Olympic athletes from Shiga Prefecture in Rio de Janeiro

がんばれ!ニッポン!

Updated: Aug. 20, 2016

The Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in Brazil will be held on August 5–21, 2016 (Paralympics on Sept. 7–18). Out of 300+ Olympic athletes from Japan, the following Olympians are from Shiga Prefecture. To see when they will appear, click on “Olympic schedule” (NBC website). This link will also give the athlete’s results as they come in.
滋賀出身・滋賀ゆかりのリオデジャネイロのオリンピック選手を応援しよう!

KIRYU Yoshihide (桐生祥秀), Track (Men’s 100 meters)

Kiryu (b. 1995) is one of Japan’s major track stars and native of Hikone, Shiga Prefecture. A top-notch sprinter since 2013. He’s often in the news. Started running from when he attended Minami Junior High School in Hikone. His record time in the 100 m is 10.01 sec. and 9.87 sec. His track mates like Aska CAMBRIDGE are also awesome runners and it’s impossible to say who will prevail in Rio.

English bio | Japanese bio | Twitter | Olympic schedule & result

OTA Yuki (太田 雄貴), Fencing

Hailing from Otsu, Ota (b. 1985) won the national fencing championship while in elementary school and junior high. He went on to win the national high school championships (Inter-High School Championship) three years in a row. Graduated from Doshisha University. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he became the first Japanese to make it to the finals in fencing and brought home a silver medal. He gained national attention for winning the team silver medal at London. Then in Sept. 2013, he was in the spotlight again as a member of the JOC trying to get the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo. When “Tokyo 2020” was announced, his joyful face made national headlines. At the 2015 World Fencing Championships, he won the gold medal in the Men’s foil event. Ota is ranked No. 1 in the world as of the 2015-16 season.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

Kimura Saori at London 2012. (By Gary Howden from Brighton, United Kingdom)

Toray Arrows: KIMURA Saori, SAKODA Saori, TASHIRO Kanami (木村沙織、迫田さおり、田代 佳奈美), Women’s volleyball

Three members of the Otsu-based Toray Arrows women’s volleyball team will be in Rio. Both Kimura (b. 1986) and Sakoda (b. 1987) played in the London Olympics where they won the bronze medal. Tashiro (b. 1991) is from Ritto, Shiga. Influenced by her mom who played, she started playing volleyball from 1st grade and joined Toray Arrows in 2009. Meanwhile, the 185 cm-tall Kimura will be the national team’s captain in Rio. She will be the first Japanese volleyball player to play in four consecutive Olympic games. A real veteran and major volleyball star. The Japan women’s national volleyball team (Hinotori Nippon, 火の鳥NIPPON) is currently ranked 5th in the world. The Toray Arrows belong to the V.Premier League, Japan’s top volleyball league. The team is owned by Toray Industries, a major textile maker with factories in Shiga. Their home court is Toray Arena in Otsu.

English bio (Wikipedia): Kimura | Sakoda | Tashiro
Japanese bio (Wikipedia): Kimura | Sakoda | Tashiro
Japanese bio (Arrows): Kimura | SakodaTashiro
Facebook | Website (English) | Olympic schedule & result

INUI Yukiko (乾 友紀子), Duet synchronized swimming

Inui Yukiko (b. 1990) is an Omi-Hachiman native who started synchronized swimming from the 1st grade. At age 16, she placed 3rd in the solo competition at the Junior World Championships. Graduated from Omi Kyodaisha High School in Omi-Hachiman and Ritsumeikan University. Together with her duet partner KOBAYASHI Chisa (小林千紗), she won the national championship for duet synchronized swimming in 2009 and placed 3rd in the World Cup in 2010. The pair competed together in the 2012 London Olympics and placed 5th. Wish her luck in Rio for a medal.

English bio Japanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

NISHIMURA Ayaka (西村 綾加), Women’s Hockey

Ayaka and Minami (from Maibara's website).

Ayaka and Minami (Photo: Maibara website).

Ayaka (b. 1989) is from Maibara (Ibuki). Yay! She started playing hockey after seeing her older brother and sister play. (Maibara is a hockey hotbed.) She has been playing for the Hiroshima-based Coca-Cola West Red Sparks hockey team since 2012. She appeared in the 2015 World League semi-finals.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

SHIMIZU Minami (清水 美並), Women’s Hockey

There’s not one, but two Olympian women hockey players from Maibara. And both are from Ibuki. How about that. I’ve heard that the folks in Ibuki are making a big deal out of this. Minami (b. 1993) graduated from Ibuki High School and plays for the Sony HC BRAVIA Ladies hockey team based in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture. She’s actually one of nine players from Sony HC BRAVIA going to Rio to play on Japan’s women’s hockey team (dubbed “Sakura Japan”). Her position is FW. What a thrill it must be for both of them to be in Rio. Something that will bond them for the rest of their lives.

English bioJapanese bioFacebook | Olympic schedule & result

ISEDA Megumi (伊勢田 愛), Women’s Windsurfing

Charming girl (b. 1987) from Takashima, Shiga Prefecture. The kanji character for her first name is pronounced “Megumi” instead of “Ai.” Interesting that her father ran a windsurfing shop in Takashima so she was exposed to the sport since childhood. But ironically, she didn’t care for it until she went to college. While at Doshisha University, she won the All Japan collegiate championship. She qualified for the Rio Olympics by placing 21st at the 2015 RS:X World Windsurfing Championships held in Oman. She always practiced windsurfing on Lake Biwa and wants to promote windsurfing at Biwako. While practicing in Rio in July, a school of dolphins surprised (welcomed?) her.

