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」

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.

Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri Goshu Ondo

Video link: http://youtu.be/U6vSoyvD2Sw

This is my video of the Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri (八日市聖徳まつり) festival in Higashi-Omi, Shiga Prefecture on the evening of July 27, 2013. It’s an annual bon dance held for the 44th time on the Ekimae road perpendicular to Yokaichi Station. A bon dance is a Buddhist tradition to welcome ancestral spirits visiting in summer. It was my first time to see one of Shiga’s biggest bon dances.

The evening started with the Saturday Night Market (本町土曜夜市) at the Honmachi shopping arcade from 5 pm to 9 pm. The arcade was crowded with games, food, and knickknacks. It got quite hot in there being a covered arcade with little ventilation.

The Shotoku Matsuri started at 7 pm with a mascot character show in front of the yagura tower. Followed by a Yokai costume parade of goblins, ogres, and demons led by Gao, a local ogre mascot who visits homes and scares bad kids to become good. This event plays upon the place name of “Yokaichi.” Although the kanji characters for Yokaichi (八日市) means “8th Day Market,” it can also be written with different kanji characters (妖怪地) meaning “Land of Yokai.” Yokai, haunted house attractions, and ghost/horror stories are the traditional staple of summer in Japan. It’s supposed send cold chills down your spine to cool you off in the hot weather.

The main event, called Goshu Ondo So-Odori (江州音頭総おどり), was held from 7:50 pm to 8:40 pm. About 750 dancers (including hula dancers) from 26 groups formed a long, oblong circle around a yagura tower where top-notch singers and musicians performed Goshu Ondo folk songs. The dance groups were local organizations and companies. There was one group where anybody could join in and dance, but it was difficult to spot and quite crowded. A typical bon dance is usually 2 hours long held for two nights or so, but the Goshu Ondo was less than an hour held on only one evening. The festival ended with a short fireworks display above Yokaichi Station. About 6,000 spectators attended.

The Shotoku Matsuri is named after Prince Shotoku Taishi, the founder of Yokaichi and one of Japan’s most revered and historical figures. He is credited with spreading Buddhism in Japan during the 7th century and establishing many Buddhist temples including Hyakusaiji.

The Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri was worthy of a video because it features Goshu Ondo (江州音頭) folk songs native to Shiga. You won’t hear typical bon dance songs like Tanko-bushi here. Goshu is another name for Omi, Shiga’s old provincial name. The Goshu Ondo originated in Yokaichi and nearby Toyosato. It has a distinctly different rhythm compared to other bon dance songs. Goshu Ondo songs are a mixture of Buddhist prayers and narrative singing. Its present form originated in the late 19th century.

The person who created the Goshu Ondo was Nishizawa Torakichi (西沢寅吉) in the latter 19th century. He also collaborated with another Yokaichi resident, Okumura Kuzaemon (奥村久衛左門). Torakichi was a master of composing and reciting prayer songs (祭文語り) that had centuries-old roots in propagational prayers composed by mountain ascetic priests. Elements of those old prayer songs remain in the Goshu Ondo. Torakichi modified it to integrate narrative singing which became a form of entertainment for the masses (before they had TV, movies, etc.).

Fujino Shirobe’e (二代目藤野四郎兵衛), a prosperous Omi merchant in Toyosato, rebuilt a neighborhood Buddhist temple called Senjuji temple (千樹寺) after it was destroyed in a fire. Shirobe’e wanted a new prayer song to dedicate the new temple in July 1846. Shirobe’e invited the renown Torakichi to Toyosato to compose a new prayer song. The song was performed and danced to at Senjuji temple. The villagers liked the song and danced to it at the temple. They used folding fans and umbrellas as props for the dance as they did for previous prayer songs. The new-style song came to be called “Goshu Ondo.” Senjuji temple still stands near Toyosato Station. It has a stone monument for the Goshu Ondo. A park in Yokaichi also has a Goshu Ondo stone monument. I noticed a slight disagreement regarding the exact origin of the Goshu Ondo (Yokaichi vs. Toyosato), but it’s safe to say that it originated in both Yokaichi and Toyosato.

There are now many different Goshu Ondo songs. The lyrics include prayers (for good harvests, etc.) and drama-filled storytelling. They also have the same returning chorus  (kakegoe) starting with “Sorya” or “Kora” (in Toyosato) as follows:

Sorya yoito yoiya maka dokkoisa no se!
ソリャ ヨイト ヨイヤ マカ ドッコイサーノッセ!

If you hear this, you know it’s the Goshu Ondo. (Watch the video to hear it. It’s quite infectious.) Also, even though different Goshu Ondo songs have different lyrics, the dance motions are basically the same. Dancers from Toyosato traditionally dance with an umbrella or folding fan. Dancers from Yokaichi don’t use such props. But they might wear a mask. In recent years, jazz, funk, and reggae versions of the Goshu Ondo have been created to attract more young people.

