Summer 2018 fireworks in Shiga Prefecture

hanabi

Here’s the 2018 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 postponed or canceled. “More info” links go to Japanese-language pages. (No information in English except on this page. That’s why I create this page every year.)

滋賀県の花火大会情報・日程2018年

Updated: Aug. 8, 2018

Compiled by Philbert Ono

–July 15, 2018–
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 9. Map
More info: 高宮商工繁栄会 TEL:0749-22-2075
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e01080/

–July 14, 2018–
Echigawa Gion Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Aisho, 7:40 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 16. About 40,000 people are expected. Map
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
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e00768/

Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri

Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri

–July 21, 2018–
Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri (Finale Fireworks) in Higashi-Omi, 8:30 pm – 9:00 pm
This is a dance festival starting at 7:30 pm and ends with fireworks from 8:30 pm near Yokaichi Station. The festival is a huge bon dance with 600 dancers dancing to Shiga’s native Goshu Ondo folk songs. A large section of the main road in front of Yokaichi Station is closed to traffic for the festival. The festival is named after Shotoku Taishi. Map | Video
八日市聖徳まつり
More info: 八日市商工会議所 TEL: 0748-22-0186
http://www.odakocci.jp/pickup/matsuri.html

Oideyasu Yasu-shi Natsu Matsuri Hanabi Taikai in Yasu, 7:45 pm – 8:25 pm
Along the Shin River. 25-min. by shuttle bus from JR Yasu Station. Shuttle buses will be running. Stage entertainment will start at 4 pm. If rained out, to be cancelled. Map
おいでやす!! 野洲市夏まつり花火大会
More info: 野洲市商工観光課 TEL: 077-587-6008
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e188200/

–July 27, 2018–
Nagahama Kita-Biwako Hanabi Taikai at Nagahama Port, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
10-min. walk from JR 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 cancelled. Map
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
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e00792/

–July 28, 2018– (Due to the typhoon, postponed to Aug. 25)
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 29.
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
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e00471/

–July 29, 2018– (Due to the typhoon, postponed, date TBD.)
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. 10-min. walk from Ohmi Railways Minakuchi Jonan Station. Map
甲賀夏まつり
More info: 甲賀市観光協会 TEL:0748-60-2690
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e00157/

–Aug. 1, 2018–
Hikone Dai-Hanabi Taikai at Matsubara Beach, Hikone, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
35-min. walk from Hikone Station. Or take a shuttle bus provided from Hikone Station to a sports ground from which it’s a 15-min. walk to the beach. If rained out, to be cancelled. Map
彦根・北びわ湖大花火大会
More info: (社)彦根観光協会 Phone: 0749-23-0001
http://www.hikoneshi.com/jp/event/articles/c/hanabi

Ogoto Onsen Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Ogoto Port, Otsu, 8 pm – 8:30 pm
20-min. walk from JR 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. Map
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
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e00618/

Omi-Imazu Furusato Natsu Matsuri, Takashima, 9:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Climax of Imazu’s summer festival starting from 1 pm. Near JR Omi-Imazu Station.
近江今津ふるさと夏祭り やっさ!今津!!2018
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, 2018–
♦ Makino Summer Carnival at Makino Sunny Beach, Takashima, 8:30 pm
マキノサマーカーニバル2018
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
Fireworks is part of their summer festival that starts at 4 pm.
2018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 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」2018
More info: 日野町イベント実行委員会 Phone: 0748-52-6562

Kotonarie Summer Festa in Hibari Park in Higashi-Omi
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
More info: 東近江市湖東商工会 Phone: 0749-45-2571

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. 7, 2018–
♦ Biwako Dai-Hanabi Taikai at Hama-Otsu and Nagisa Park in Otsu, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
This is the big one, but a steep admission (around ¥4,400, 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. Viewing areas along Nagisa Park that used to be free are no longer free. They will have about 29,000 paid seating along the shore. It will be terribly crowded with people (about 350,000). Spectacular show (and cost), 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. Map
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
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e00765/

–Aug. 16, 2018
♦ Somagawa Natsu Matsuri near Kibukawa Station, Koka
Fireworks are part of the summer festival with taiko drummers and lantern floating on the river. Held annually on Aug. 16.
杣川夏まつり
More info: 甲賀市観光協会 Phone: 0748-65-0708

–Aug. 17, 2018–
♦ Takebe Taisha Senkosai Fireworks at Seta River in Otsu, 7:50 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 starting at 4 pm. Map
瀬田川花火大会
More info: 建部大社 Phone: 077-545-0038
https://hanabi.walkerplus.com/detail/ar0725e00357/

–Aug. 25, 2018–
♦ Kinomoto Jizo Dai-ennichi fireworks in Nagahama, 8:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Held 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/

–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.)