English bioJapanese bioBlog | Olympic schedule & result

KAZUNO Kenta (数野 健太), Badminton

Native of Otsu, Kazuno (b. 1985) attended Hie-zan High School and Nihon Univ. He specializes in badminton doubles. Joined UNYSIS in 2008. He won the mixed doubles at the 2015 All Japan Championships. He also won the Osaka International Challenge doubles three times in a row, won the Polish Open Men’s Doubles in 2015 (with Yamada Kazushi), and won the Malaysia Masters Men’s Doubles (with Yamada Kazushi). He is the captain of Japan’s badminton team in Rio. Let’s see if he can continue his winning streak in Rio.

English bioJapanese bioFacebook | Olympic schedule & result

HAYAKAWA Kenichi (早川 賢一), Badminton

Another badminton Olympian from Otsu. Hayakawa (b. 1986) has been playing badminton since elementary school. Attended Hie-zan High School and Nihon Univ. Like Kazuno Kenta, he belongs to UNYSIS and specializes in badminton doubles. Men’s doubles runner-up (with Endo Hiroyuki) at the 2016 All England Super Series Premier.

English bioJapanese bioOlympic schedule & result

*Marathon runner KITAJIMA Hisanori (北島寿典) was born in Koka, Shiga, but moved to Maebashi, Gunma as an infant.

KIMURA Keiichi (木村 敬一), Paralympics Swimming

Born in Ritto in 1990, Keiichi has been totally blind since age 2. From 4th grade, he took up swimming. He made the Japanese Olympic team in Beijing in 2008 and in London 2012. In London, he won the silver medal for the 100 m breaststroke and bronze for the 100 m butterfly. Rio will be his third consecutive Paralympics.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule

MIYAJI Mitsuhide (宮路 満英), Paralympics Equestrian

Last but not least is an amazing story and struggle behind 58-year-old Miyaji Mitsuhide joining the Paralympics for the first time. Originally from Kagoshima, Miyaji is a former race horse trainer at the Ritto Training Center and lives in Konan. In 2005, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and affected his speech. As part of his rehabilitation, he took up equestrian activities. With much struggle and support from his wife, he got good enough to enter the Rio Paralympics.

English bio | Japanese bio | Twitter | Facebook | Video | Olympic schedule

GOOD LUCK to all the athletes in Rio!!

Japan Olympic Team Facebook | JOC (English)

Summer 2016 fireworks in Shiga Prefecture

hanabi

Here’s the 2016 summer fireworks (hanabi) schedule for Shiga Prefecture (Shiga-ken hanabi) listed by date. Keep in mind that foul weather is always possible and fireworks can be canceled.

Updated: July 14, 2016

Essential vocabulary
Hanabi (花火) – fireworks
Hanabi Taikai (花火大会) – fireworks (sometimes a contest)
Natsu Matsuri (夏まつり) – Summer festival
Noryo (納涼) – Enjoying the cool of a summer evening (at a river, park, etc.)

Compiled by Philbert Ono

July 9, 2016
♦ Takamiya Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Takamiya, Hikone, 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Near the Inugami River Muchinbashi Bridge. 10-min. walk from Ohmi Railways Takamiya Station. If rained out, to be postponed to July 10.
高宮納涼花火大会
More info: 高宮商工繁栄会 TEL:0749-22-2075
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/takamiya.html

July 16, 2016
♦ Echigawa Gion Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Aisho, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
At two locations along the Echigawa River bank near Miyukibashi Bridge. 15-min. walk from Ohmi Railways Echigawa Station. If rained out, to be postponed to July 23. About 40,000 people are expected.
愛知川祇園納涼祭花火大会
More info: 愛知川駅コミュニティハウスるーぶる愛知川 TEL:0749-42-8444
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/echigawa.html

Canceled in 2016: ♦ Yasu River Hanabi Taikai in Ritto, ?? pm – ?? pm
Along the Yasu River. 20-min. walk from JR Moriyama Station. A variety of activities (hot air balloon rides, flea market, and more) will held in the afternoon. If rained out, to be postponed to July ??.
野洲川花火大会
More info: 栗東市観光物産協会 TEL:077-551-0126
http://tinyurl.com/ozeotyj

July 23, 2016
♦ Otsu Shiga Hanabi Taikai fireworks, 7:45 pm – 8:30 pm
Watch the fireworks over the lake from the famous Omi-Maiko beach. Near JR Omi-Maiko Station (Kosei Line) in western Otsu. If rained out, to be postponed to July ??.
大津志賀花火大会
More info: 大津志賀花火大会実行委員会 TEL:077-592-0378\

July 30, 2016
♦ Koka Natsu Matsuri fireworks in Minakuchi, Koka, 7:45 pm – 8:30 pm
Koka’s biggest fireworks display held along Yasu River. Part of a local festival of stage entertainment, games, and food stalls. Near Ohmi Railways Minakuchi Jonan Station.
甲賀夏まつり
More info: 甲賀市観光協会 TEL:0748-60-2690

Nagahama Port during fireworks.