Many of the dance groups are from local companies. Not surprising when you think that the Goshu Ondo has Omi merchant roots. The Omi merchants who sold cloth, laquerware, medicines, etc., all around Japan helped to spread the Goshu Ondo as side entertainment for customers. Quite a few Omi merchants were also lead singers of Goshu Ondo. Even the dance depicts the Omi merchant, as you will learn in the video. One place outside Shiga where the Goshu Ondo took root was in Yao, Osaka where it morphed into the famous Kawachi Ondo which sounds quite different from the Goshu Ondo. The dance is also different.

For this video, three local Yokaichi kids did some hands-on reporting, with a few cameo appearances by other folks. Before making this video, I couldn’t find any decent videos showing the Shotoku Matsuri’s Goshu Ondo dance. I only found videos of the mascot character show which is such a minor event. Although there are lots of Goshu Ondo videos shot elsewhere, I found none of the Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri. So now the world finally has a decent (and informative) video of the Shotoku Matsuri Goshu Ondo dance at their fingertips.

Old Toyosato Elementary School burglarized

Old Toyosato School burglarized.

A bit of disappointing news for anime fans, especially those who love the late-night anime program called “K-ON!” (けいおん!) which started to air in April 2010. The school depicted in K-ON! is modeled after the old Toyosato Elementary School in Toyosato which has subsequently drawn many fans to visit the school.

At around 1:15 am on Nov. 17, 2010, the security alarm in the old Toyosato Elementary School’s former library (Shutoku Ki’nenkan 舎酬徳記念館) sounded. The Hikone Police responded and found 22 figurines based on the K-ON anime stolen along with a portable cash safe containing almost 300,000 yen and three guitars modeled after those used in the anime series. A glass window in the north side of the building was found broken and multiple culprits were involved.

The good news is that some of the stolen goods were recovered in a rice paddy near the school two days later on Nov. 19. Footprints of multiple culprits were left at where the stolen goods were found. The three stolen guitars were recovered, but the portable cash safe was empty. The burglars are still at large.

Shiga History 2009

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s news bits for January-December 2009. Compiled by Philbert Ono.

Toyosato Elementary School

Former Toyosato Elementary School renovated.

March 1, 2009: Hikone Prince Hotel is renamed Hikone View Hotel (彦根ビューホテル) upon the change of the hotel ownership from Prince Hotels to a Tokyo-based company called Study, Co., Ltd. The hotel is now part of the Itoen Hotel Group.

March 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) took steps to merge with the city of Nagahama on Jan. 1, 2010. The proposed merger was approved by the prefectural government.

Mar. 4, 2009: Caffee (キャッフィー), the mascot character used for Sports Recreation Shiga 2008, was sworn in by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko as one of Shiga’s official mascots, especially for sports events.
March: The construction of the new Maibara Station is pretty much complete with the opening of the east-west corridor on Mar. 21st.

Mar. 30, 2009: The prefectural government announces that they found at least 44 suspected cases of slush funds or suspicious accounting created for illicit purposes by prefectural government departments and employees. The alleged backdoor money (called uragane 裏金) totaled at least 6.9 million yen.

Mar. 31, 2009: In a rare turnabout of policy, the Construction and Transport Ministry announced that it would freeze construction of Daidogawa Dam (大戸川ダム) in Otsu. The decision was made in consideration of opposition to the dam by the governors of Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka and Mie prefectures. The ministry had stated that the dam was needed to prevent any great flood that may occur. The affected municipalities (Otsu and Uji in Kyoto) and residents, however, were in favor of the dam.

April 2009: The Shiga Lakestars pro basketball team in the bj-league ends their debut season in 5th place with a record of 19 wins and 33 losses.

May 4, 2009: The Nyu Chawan Matsuri festival is held in Yogo for the first time in six years.

May 20, 2009: Shiga’s first case of swine flu (H1N1) is confirmed. A 23-year-old male student at the Biwako-Kusatsu campus of Ritsumeikan University is the first patient in Shiga. His symptoms are not serious and he was hospitalized. The news hits the local tourism industry very hard as school trips to Shiga are canceled. By late Sept. 2009, well over 2,000 people, mainly children, are infected in Shiga.

May 30, 2009: At a total cost of 650 million yen, the old Toyosato Elementary School is completely renovated and reopened to the public with an exhibition room, local public library, children’s room, and offices of the local board of education. The old building was repainted, reinforced against earthquakes, installed with an elevator, and preserved as much as possible. The second floor with classrooms is preserved as it was originally.

June 7, 2009: Hikone’s official mascot, Hiko-nyan, takes his first overseas trip to Hawai’i to appear in the Pan-Pacific Festival parade held along Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki.