Shiga History January–April 2018

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s major news headlines for January–April 2018 (according to the year, month, day, and time posted at GMT).

Originally posted on Twitter under Shiga Headlines by Philbert Ono. Twitter posts are limited to 280 English characters including spaces and links (shortened by Twitter). Dates and times below are based on GMT, not Japan time.

2018-01-01 11:21:58 迎春 Happy 2018! Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and productive new year. Thank you for reading Shiga Headlines, Shiga Blog, & https://t.co/MzT4BdgWjB. I’ll be adding more top-quality content in 2018. It’s the details that make it interesting and useful, and fun to write. https://t.co/kP1UPj0zm4
2018-01-06 02:12:23 Bilingual video of Kyoto University’s Biwako Shuko no Uta 100th anniversary celebration held on Nov. 25, 2017. Lake Biwa Rowing Song also sung in English. 京都大学「琵琶湖周航の歌」誕生百周年記念事業のダイジェスト版動画(66分)。グリークラブ、吹奏楽団等。https://t.co/Hj9cwLn4x6
2018-01-08 12:09:53 As of Oct. 1, 2017, Shiga had 53,211 males & 54,493 females (7.7% of Shiga’s pop.) born in the Year of the Dog. The lowest figure among the 12 Oriental zodiac years. Age 48 (b. 1970) had the highest number of Dog Year people at 20,631, while 1,458 Dog people were age 96 or older.
2018-01-11 11:52:37 The fire-walking ceremony (火渡り神事) that was held annually in Feb. by Sugawara Shrine (菅原神社) in Yasu will be canceled indefinitely from this year. The shrine’s priest passed away in Oct. and his son is unable to take over the ritual performed to dispel illness & disasters.
2018-01-11 12:00:37 Influenza warning has been issued for all of Shiga as the number of patients (1,320 as of Jan. 7) is expected to increase further. Both Type A and B have been found in Shiga. Wash your hands, etc., and take care even if you got your flu shot.
2018-01-15 10:45:13 Beautiful view of Mt. Hiei from Aeon Mall Kusatsu early this afternoon. The Food Court on the 3rd floor has large picture windows, very clean. Short bus ride from JR Minami-Kusatsu Station. #イオンモール草津 https://t.co/6IZOMZAjuQ
2018-01-18 06:55:53 Major construction continues in front of JR Nagahama Station (east side). They are building a pedestrian deck. 
2018-01-20 02:06:38 The old Otsu PARCO shopping complex that closed last Aug. will reopen as a new shopping complex in late April with about 40 stores including Heiwado, Yamada Denki, a sports shop, and bookstore cafe.
2018-01-24 13:39:30 Private email account of an instructor at the University of Shiga Prefecture was hacked from overseas, resulting in the leak of personal info on 168 students (their names, addresses, academic records, post-graduation plans, etc.). Poor students…
2018-01-25 02:48:28 Due to snow, trains are delayed on the Biwako/Tokaido Line between Maibara and Kyoto. Trains between Maibara and Nagoya also delayed, but running. Ohmi Railway trains are delayed on most lines. Lots of snow in northern Shiga. Great for skiers. https://t.co/Q9oRi30kOt
2018-01-27 06:37:15 Maibara City Hall worker Mori Atsushi (39, 森篤志) pleaded guilty at Otsu District Court on Jan. 26 for bid-rigging a construction project to expand a childcare facility in Maibara. He leaked the bidding info to a construction company he favored. Sentenced to 18 months in jail.
2018-01-27 06:37:28 In 2017, the annual number of stalker cases reported to Shiga Police reached a record high of 351. Many stemmed from couples who broke up. 21 stalker arrests were made, and 58 police warnings were issued. Be careful of who you date.
2018-01-27 06:39:00 Sadly, Dr. Ikai Tsuyoshi (68, 猪飼剛) & son Satoshi from Shiga apparently accidentally skiied off course at Lotte Arai Resort in Myoko, Niigata on Jan. 24 and could not be rescued in time. Their bodies will be recovered later. A reminder to skiers to never ski in the backcountry.