Nagahama Port during fireworks.

Aug. 1, 2016
♦ Hikone Dai-Hanabi Taikai at Matsubara Beach, Hikone, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
35-min. walk from Hikone Station. Shuttle buses provided from Hikone Station to a sports ground from which it’s a 15-min. walk to the beach. If rained out, to be postponed to Aug. 2.
彦根大花火大会
More info: (社)彦根観光協会 Phone: 0749-23-0001
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/hikone.html

♦ Ogoto Onsen Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Ogoto Port, Otsu, 8 pm – 8:30 pm
20-min. walk from Ogoto Onsen Station. Fireworks can be seen from most onsen (hot spring) ryokan and outdoor baths in Ogoto. If rained out, to be postponed to Aug. 2.
おごと温泉納涼花火大会
More info: おごと温泉観光協会 Phone: 077-578-1650
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/ogoto.html

♦ Omi-Imazu Furusato Natsu Matsuri, Takashima, 9:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Climax of Imazu’s summer festival starting from 1 pm.
近江今津ふるさと夏祭り やっさ!今津!!2016
More info: 近江今津ふるさと夏まつり実行委員会事務局 Phone: 0740-22-2108

Aug. 4, 2016
♦ Nagahama Kita-Biwako Hanabi Taikai at Nagahama Port, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
10-min. walk from Nagahama Station. Very crowded so go early to save a spot or pay for special seating for 1,500 yen or 2,500 yen. If rained out, to be postponed to Aug. 5.
長浜・北びわ湖大花火大会
More info: 長浜市観光振興課 Phone: 0749-65-6521
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/nagahamakitabiwako.html

Aug. 6, 2016
♦ Makino Summer Carnival at Makino Sunny Beach, Takashima
マキノサマーカーニバル2016
More info: 四季遊園マキノ交流促進協議会事務局 Phone: 0740-28-8002

♦ Takashima Summer Festival at Makino Sunny Beach, Takashima, 9:00 pm
2016たかしま夏まつり
More info: たかしま夏まつり実行委員会 Phone: 0740-36-2011

♦ Ujisato Matsuri Summer Gathering in Hino, 8:45 pm – 9 pm
Fireworks is the climax of this summer festival (bon dance, etc.) held in the northern parking lot of Hino Town Hall starting in mid-afternoon.
氏郷まつり「夏の陣」2016
More info: 日野町イベント実行委員会 Phone: 0748-52-6562
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/ujisato.html

♦ Kotonarie Summer Festa in Higashi-Omi’s Hibari Park
Part of an illumination and music festival. 20-min. by bus from Yokaichi Station. Fireworks start at 8:40 pm.
コトナリエサマーフェスタ2015
More info: 東近江市湖東商工会 Phone: 0749-45-2571
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/kotonarie.html

♦ Konan Natsu Matsuri in Konan, fireworks at 8:00 pm
Fireworks is the climax of this summer festival (Goshu Ondo bon dance, stage entertainment, etc.) held at the Yasugawa River Shinzui Koen park (野洲川親水公園).
湖南市夏まつり
More info: 湖南市観光協会 Phone: 0748-71-2157
http://www.burari-konan.jp/

Aug. 8, 2016
♦ Biwako Dai-Hanabi Taikai at Hama-Otsu and Nagisa Park, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
This is the big one, but a steep admission (around 4,300 yen, even for children above age 3) is charged in prime viewing areas along Hama-Otsu. Hama-Otsu Port will be totally walled off so you cannot see the fireworks from the street. Farther away is the free area along Nagisa Park which is terribly crowded with people reserving viewing spots from noon. Spectacular show, but have fun trying to get home via the tiny nearby train stations or gridlocked roads afterward. Foul weather will postpone it to Aug. 10. (If the weather is questionable, call 0180-99-3339 to find out if the fireworks will be held or not.)
びわ湖大花火大会
More info: びわ湖大花火大会実行委員会 TEL: 077-511-1530
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/biwako.html

Aug. 16, 2016
♦ Somagawa Natsu Matsuri near Kibukawa Station, Koka
Fireworks are part of the summer festival with taiko drummers and lantern floating on the river.
杣川夏まつり
More info: 甲賀市観光協会 Phone: 0748-65-0708

Aug. 17, 2016
♦ Takebe Taisha Senkosai Fireworks at Seta River in Otsu, 8:00 pm – 9 pm
Near Seta-no-Karahashi Bridge. Short walk from Karahashi-mae Station on the Keihan Line. Fireworks will climax the waterborne Takebe Taisha Senkosai festival on boats.
瀬田川花火大会
More info: 建部大社 Phone: 077-545-0038
http://kansai.pia.co.jp/special/hanabi2016/kyoto_shiga/takebe.html

Aug. 25, 2016
♦ Kinomoto Jizo Dai-ennichi fireworks near JR Kinomoto Station
Climax of a local festival with food stalls and games held during Aug. 22-25.
木之本地蔵大縁日 8月22日(日)~25日(水)(花火は25日のみ)
More info: ふるさと夏まつり実行委員会 Phone: 0749-82-5900
http://kitabiwako.jp/event/event_9406/

Nagahama Kannon exhibition in Tokyo 2016

nagahamaHotoke2Another rare and magnificent exhibition of Kannon statues from Nagahama is being held in Tokyo at The University Art Museum (東京藝術大学美術館), Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) from July 5 to Aug. 7, 2016 near Ueno Station. Kannon is also known as the Goddess of Mercy.

