express his “reflection” concerning his deeds, and the construction company, which built the new school building, to donate about 20 million yen to the town to help preserve the old school building. The old school is slated to become a cultural facility. This concludes the five-year court battle.
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