2018-01-27 06:39:20 On Jan. 22, 2018, Maibara reached a record 400 consecutive days (since Dec. 18, 2016) without any traffic accident fatalities. This is the longest such period among Shiga’s cities and towns. Local police have reinforced the monitoring of fatality-prone sections since last June.
2018-01-30 01:03:59 Take the Shiga Quiz! 100 basic (?) quiz questions about your favorite prefecture. Heavily illustrated. There’s no other quiz like it. https://t.co/HukbMwc2Rn
2018-01-30 01:06:08 Also take the Shiga Image Quiz. 50 questions showing 50 images of Shiga’s most iconic sights and attractions you should know about. An excellent visual introduction to Shiga. https://t.co/VyuAAuqIHc
2018-02-01 20:58:09 I didn’t know this until now, but Dr. Pryse Duerfeldt in Marquette, MI passed away in July 2017. I’ve never met him in person, but he emailed me a few times over the years & avidly supported https://t.co/MzT4BdgWjB & sister-city relations w/Higashi-Omi. My belated condolences.
2018-02-02 23:22:26 For 5 years in a row in 2017, more people moved out of Shiga than those who moved in. Cities in southern Shiga, especially Kusatsu (+690), Moriyama (+369), and Otsu (+238) saw gains, while Higashi-Omi (-497), Nagahama (-427), Konan (-408), & Takashima (-361) saw losses.
2018-02-02 23:22:35 Reservations for Lake Biwa Canal boat rides starting on March 29 between Otsu & Kyoto now being accepted online (in Japanese only). Fares start at ¥4,000 for a 55-min. ride from Miidera to Keage. Boats will run until May 28 & in Oct.–Nov. Should be fun. https://t.co/hGd2BTfvwg
2018-02-06 21:29:41 From fall 2018, Shiga will start issuing newly-designed car license plates showing Lake Biwa and Chikubushima island. The design was the overwhelming favorite among the four choices presented last fall for voting by Shiga residents. 
2018-02-06 21:31:00 Opened in July 2017, Ekimachi Terrace Nagahama in front of JR Nagahama Station is bleeding red ink. Nagahama’s deputy mayor has been promoted as its president. They will build a kids’ play area on the 2nd floor to attract more families to this customer-sparse commercial complex. https://t.co/4JhrrxGQ8v
2018-02-06 21:31:15 Koka City Hall’s General Affairs Dept. head & other managers committed ballot count fraud & coverup for the House of Representatives election on Oct. 22, 2017. Total ballots counted didn’t add up, so they stuffed invalid ballots to compensate. A missing ballot box was later found
2018-02-06 21:31:28 Too bad Shiga won’t have any athletes at PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. Our last hope was freestyle moguls skier Ito Miki (30) from Hino aiming for her 4th Winter Olympics but didn’t do well enough (22nd place) at the Freestyle Ski World Cup in Mont-Tremblant, Canada in Jan.
2018-02-08 01:25:49 At Koka City Hall, a missing ballot box with uncounted ballots was found after ballot count managers had already stuffed invalid ballots to match the correct total. One manager then took home the uncounted ballots and burned them to coverup their illegal ballot stuffing.
2018-02-08 01:29:03 Due to heavy snow, trains are currently not running on JR Kosei Line between Omi-Imazu and Omi-Shiotsu, and on JR Hokuriku Line between Nagahama and Tsuruga. Check current status here: https://t.co/Q9oRi30kOt
2018-02-09 06:28:14 Wow, “Hello Otsu” Facebook page in English (by Otsu Tourist Association) has over 42,000 followers. Is that for real?? Their previous “Otsu Style” FB English page had only 344 followers. https://t.co/4F7dTU0Urt
2018-02-12 22:57:19 New York Times紙の記事が話題になりました。多数の有名人や政治家などがフェイクフォロワー(fake followers)を買っていると判明。ばれやすいし、詐欺と同等。信用は失われる。 https://t.co/rIRgYIfD67
2018-02-12 22:57:48 Koka City Hall’s General Affairs Dept. chief Yasui Tatsuya (57, 保井達也) & 2 other managers on the election committee who committed ballot count fraud & coverup last Oct. have been fired on Feb. 9. Koka will have an outside committee to investigate & propose preventive measures.