The exhibition is titled, Life and Prayer, Kannon Sculptures from Nagahama II (観音の里の祈りとくらし展 II-びわ湖・長浜のホトケたち). Organized by the Tokyo University of the Arts and the city of Nagahama, it is the followup to the first Nagahama Kannon exhibition held in 2014 at the same venue. This second Kannon exhibition has been greatly expanded with over 40 Kannon and Buddha statues from Nagahama, over twice the number shown in 2014.

I’ve never seen so many precious Kannon and Buddha statues in one place, except maybe at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA. There are two rooms filled with really old Kannon and Buddha statues dating from centuries ago or even 1,000+ years ago. There is a great variety with large and small, seated and standing statues. It also includes Buddha statues, so it is not entirely a Kannon exhibition. An amazing collection. Many people from Shiga, especially Nagahama, are traveling to Tokyo to see this exhibition. Too bad you can’t see a similar exhibition in Shiga itself.

After you pay the ¥1,200 admission, they give you a nice plastic file folder with a Kannon statue design. It contains Nagahama tourist pamphlets in Japanese (no English).

Main exhibition room.

Main exhibition room.

Step into the exhibition room and you see long rows of Kannons and Buddhas along the walls with a few in the middle of the room. It feels like you’re joining a grand Nagahama Kannon Summit. I can imagine them talking (or chanting?) to each other after we humans leave. They must be congratulating each other on their longevity and good physical condition. If we could only hear all the wishes and prayers they have heard from worshippers over the centuries.

Second exhibition room.

Second exhibition room with the Den-Senju Kannon.

Seeing so many peaceful-looking Kannons and Buddhas with half-closed eyes and serene faces is really pacifying and relaxing. You don’t need to be Buddhist nor a Buddhist art expert to appreciate these masterpieces either. Even a non-expert can notice the fineness and subtleties of the facial expressions, form, and shape. Look closely, and you can see how the similar-looking faces actually look different. A face may even be grinning at you. There are also fierce-looking ones and unusual ones with “a thousand arms/legs” or a horse’s head on the head. I can’t imagine how many days it would take to see all these statues in their original temples in Nagahama. So it’s a bargain to see this exhibition, although I do hope to see some of them in their original habitat someday.

My favorites at the exhibition (page numbers refer to the exhibition catalog and links show the sculpture’s official photo):

Den-Senju Kannon (伝千手観音立像) from Kuroda Kannon-ji temple in Kinomoto. Important Cultural Property of Japan, dating back to the Heian Period (794–1185). This masterpiece is definitely the exhibition’s centerpiece. A larger-than-life, 11-headed, 1000-armed Kannon that dominates the second exhibition room. All those arms (actually only 18 instead of 1,000) have a hand holding something interesting, even a small snake. The crown on the head has eleven little kannon heads. The face is very serene, mustache and all. The back view is also impressive. Spent a good 10-15 min. staring at this piece. (p.74)

Senju-Senzoku Kannon (千手千足観音立像) from Shomyoji temple (正妙寺) in Takatsuki. Small standing statue only 42 cm high with a whopping 1,000 hands AND 1,000 legs, PLUS 9 Kannon heads on the crown! Somebody ordered this statue with everything on it. Golden statue from the Edo Period. Very rare to have both “1,000” arms and legs. Imagine what you could do with all those arms and legs. (p.56)

Eleven-headed Sitting Kannon (十一面観音坐像) from Okamoto Shrine in Odani. Serene-looking Kannon with four pairs of arms/hands from the Heian Period. What struck me was the beautiful wood grain pattern radiating from the tip of the nose like tree rings across the rest of the face. Very aesthetic. (p.51)

Horse Head (Bato) Kannon (馬頭観音立像) from Tokuenji temple (徳圓寺) in Nishi-Azai. This standing, black statue with three scowling faces, four pairs of arms/hands, and a horse’s head on top was most bizarre-looking, but somehow impressive. The Kannon’s hairdo streaks upward like a madman. Farmers pray to Horse Head Kannon to protect their farm animals and appease the spirits of dead ones. (p.115)

Tamonten (多聞天立像) from Shakudoji temple (石道寺) in Kinomoto. Tamonten is also known as Bishamonten, one of the Four Heavenly Kings. It’s a large, fierce-looking statue with big glass eyes and its mouth open to breath in. It looks so realistic that when I looked at his face, I could’ve sworn that his chest also expanded. He looks alive. I guess my eyes are trained to see an expanding chest whenever I see a face breathing in through the mouth. A brilliant optical illusion perhaps. Important Cultural Property of Japan. (p.92)

Nagahama temples

A few photos of Nagahama’s temple neighborhoods also displayed.

There are many more great pieces. I can highly recommend seeing this show. Each statue has a Japanese description showing the name of the statue, the name of the temple it belongs to, the date, and other basic info. There is no English. Having such a high-profile exhibition makes me worry about temple burglaries in Shiga where there are so many temples and treasures. I hope they have adequate security at these temples.