July 1, 2009: Smoking is banned in and around all major train stations in Otsu.

Aug. 24, 2009: Twelve-year-old Murakami Koji (村川康嗣) dies due to injuries from judo practice at Hatasho Junior High School in Aisho on July 29. Although the judo instructor was found to be at fault, he was not held personally liable for the death of the boy. The boy’s mother unsuccessfully sought damages from the instructor, although the town was held liable and was ordered to pay damage by the court.

Sept. 7, 2009: Kato Tokiko, a famous singer best known for her 1971 recording of Biwako Shuko no Uta, is appointed as a Shiga Hometown Ambassador (Shiga Furusato Taishi) by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko.

Sept. 12, 2009: The movie, Katen no Shiro (Castle of the Fire God 火天の城) is released to theaters nationwide. The movie is about Okabe Mataemon, a Nagoya (Atsuta)-based master carpenter who in 1576 was ordered by Japan’s leading warlord Oda Nobunaga to build Azuchi Castle on Mt. Azuchi fronting Lake Biwa.

Sept. 19-20, 2009: The first Inazuma Rock Fes is held at Karasuma Peninsula by Shiga-native Nishikawa Takanori, a famous musician known as T.M.Revolution.

Oct. 23-25, 2009: The 2nd Yuru-Kyara (Mascot Character) Matsuri is held on Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road in Hikone. Well over 100 PR mascots adorned the road and posed for pictures. On the first day, most of the mascots appeared on stage at the Hikone Bunka Plaza where singer Hashi Yukio sang the Yuru-chara ondo song.

Click here for Shiga History 2010

William Merrell Vories exhibition in Omi-Hachiman

Former Hachiman YMCA, the first building designed by Vories.

Former Hachiman YMCA, the first building designed by Vories.

The William Merrell Vories exhibition is being held in Omi-Hachiman until Nov. 3, 2009. For 1,000 yen, you can enter a few of the Vories-designed buildings in Omi-Hachiman normally closed to the public.

It’s an on-your-own walking tour of Vories buildings starting at Hakuunkan, a Western-style (but not designed by Vories) building across the torii near Hachimanbori. Go inside Hakuunkan and pay 1,000 yen to receive a few tickets to enter the other buildings. You also receive a map of the walking tour. The 2nd floor of the Hakuunkan also has an exhibition on Vories. However, everything is in Japanese. Exhibition hours is 9 am to 4:30 pm (enter by 4 pm). Hakuunkan is an 8-min. bus ride from JR Omi-Hachiman Station’s north exit. Go to bus stop 6 and board the bus going to Chomeiji. You can get off at Shinmachi (新町) or Osugicho (大杉町).

The walking tour map is pretty easy to follow, and the route has arrows pointing the way to the next building. Everything is within walking distance, it should take only a few hours to see everything. The buildings you can enter are the old Hachiman Post Office, Omi Brotherhood Schools’ Hyde Memorial Building which was a former kindergarten run by Vories’ wife Makiko, the former residence of Vories and Makiko, and the former Hachiman YMCA. The former Vories residence’s living room is still full of books and pictures. The house also has a Japanese-style room attached.

The former Hachiman YMCA, now the Andrews Memorial building, was the first building Vories designed. You can also enter this building. There are panel exhibitions in all the buildings you can enter. Other buildings are not open to the public, so you just have to admire them from outside.

I enjoyed the tour and was finally able to enter these buildings. Unfortunately, nothing is in English (which is strange since Vories was from America) and photography inside the buildings is not allowed. This is puzzling because photography is allowed inside all the other Vories buildings in Shiga open to the public. Official Web site: http://vories.jp/

See more Vories in Omi-Hachiman photos here.

Former Toyosato Elementary School now renovated.

On the same day, I also went to Toyosato to visit the old Toyosato Elementary School which reopened in May 2009 after major renovations. The old  building now looks very impressive with a new coat of white paint. They spent ¥650 million to make the building earthquake resistant as well. The school was built in the 1930s and designed by Vories. If you’re interested in architecture, this is another building I highly recommend visiting.

The old school consists of three buildings. The main building, auditorium, and old library, all open to the public. The main building now has a public library occupying a few former classrooms, offices of the local board of education, a children’s playroom, and an exhibition room. The second floor has two classrooms renovated to look like as they were in the old days. The auditorium is also impressive, as well as the old library which is now used as a local tourist information office and event space. The school is within walking distance from Toyosato Station on the Omi Railway Line. Free admission.

Rabbit and turtle sculpture (Aesops fable) on stairway railing inside old Toyosato Elementary School.

Rabbit and turtle sculpture (Aesop’s fable) on stairway railing inside old Toyosato Elementary School.

See more photos of Toyosato Elementary School here.

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