2018-02-12 22:57:59 Hikone policeman Nishimura Hitoshi (32, 西村仁志) arrested & fired for DUI in Taga on Dec. 28. He was sleeping in his car at an intersection when another policeman approached & he sped home. Asked his family to lie & say they drove him home. Court fined him ¥500,000.
2018-02-12 23:01:27 NHK TV national news this morning spotlighted Shigaraki’s plight in trying to survive as its pottery production has dwindled to 1/4 or 1/5 of its peak. 信楽陶器工業協同組合、信楽町観光協会はまだ外国語版のホームページがありません。五輪はあと二年。
2018-02-15 03:38:34 The family of the Otsu City Public Enterprise Bureau worker in his 40s who overdosed on tranquilizers & died in March 2015 after suffering from power harassment by a male superior for a year will receive ¥8 mil. compensation from the city. Unnamed culprit received a mere pay cut.
2018-02-17 01:16:10 “Hello Otsu” Facebook page in English (by Otsu Tourist Association) now has over 47,000 followers. That’s 5,000 more than a week ago. What a miracle! Meanwhile, their Japanese FB page has only 1,500 followers. https://t.co/4F7dTU0Urt
2018-02-19 00:06:50 Hikone is now selling Hiko-nyan stickers for the LINE messaging app. For ¥120, you get a set of 16 stickers showing Hiko-nyan in new, cutesy poses such as “Thank you!” “Sayonara!” “Come here!” “No good!” and “Good night!” (in Japanese only). Includes Iinosuke stickers. 
2018-02-24 13:12:16 Nice to see a Shiga company being a major sponsor of Tokyo’s biggest annual sporting event, the Tokyo Marathon. Got my volunteer uniform today for the mega-marathon tomorrow (36,000 runners + 11,000 volunteers). 
2018-02-28 14:45:07 Too bad the tanuki and fox were not chosen as the official mascots for the Tokyo Olympics. They got only 35,291 votes. The futuristic superhero mascots (yet unnamed) won with 109,041 votes by Japanese elementary school kids. A tanuki mascot would’ve made Shigaraki very busy.
2018-02-28 15:00:46 Higashi-Omi has agreed to pay ¥32 million in compensation to the family of the age 73 man from Sakai, Osaka who died when the giant kite fell on him at the Odako Matsuri giant kite festival in May 2015. Still unknown when the kite festival will restart. Won’t be in 2018.
2018-03-01 11:59:07 After educating 530,000 5th graders about Lake Biwa for 35 years (since 1983), Shiga’s Uminoko “Floating School” completed its final voyage for 5th graders today. The aging ship’s replacement (also named “Uminoko”) will sail this May. Otsukaresama Uminoko (“Child of the Lake”)!! https://t.co/PTHQi73jpK
2018-03-02 13:46:19 The public can board and tour the old Uminoko “Floating School” at Otsu Port on March 11, from 9:15 am to 10:30 am before its official retirement ceremony. Your last chance to say “Good-bye and thank you” to this wonderful ship. #うみのこお別れ見学会 https://t.co/R1BBxGVuR4
2018-03-04 11:31:26 Kenyan Macharia NDIRANGU won the 73rd Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon today in 2:07’53”. NAKAMURA Shogo #中村匠吾 was 7th at 2:10’51”. Photo: Macharia (left) glancing at 2nd place Albert KORIR (also Kenyan) at Lake Biwa Canal a few km before the finish. #2018びわ湖毎日マラソン 
2018-03-10 08:16:10 In Omi-Hachiman today, visited one of the neighborhoods #宮内町building a festival float for the Sagicho Matsuri on March 17–18. Made of edible materials featuring the Year of the Dog. Takes about 2 months to build. This dog’s fur is made of jute fibers. Beautiful. #左義長まつり 
2018-03-20 17:41:45 さすが近江八幡。八幡堀の見つかりにくい駅行きのバス停の案内は英語にも表示。大いに助かる(白雲館前)。 Omi-Hachiman is tourist-friendly even for foreigners. Pointer to the bus stop at Hachiman-bori Canal. 
2018-03-20 17:42:12 Beautiful weather in Omi-Hachiman last weekend for 13 beautiful Year of the Dog floats (plus three children’s floats) at the annual Sagicho Matsuri. About 70,000 spectators enjoyed the float procession on Sat. and float battles and float burning on Sun. #左義長まつり #近江八幡 