Shiga has Japan’s highest number of Kannon statues designated as Important Cultural Properties (including a National Treasure). There are over 130 Kannon statues in Nagahama. It is not known for certain why northern Nagahama has so many beautiful Kannon statues. One theory says that it may be largely due to Mt. Kodakami-yama (己高山, 923 m) in Kinomoto that could be seen far and wide and became an object of worship (山岳信仰). Kodakami-yama’s main temple was a Kannon temple. Written records show that there were many temples dedicated to Kodakami-yama, and Kannon statues were made for them.

The museum also sells a small exhibition catalog/book for ¥1,500. The catalog for the previous exhibition is also available. The museum gift shop also sells a bunch of books about Nagahama Kannon statues published by local publishers in Shiga. Nothing in English though (except this article).

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The lower floor has a room to view a short video about Nagahama’s Kannon. (もっと大きいなモニターが必要。)

The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts

The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts

Exhibition: Life and Prayer, Kannon Sculptures from Nagahama II (観音の里の祈りとくらし展 II-びわ湖・長浜のホトケたち)
When: July 5 to Aug. 7, 2016
Hours: 10 am–5 pm (till 8 pm on Fri.)
Closed: Mondays (open on July 18, and closed July 19)
Where: The University Art Museum (東京藝術大学美術館), Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai). The museum is a 10-min. walk from Ueno Station. Just walk through Ueno Park (map below). Tokyo University of the Arts (nicknamed Geidai) is one of Japan’s most venerated art universities.
Nearest station: JR Ueno Station (Koen Exit)
Admission: ¥1,200 for adults, ¥600 for high school and college students, and free for younger kids.
Phone: 03-5777-8600 (in Japanese only)
Website (in Japanese only): http://www.geidai.ac.jp/museum/exhibit/2016/nagahama2/nagahama2_ja.htm
Map link: https://goo.gl/maps/eua8Qo4572r

Biwako Nagahama Kannon House in Tokyo

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The city of Nagahama boldly opened a little museum in Ueno, Tokyo called “Biwako Nagahama Kannon House” (びわ湖長浜 KANNON HOUSE) on March 21, 2016. It exhibits one precious kannon Buddha statue (Goddess of Mercy) brought over from Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture. The exhibit changes every two months so Tokyoites can see six different kannon statues from Nagahama every year.

The museum is small, but nice. It has only one medium-size room divided into the kannon exhibition space and a mini theater showing a video about Nagahama. The small exhibition space is enclosed by a wooden, temple-like fence modeled after a Kannon-do (観音堂) or small kannon worship hall. The wood is hinoki cypress from Nagahama. At the center of the enclosure is a kannon statue in a glass case. You can see it up close and take pictures.

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Kannon statue from Sonju-in temple.

When I visited this month in June 2016, the kannon exhibit had just changed so I saw the second kannon statue to be exhibited at the museum. It was from Sonju-in temple (尊住院) in Nagahama’s Kawamichi-cho district. It is wooden, 53 cm tall, and very old, like from the 12th century (Heian Period). The first kannon statue they exhibited during March to May 2016 came from Hogonji temple on Chikubushima island in Lake Biwa.

The museum is staffed by two or three women at a small reception desk when you enter the door. They also have Nagahama tourist brochures.

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The museum was apparently inspired by the large turnout at the Nagahama kannon statue exhibition held at the University Art Museum (東京藝術大学美術館), Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) from March 21 to April 13, 2014 when 18 kannon statues from Nagahama were displayed. It was impressive indeed. As a follow-up, they will hold another kannon exhibition at the same venue this year during July 5 to Aug. 7, 2016: Life and Prayer, Kannon Sculptures from Nagahama II (観音の里の祈りとくらし展 II-びわ湖・長浜のホトケたち). This time they will have a whopping 40 kannon statues on display. Not to be missed.

Biwako Nagahama Kannon House is near JR Ueno Station and Keisei Ueno Station. The museum is on the 1st floor in an office building on the fringe of Shinobazu Pond and Ueno Park. It’s close to the train/subway stations, but it’s on a back street of Ueno Park and you need to know where it is to find it. (See map below.)

Why did they decide to be near Shinobazu Pond? It’s because Shinobazu Pond has a Nagahama connection via the tiny Bentenjima island and the Benten-do temple dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten or Benten. When the renown Tendai Buddhist priest Tenkai (1536–1643) was out to build a mighty Tendai Buddhist temple headquarters called Kan’eiji in the Ueno area of Tokyo similar to Enryakuji in Shiga, he saw Shinobazu Pond as Lake Biwa and built a small island modeled after Chikubushima and built the Benten-do temple on it. The island today is connected to land so it doesn’t seem like an island, but the rebuilt Benten-do temple is there. Hogonji temple on Chikubushima island in Nagahama is dedicated to Benzaiten and one of Japan’s Big Three Benzaiten temples.

Look for the black square logo.

Look for the black square logo.

Shinobazu Pond is a popular tourist spot with cherry blossoms, lotus, Benten-do, monuments for kitchen knives and eyeglasses, and swan boats. But the Kannon House does not face Shinobazu Pond nor any major road, so it’s not very visible. Which means they can’t expect many off-the-street visitors. There’s nothing much next to the museum either, except for a small hotel.

A museum like this should be closer to another museum or major kannon temple (Asakusa would be good) for better synergy. Too bad it can’t be next to the Shitamachi Museum that faces Shinobazu Pond. The museum should also have more space for a tourist information office and/or Shiga gift shop. Right now, it’s basically a standalone facility. The upcoming kannon exhibition at Geidai might give it a publicity boost, but the museum is limited to showing only one kannon statue at a time.

Shiga has Japan’s highest number of Kannon statues designated as National Important Cultural Properties (including a National Treasure). There are over 130 Kannon statues in Nagahama. It is not known for certain why northern Nagahama has so many beautiful Kannon statues. One theory says that it may be largely due to Mt. Kodakami-yama (己高山, 923 m) in Kinomoto that could be seen far and wide and became an object of worship (山岳信仰). Kodakami-yama’s main temple was a Kannon temple. Written records show that there were many temples dedicated to Kodakami-yama, and Kannon statues were made for them.

Well, let’s see how it goes. I’ll try to visit whenever I’m in Ueno. Concept-wise, I think it’s great for a Shiga city to have a presence in Tokyo. But location and synergy are very important. I hope this is the first step toward having a more substantial space in Tokyo to showcase Shiga’s best things. An exhibition space showing arts and crafts, gift shop for food and crafts, eatery to taste funza-zushi, and tourist information desk, all in one, right on the main drag somewhere.

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Inconspicuous museum sign not at eye level.

Biwako Nagahama Kannon House

Hours: 10 am–6 pm
Closed: Mondays (open if a national holiday and closed on Tue. instead), Dec. 29–Jan. 3, and during exhibition changes
Admission: Free
Nearest station: JR Ueno Station (Shinobazu Exit) and Keisei Ueno Station

Address: Ueno-no-Mori First Building 1st floor, Ueno 2-14-27, Taito-ku, Tokyo
東京都台東区上野2丁目14番27号 上野の森ファーストビル1階
Phone: 03-6806-0103
Website (in Japanese only): http://www.nagahama-kannon-house.jp/

Map link: https://goo.gl/maps/tuSrFqYyLWQ2

Shiga History January–April 2016

Glass mosaic of Hideyoshi at Nagahama Station unveiled on April 5 by the Lions Club.

Glass mosaic of Hideyoshi at Nagahama Station unveiled on April 5 by the Lions Club.

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s major and interesting news headlines for Jan.–April 2016 (according to the year, month, day, and time posted at Japan time).

Originally posted on Twitter under Shiga Headlines by Philbert Ono. Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters including spaces and links (shortened by Twitter). Dates and times below are based on GMT instead of Japan time.

*From 2016, Shiga History blog posts for Shiga Headlines will include four months of tweets instead of only three months.