2018-03-24 11:35:37 Zeze High School got wiped out by Japan Aiviation High School Ishikawa 0-10 in their 1st game today at the 90th Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament. Two other teams from Shiga will play soon.
2018-03-25 11:33:11 Saio Princess Procession today in Tsuchiyama, Koka. They arrived here at the National Historic Site of Tarumi Tongu, one of the palaces where the princess stayed on her way from Kyoto to Ise during the 9th–13th centuries. She wears a Juni-hitoe kimono. #あいの土山斎王群行 #甲賀市 
2018-03-28 05:15:52 Hikone Higashi High School beat Keio Senior High School (Kanagawa) 4-3 in their 1st game today at the 90th Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament. Next, they will play on March 31 at 11 am against Hanamaki Higashi High School (Iwate). #彦根東高等学校
2018-03-31 12:04:06 Both Shiga high school teams lost their second match at the 90th Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament today. Hikone Higashi High School lost to Hanamaki Higashi High School (Iwate) 0-1, and Ohmi lost to Seiryo (Ishikawa) 3-4. Both were close games.
2018-04-06 19:46:33 The evening illumination of cherry blossoms at Omi-Fuji Karyoku Koen Park in Yasu this weekend has been canceled because the flowers bloomed a week early this year and they are now mostly gone.
2018-04-06 20:00:30 The old Otsu PARCO shopping complex will reopen this month on April 27 as “Oh! Me Otsu Terrace” with over 30 stores including Friend Mart (Heiwado), Yamada Denki, a sports shop, TSUTAYA bookstore, Can Do, United Cinemas, Saizeriya, Shiga Bank, & Curves. https://t.co/FJdqcttTWJ
2018-04-09 15:19:33 The strong magnitude 6.1 earthquake that hit Oda, Shimane Prefecture on April 9 at 1:32 am was also felt slightly in Shiga, M2 in places like Otsu, Nagahama, Maibara, Omi-Hachiman, and Takashima, and M1 in Hikone, Koka, and Higashi-Omi.
2018-04-09 15:19:56 Hikone-native swimmer Yui Ohashi #大橋悠依 set a new Japanese record in winning the Women’s 400-meter individual medley in 4:30.82 at Japan Swim 2018 nat’l championships (第94回日本選手権水泳競技大会競泳競技) at Tatsumi, Tokyo on April 8. Also won the 200-meter individual medley.
2018-04-11 15:17:01 今夜4月12日18:30にNHK総合に放送される「おうみ発630」長浜市出身のバンド~Lefa~ボーカル北川陽大さん ~滋賀を音楽で盛り上げたい。Watch NHK Otsu TV news tonight at 6:30 pm to hear Kitagawa Akihiro sing a special song. 
2018-04-12 13:19:10 Founded in 1933 in Hikone, Takata Corporation (タカタ株式会社) that filed for bankruptcy in June 2017 due to the massive recall of defective and deadly automotive airbags has been taken over by Joyson Safety Systems in the US. After 85 years, its name “Takata” is now gone.
2018-04-12 13:40:32 Last night (April 11) inside the police koban in front of JR Kawase Station in Hikone, a rookie policeman (19) shot & killed police sergeant Imoto Akira 井本光 (41), a co-worker. He was angered by Imoto’s disparagement. He fled the scene in a police car, but was soon caught.
2018-04-12 13:51:47 Some cherry blossoms still remain at Lake Yogo today in Nagahama. Yaezakura is starting to bloom. 
2018-04-14 08:29:58 April 15 is Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri’s main day starting at 10 am at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. Child kabuki will be performed on 4 floats in this order: Shojo-maru (猩々丸), Ho’o-zan (鳳凰山), Takasago-zan (高砂山), Kotobuki-zan (壽山). Photo:Shojo-maru https://t.co/ZLHtkV1SRC https://t.co/QxkBWyivw1
2018-04-15 10:42:31 Cold, windy, and rainy morning at the Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri today. Rain stopped in the afternoon. Boat-shaped Shojo-maru float’s kabuki play titled “Kumagaya Jinya” ended with this “Titanic Moment” on the bow. #長浜曳山祭 #猩々丸 #熊谷陣屋の場 
2018-04-18 13:06:50 A 3-day survey conducted in Jan. by birdwatchers at 181 locations around Lake Biwa found about 110,073 waterfowl in the lake, about 18% fewer birds than last season. Of the 41 species observed, the Eurasian coot saw the steepest decline of 33% fewer birds than last year.