2016/1/1 9:56 Happy New Year 2016! We’re having a “warm” winter. Snow on Ibuki on New Year’s Day, but even Yogo is snowless. https://t.co/yyF2c99p2G
2016/1/5 14:51 “Child-rearing” taxi service has started in Shiga for busy parents to have their kids driven to/from school, etc., by trained taxi drivers.
2016/1/8 4:59 長浜駅舎内にある長浜駅観光案内所は市内の路線バスの案内がまったくやってない。バスの時刻表もない。バスの案内や情報は観光案内所の一つの基本的な仕事である。
2016/1/11 14:51 On Coming-of-Age Day today, 14,615 in Shiga reached adulthood (those born between April 2, 1995 to April 1, 1996), 679 fewer than last year.
2016/1/15 9:40 Held in Oct., Otsu Matsuri is slated to be designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. https://t.co/d2KofzROYq
2016/1/15 14:44 I will welcome Twitter’s policy of allowing up to 10,000-character tweets. But I will still keep my tweets very short.
2016/1/17 14:07 Congratulations to Naomi Koshi for winning reelection as Otsu mayor today, defeating 3 other candidates. Voter turnout was 47.97%.
2016/1/20 0:30 Snow has blanketed Shiga today, mostly in the north, but Otsu is also white. Be careful of slippery and icy roads and sidewalks.
2016/1/22 3:38 Minpaku lodging is spreading in Shiga: https://t.co/S5YQKahBgt
2016/1/22 3:38 Nagahama Station area is undergoing dramatic changes: https://t.co/SfJyexdKAT
2016/1/24 16:15 Freezing temperatures and heavy snow are forecast for today in Shiga, the 25th.
2016/1/25 12:09 As of 8 pm on Jan. 26, snowfall in Yogo measured 60 cm, Maibara 20 cm, Hikone 18 cm, and Imazu 15 cm. Snow is expected to continue tonight.
2016/1/25 12:14 Five people, mostly elderly, in northern Shiga were taken to a hospital by ambulance today after slipping on snow and getting injured.
2016/1/28 14:55 JR West has proposed the Hokuriku Shinkansen’s last segment from Tsuruga to Osaka to go through Obama and Kyoto instead of Maibara.
2016/1/28 15:09 A shipbuilding company in Hiroshima has won the bid at ¥3.051 billion to build the new Uminoko Floating School to set sail from April 2018.
2016/1/29 14:11 Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 reactor at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture was restarted today.
2016/1/29 14:15 Education Ministry found 36 educators in Shiga to have received money/favors from textbook publishers to evaluate textbooks under review.
2016/1/31 10:19 Setsubun bean throwing at Taga Taisha Shrine on Feb. 3 at 11 am and 2 pm. Ogre (oni) dance by Inbara Kaguradan troupe from Shimane Pref.
2016/2/2 4:54 Last fiscal year, hunters culled a record 14,374 deer in Shiga. Still short of the 16,000 yearly target to halve the 67000 deer population.
2016/2/5 6:12 Otsu will be sending five jr. high English teachers to the Philippines for 10-day English training from this summer.
2016/2/5 6:15 Of the 90+ English teachers at Otsu’s jr. high schools, only 30% has a TOEIC score higher than 730 or Eiken 1. Nativeにかないません。
2016/2/5 6:17 Cherry blossoms in Shiga are forecast to start blooming at the normal time of early April.
2016/2/5 6:22 Hina-matsuri doll festivals are being held in Shiga until March 21. Gokasho in Higashi-Omi is one great place. https://t.co/bKGlXAQ5na
2016/2/7 3:23 An estimated 54,000 bicycled around Lake Biwa (200 km) in 2015. 90% did it counterclockwise for closer views of the lake.
2016/2/15 18:57 As of Oct. 2015, a record 1,450 companies in Shiga have hired 12,236 foreign employees, mostly Brazilians (5,188), Chinese, and Filipinos.
2016/2/15 19:02 Mascot Hiko-nyan says that he will eat all 291 gifts of chocolate he received for Valentine’s Day. Hope the kids don’t imitate him…
2016/2/17 22:25 JR West President has stated that the Hokuriku shinkansen’s Tsuruga-Osaka route via Maibara would be too full with the Tokaido shinkansen.
2016/2/24 0:42 Nakamura Koichi (中村公一, 51), a teacher at Seta Kita Jr. High in Otsu has been arrested for smuggling drugs from China & using stimulants.
2016/2/24 1:20 Otsu Matsuri is to be designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan (重要無形民俗文化財). https://t.co/qqntYmBL34
2016/2/25 13:50 Shiga finally has a food shop in Tokyo (Akihabara) in Nippon Hyakkaten Shokuhinkan (Chabara). Opened in Sept. 2015. https://t.co/s7jHe1OSkd
2016/2/28 11:21 Hiko-nyan runner today at the 10th Tokyo Marathon 2016. I was near the 30 km checkpoint near Asakusabashi Station. https://t.co/t8vF4PQ30O
2016/3/1 0:48 Snow in Shiga today since last night. Winter’s last roar?
2016/3/1 12:28 According to the national census taken on Oct. 1, 2015, Shiga’s population was 1,413,184, an increase of 2,407 compared to the 2010 census.
2016/3/1 15:12 After 3 months of major renovations, Nagahama Castle Museum reopened on Feb. 27 with better air conditioning, better exhibits, LEDs, & more.
2016/3/6 5:42 Kenyan Lucas Rotich won the 71st Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon today in 02:09:11, Hisanori Kitajima was 2nd at 02:09:16.
2016/3/7 11:37 In 2015, 5.409 million visitors lodged in Shiga, a 16.9% increase over 2014. And 464,000 of them were foreigners, a 101% increase over 2014.
2016/3/7 11:40 In 2015, Shiga’s average hotel occupancy rate was 60.5%. Busiest visitor months were May (510,000), July (520,000), and Aug. (670,000).
2016/3/8 14:59 College student and Otsu native Sari Nakazawa, representing Shiga, won the 2016 Miss Universe Japan title. https://t.co/ISklQ07xlu
2016/3/10 5:45 Buddhist altars made in Shiga Prefecture (blog post): https://t.co/tgsl1wLN4n
2016/3/10 10:20 Takahama power plant’s No. 3 reactor in Fukui was shut down today as ordered by yesterday’s provisional injunction from Otsu District Court.
2016/3/11 18:15 As of Feb. 22, 2016, 205 evacuees (83 households) from Tohoku still live in Shiga. This is about half the 428-person peak in Sept. 2011.
2016/3/17 0:49 Forestry institute managed to grow 22 saplings from a sick 250-year-old fudan-zakura cherry tree at Saimyoji temple. Now planted at Saimyoji
2016/3/18 5:34 Agriculture Ministry found that Shiga has 25,346 working in agriculture, 4,100 fewer than 5 years ago. Average age 67.6 got younger by 0.8.