2018-04-18 13:07:11 Omi-Hachiman’s mayor-elect KONISHI Osamu (59) 小西理 plans to go ahead with his campaign promise of canceling the construction of the new city hall that already started in Feb. A major sticking point against incumbent FUJITANI Eisho (71) whom he easily defeated on April 15.
2018-04-18 13:10:31 Sad that this large willow tree at Lake Yogo was knocked over by the typhoon last Oct. Famous as the tree where the swan maiden hung her clothes when she went skinny dipping in the lake. Glad it looks like the tree is still alive. Future swan maidens have to choose another tree. 
2018-04-18 13:11:03 Running since Aug. 1995, Steam Locomotive C56 “Pony” will make its final run as the “SL Kita-Biwako Train” on May 27, 2018 leaving Maibara Station at 1:16 pm and arriving Kinomoto Station 45 min. later. Due to old age, it will be retired and replaced by the D51 steam locomotive. 
2018-04-18 13:15:48 RT @LeavenworthKS: It’s been a cold few days, but our hearts are warmed by the beautiful blossoms on the cherry trees planted at North Esplanade Park in honor of our Sister City, Omihachiman, Japan.
2018-04-19 11:39:18 At Odani Castle in Nagahama, for the first time, 16th-century Shigaraki pottery pieces and remains of a drainage system were found where the Azai castle lord’s residence was believed to be located at the foot of Mt. Odani. #小谷城跡 #御屋敷跡
2018-04-19 11:39:50 The year-long NHK Taiga Drama historical TV series in 2020 titled “Kirin ga Kuru” (麒麟がくる) will be about Akechi Mitsuhide, lord of Sakamoto Castle in Otsu and most famous for assassinating warlord Oda Nobunaga in 1582. Mitsuhide will be played by actor Hasegawa Hiroki.
2018-04-19 11:40:10 To the relief of local residents, the koban police box in front of JR Kawase Station in Hikone where a junior policeman shot and killed coworker and police sergeant Imoto Akira (41) on April 11 has reopened today with two policemen on duty each shift.
2018-04-19 11:40:52 Otsu Basho sumo exhibition tourney will be held on July 30, 2018. Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi today requested the Japan Sumo Association to allow her to stand on the sumo ring for her speech that day. She & other female mayors will also submit a formal request to the Sports Minister. https://t.co/txa57hisur
2018-04-20 12:48:36 Otsu has been selected as one of the team camps for Wales and Fiji during the Rugby World Cup 2019. https://t.co/Hal1grL8WC
2018-04-20 14:03:24 Today, NHK World spotlighted Shiga Prefecture in a 30-min. news program. They covered a wide range of topics, but I thought the castle wall builder (AWATA Suminori) from Sakamoto building castle walls in the US was most interesting. Watch it online here: https://t.co/fM4TPzyuej
2018-04-22 08:33:36 第2回びわ湖音楽祭のプレイベントの一つとして関島秀樹コンサートが近江舞子のほとり・ポトリというカフェで4月21日に開催されました。自ら作詞・作曲された滋賀の歌を披露しました。橋板の歌も興味深いでした。とても良かったです。Sekijima Hideki performed in Omi-Maiko. 
2018-04-22 08:55:58 加藤登紀子プロデュースの「第2回びわ湖音楽祭」が2018年5月20日(日)に和邇に開催されます。入場料/6,000円。前日にも平和堂 和邇店に無料プレイベントが盛りたくさん。Singer Kato Tokiko and local artists will perform in Wani, Otsu on May 20. https://t.co/B7181FDE8b https://t.co/iUTmLqYM7W 
2018-04-27 11:17:39 Repair work has started on Hikone Castle’s white plaster walls damaged by Typhoon Lan (No. 21) last Oct. Repairs should be completed by Nov. this year. 
2018-04-27 11:25:15 About 2,500 shoppers were on hand today for the reopening of the old Otsu PARCO shopping complex renamed “Oh! Me Otsu Terrace” with over 30 stores including Friend Mart (Heiwado), Yamada Denki, TSUTAYA bookstore, Can Do, United Cinemas, and Shiga Bank. https://t.co/5gMYxdB8Q2
2018-04-28 22:59:50 My article about YUtour, tour guide for foreign visitors in Shiga. Operated by MORI Seita (森 聖太), a great tour guide. #悠ツアーhttps://t.co/YYaGK7ZwAl

Shiga History Sept.–Dec. 2017Chronological History of Shiga | Shiga History May–Aug. 2018

YUtour, tour guide extraordinaire in Shiga Prefecture

Tour guide Seita Mori (right) amid terraced rice paddies in Hata, Takashima.

by Philbert Ono, photos courtesy of Seita Mori and selected by Philbert Ono

It’s about time I introduce YUtour (悠ツアー), a licensed tour guide service for foreign tourists in Shiga Prefecture run by my friend MORI Seita (森 聖太) in Otsu. YUtour is a one-man operation with Seita-san as YUtour’s one and only English-speaking guide. All indicators (such as TripAdvisor comments) show that he is doing an outstanding job. And after having a long lunch with him the other day in Otsu, I believe it.

YUtour’s guided tours in English focus on the rural areas, ecotourism and nature, and traditional crafts of Shiga. He takes guests mainly to Otsu (Mt. Hiei, Sakamoto, Ogi, and Katata), Takashima (Harie and Hata), Shigaraki (pottery and Miho Museum), and Omi-Hachiman (Okishima island and traditional boat rides). If you look at the YUtour website, you can see “Ready-made tours” with a set itinerary and pricing, and “Tailor-made tours” to other areas in Shiga upon request. Most of the tours are day trips from Kyoto, and Seita usually meets his guests at Kyoto Station at the tour’s start. He takes mostly individuals, couples, or small groups, but can also handle larger groups.

Seita (in front) in Nakajima, Harie.

Why take a guided tour instead of touring by yourself?
When touring rural areas where public transportation is limited, English information is scarce, and where people don’t speak English, a guided tour in English makes it much easier.

The guide can introduce you to local people (farmers, potters, craftsmen, etc.) so you can talk to them and ask questions. It makes your visit more enjoyable and educational. When it comes to outside visitors, rural folks always appreciate some kind of introduction. Just a simple introduction by someone they know is all it takes for them to open up their world, culture, and lifestyle to you. With the right connections, people in Shiga can be very friendly to foreigners. And Seita is that connection.

Pottery lesson in Shigaraki.

Calligraphy brush makers in Takashima.

Kabata water basin is used to wash or chill fruits and vegetables. Carp also eat food scraps from washed dishes.

YUtour’s most popular destinations are Harie (homes with “kabata” kitchen basins spewing natural spring water), Hata (farming community with terraced rice paddies), Shigaraki pottery centers, and Miho Museum. YUtour uses public transportation as much as possible so visitors can also experience what locals do. But if necessary, they will use a taxi or mini bus (for large groups). About 40 percent of YUtour customers are from the U.S., followed by Australians and Europeans. English-speaking tourists from Asia also take his tours.

Since YUtour is a small operation, Seita makes the tours a lot more personal, personable, and flexible than with large tour operators. He tells me that he never gets tired of taking people to the same places and explaining the same things over and over. It’s because his guests are all different and they all have different interests, questions, and opinions and he enjoys talking to them. Seita learns a lot from them as well. So it’s a very interactive tour and not just a one-way lecture about this and that. I asked him what was the most common comment he gets from his visitors to Shiga: “So peaceful here!” Yep, laid-back Shiga is definitely a refreshing and relaxing break from the craziness and crowds of Kyoto.

Cycling through rice paddies in Adogawa, Takashima.

Hand paddling a boat through reeds in Lake Nishinoko, Omi-Hachiman.

Old reeds around the lake are burned in early March to make way for new buds.

Seita started YUtour in 2012 as part of his noble mission to help revitalize rural communities. Bringing foreign tourists was one way to do it. The “YU” (悠) in YUtour means “leisurely” in Japanese. I believe YUtour was the first professional tour guide service to start up in Shiga exclusively for foreigners. When I first heard about it, I didn’t think it would be so viable since Shiga is so little known overseas.

Indeed, Seita did struggle to get customers during his first year in business. But he stuck with it and over the years, YUtour gradually became a very active and in-demand service. It has gained more customers as word spread, and it’s now on track for further growth. The increasing number of inbound tourists to Japan has also helped, and Seita is also seeing repeat customers. He is most busy in spring and fall when he can be booked for at least half the month. Least busy are the winter months.

He has also been spotlighted in local Japanese newspapers and NHK Otsu TV news in 2017. I’m so glad to see him come this far to establish a niche for himself in Shiga. It takes a lot of dedication and determination and he loves what he’s doing. Seita also works part-time as a research assistant at Kobe University, so he does have a side job to fall back on when YUtour is not so busy.

Seita (left) helps to clean waterways in Harie.

I met Seita-san for the first time about a year ago when I invited him to one of my events. We didn’t have time to talk then, so we finally met up again over lunch in Otsu earlier this month.