2016/3/18 5:42 Hirose Elementary School in Adogawa held its last graduation ceremony on Mar. 18 before it will shut down and merge with another school.
2016/3/18 5:47 Hirose Elementary School is Shiga’s 19th elementary school to close since 1992 when the number of primary schools peaked at 244.
2016/3/18 6:32 Police filed reports on three men suspected of negligence resulting in death & injury when the giant kite crashed last year in Higashi-Omi.
2016/3/18 22:10 For the 1st time in 7 years, Ishiyama-dera’s 5-meter tall main Kannon statue is on public view at the Hondo main hall until Dec. 20.
2016/3/18 22:18 Twenty-two of 36 pedestrian overpasses managed by Shiga Prefecture are 40-50 years old. Two of them will be removed next fiscal year.
2016/3/19 14:40 Otsu Matsuri has been officially designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property 重要無形民俗文化財. Celebratory events planned.
2016/3/19 14:56 A record 198,389 migratory birds (42 species) wintered in Shiga this year. Eurasian coot most common (84,869), but only 273 tundra swans.
2016/3/20 20:59 Shiga Gakuen beat Kiryu Daiichi High School 9-5 in their 1st game at the Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2016/3/21 22:09 Biwako Nagahama Kannon House (びわ湖長浜 KANNON HOUSE) opens in Ueno, Tokyo near Shinobazu Pond. Exhibits one kannon Buddha statue from Nagahama every 2 months.
2016/3/22 22:09 Censure motion passed for Kora mayor Kitagawa Toyoaki 北川豊昭­ for buying 5 gift certificates (limit was 2). Salary reduced by 60% for 1 year.
2016/3/22 22:20 Average land prices in Shiga fell by 0.3% as of Jan. 1, 2016. Higher in Kusatsu, Moriyama, Ritto, Yasu, & Otsu, and lower in Takashima,Hino.
2016/3/25 6:32 Shiga Gakuen beat Kamaishi High School 9-1 in their 2nd game today at the Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2016/3/26 7:23 朝日新聞社系のサイトに機械翻訳の注意点を取り上げ、栗東市役所のHPが一つの例。僕のコメントも掲載された。https://t.co/cnhpoPc8bA #withnews
2016/3/28 1:08 Shiga Gakuen lost to Chiben Gakuen 0-6 in their 3rd game today at the Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2016/3/29 15:04 A Shiga University economics professor in his 60s got a 1-month suspension for trying to kiss his female student in his car last Aug. #クビにしろ
2016/3/29 15:16 Shiga Prefectural Board of Education apologized for illegal or unethical conduct by 29 school teachers/principal in recent months.
2016/3/29 15:21 Seta Kita Jr. High School teacher Nakamura Koichi (中村公一), indicted for smuggling dangerous drugs from China, was fired yesterday on Mar. 29.
2016/3/29 15:28 Nagahama Kita High School teacher Inoue Taketoshi (井上武紀) was fired on Mar. 29 for groping a jr. high school student in a bus in Kyoto.
2016/3/29 15:32 A jr. high school teacher in Higashi-Omi got a 6-month suspension for repeatedly driving even when his driver’s license had been revoked.
2016/3/29 15:35 A public high school teacher in Hikone got a 6-month suspension for shoplifting some office supplies. He resigned instead.
2016/3/29 15:42 25 school teachers and principals in Shiga were reprimanded by local BOE for viewing textbooks from publishers undergoing screening.
2016/3/31 8:48 An investigative committee in Higashi-Omi has concluded that the kite festival should not be held until safety measures can be assured.
2016/3/31 8:51 The Hikone Meteorological Office announced today that cherry blossoms in Hikone have started to bloom. Full bloom in one week.
2016/4/5 11:00 Only 36% of Shiga’s non-native jr. high English teachers & 63% of high school English teachers have EIKEN Grade Pre-1 or higher. 英検準1級
2016/4/5 11:04 Hikone’s cherry blossoms in full bloom today. https://t.co/SXuOr7OjAJ https://t.co/tztXfYDwZa
2016/4/7 16:56 680 of Shiga’s 2,126 bridges are 50+ years old. The prefecture is prioritizing repairs of 304 old bridges deemed essential for emergencies.
2016/4/9 14:01 Saw sakura in full bloom today at Nagahama’s Hokoen Park. https://t.co/ViHds1xvKc
2016/4/13 3:22 Yesterday, watched Kujaku-zan’s child kabuki actors practice for the Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri. Amazing kids. #孔雀山 https://t.co/zwI95AJsUB
2016/4/13 3:25 Yesterday evening was the Hadaka-mairi at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. They purify themselves at this well. #萬歳楼 https://t.co/ckhcByVV4E
2016/4/13 14:20 Okina-zan used the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum for a rainy evening performance tonight, the first show in full costume. https://t.co/PABUThydyy
2016/4/13 14:57 Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival Schedule: https://t.co/nCu01VVVtw
2016/4/16 14:38 From Shiga, 36 police, Disaster Medical Assistance Team of 14 doctors & nurses, & 17 Red Cross doctors & nurses have been sent to Kumamoto.
2016/4/18 14:33 Otsu today sent a truckload of relief supplies (water, disposable diapers, powdered milk, etc.) to Ozu town in Kumamoto. 大津市 to 大津町
2016/4/20 16:10 Otsu sent a second truckload of relief supplies (water, disposable toilets, blankets, etc.) to Ozu in Kumamoto on April 21.
2016/4/20 16:17 Otsu is providing 10 rent-free public housing units and Shiga Pref. is offering 25 rent-free units to Kumamoto/Oita quake evacuees.
2016/4/21 13:34 Eleven jr. high schools in Shiga that had planned school trips to Kyushu this spring have changed their destinations or postponed the trip.
2016/4/22 15:25 Sadly, Higashi-Omi’s mayor announced that the Odako Matsuri Giant Kite Festival will be cancelled this year due to last year’s tragedy.
2016/4/25 2:49 Otsu Station building undergoing major renovation. Due to reopen this autumn with a capsule hotel, cafe, and more. https://t.co/47F5gDJy1H
2016/4/25 2:56 Nagahama Station’s west exit has a ¥7 mil. glass mosaic of Hideyoshi & Nagahama-jo unveiled on April 5 by Nagahama Lions Club. https://t.co/XfedZTZvr3

Shiga History Sept.–Dec. 2015 | Chronological History of Shiga | Shiga History May–Aug. 2016

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