I could quickly tell that he was a dedicated, upright professional and very community-oriented and knowledgeable about Shiga. He is a licensed tour guide for foreigners (通訳案内士) which means he passed a difficult national exam for testing one’s English ability and knowledge of Japan. It’s surprising to hear that he has never studied or worked abroad, so his English was mostly self-taught. To get up to that level without living abroad (or being married to a native English speaker) is pretty amazing for a Japanese person. (Japan’s English education program in public schools has largely been a failure for decades, with the vast majority of students still unable to converse in English even at college age. Japan’s low-quality English found everywhere in tourism brochures, official websites, signs, etc., also does not help.)

He also has a Ph.D degree, so we had very intelligent conversations (in Japanese). Besides me interviewing him, we also discussed tourism issues in Shiga and Otsu.

On NHK TV in July 2017, Enryakuji spokesman commented on their English weakness.

One thing we talked about was Enryakuji Temple. Enryakuji recently admitted on NHK TV that they were not good at English PR. I told Seita that Enryakuji should just ask its overseas Tendai Buddhist temples to help produce English materials. I’m sure they would gladly help their headquarters temple produce the English for PR brochures, official website, and directional signs. They are native English speakers who know the religion and terminology, so they are very qualified to do it. When it comes to English PR, Enryakuji is way behind Koya-san in Wakayama Prefecture. Seita showed me the excellent English website for Kumano Kodo. Something that Enryakuji, Otsu, and Shiga could learn from.

Seita and I also agreed that Otsu’s push to develop Chuo-Odori road between Otsu Station and Lake Biwa for tourists is not so promising since there’s nothing at the end of the road (except for a hotel). Yes, there’s Lake Biwa, but there are other more convenient roads leading to the lake.

Otsu recently made a snazzy, eye-catching video just to promote that it’s only “9 minutes by train from Kyoto.” This should’ve been “Only 9 minutes TO Kyoto” instead. Have tourists stay in Otsu to visit Kyoto, rather than tourists staying in Kyoto to visit Otsu. People who lodge in Otsu drop more money than people who just visit Otsu, right? Otsu often serves as backup accommodations for people who can’t find hotel rooms in Kyoto anyway. So a “9 minutes TO Kyoto” campaign would have been more practical. Vice versa is a lot harder—getting tourists staying in Kyoto to visit central Otsu.

Theoretically, being so close to Kyoto might sound good, but it can also be disadvantageous. Tourists who want to get away from Kyoto may think Otsu is too close and prefer to venture further away. This may explain why Harie and Shigaraki (both taking at least an hour from Kyoto) are more popular to visit from Kyoto.

Well, I still give credit to Otsu for at least trying and coming up with ideas. But as I told Seita, I think Otsu is stuck in a hard place. It doesn’t have a trademark attraction like Hikone Castle in Hikone. Yes, there’s Enryakuji (World Heritage Site), but it’s almost part of Kyoto and most people go there from Kyoto. Otsu has other important Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, but people who want to see temples/shrines might as well stay in Kyoto. There’s Lake Biwa and lake cruises, but the lake is not unique to Otsu. Otsu has a lot of things, but nothing stands out. So it lacks a strong and unique identity attractive to tourists.

Pottery kiln in Shigaraki.

And Shigaraki (in Koka), despite its fame and popularity with foreigners, still has no official tourism website in English. (Google Translate doesn’t count.) Selling their wares to foreigners should really help (especially with the Tokyo Olympics coming up). The Shigaraki pottery association should create an English website. Shigaraki hardly has info in English except for Miho Museum and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

Too many people working in Shiga tourism still don’t understand the power and worldwide reach of the Internet and how a little language can go a long way. It’s hard to believe that there are still volunteer tour guides (mostly retirees) in Shiga who do not even use the Internet. (No emailing, no messaging, and no Web browsing.)

Anyway, I had a good discussion with Seita-san and we’ll be keeping in touch. YUtour provides a very valuable and rare service in Shiga. I think Seita represents Shiga very well as a grassroots cultural ambassador spreading the word about Shiga. I find him to be very friendly and affable. He is another example of how even one person can make a big difference in Shiga. It’s not snazzy videos nor slick brochures. It’s the word of mouth that counts the most and Seita Mori is on the front line for that.

To book a tour, go directly to the YUtour website. As of this writing, YUtour is not available for booking at travel sites like Expedia.

Website: http://www.yutour.net/
For more photos of his tours, see the Facebook page: https://ja-jp.facebook.com/yutour.net/

Seita also appeared in this PR video of Kyoto and Shiga produced by KLM:

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