Renovated Otsu Station building reopens

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After a few years of uncertainty and about a year of major renovations, a new lease on life has been bestowed on the JR Otsu Station building that reopened on Oct. 1, 2016. I dropped by in late Nov. 2016 to check it out.

The train station platforms look the same, but when you get to the turnstiles at the north exit, the place looks cleaner and more spiffy, including the restroom. After passing through the turnstile, you see a new 7-Eleven on the left. To explore the new Otsu Station building, you now have to go outside. Walk outside the building to see the new 1st floor restaurants or enter The Calendar entrance to go upstairs to the 2nd floor. The long corridor and stairways that were inside the building are now gone.

Ground floor restaurants

See ground floor restaurants from outside the building.

On the outside, the two-story station building has a new paint job and looks basically the same structurally, but the interior has been totally gutted and replaced mainly with restaurants on both the 1st and 2nd floors. Besides 7-Eleven, the 1st/ground floor now has Starbucks, Japanese bank ATMs (Sumitomo-Mitsui and Resona), Otsu Tourist Information Center (rental bicycles), and three Shiga-original restaurants: Okaki for Omi beef, Chanpontei for ramen, and Konkian for soba noodles. The renovations have also made the building more earthquake-resistant.

The station building is now named “Vierra Otsu” (ビエラ大津). According to the building’s developer, JR West Real Estate & Development Co., the word “Vierra” was created with the Spanish words “vida” (life) and “tierra” (land or earth), so it supposed to mean “a place for convenient, everyday living.” But why Spanish? There’s nothing Spanish in the building. It’s not even a real Spanish word so no one will understand what it means. In English, we only know “Vierra” as a surname.

Calendar

Ground floor with ATMs on the left and the entrance to The Calendar.

Stairs

Stairs to The Calendar on the 2nd floor. No elevators.

The building’s biggest and most dramatic change is upstairs on the 2nd floor. It’s where they have “The Calendar,” a unique combination of different and almost seamless spaces for a restaurant, cafe, bar, open-air rooftop terrace (barbecue and beer garden), bookshelves selling books, 60-bed capsule hotel, and even a ping-pong table. The open-air terrace was built on an existing rooftop, covering one-third of the station building.

before renovation

Before: Otsu Station building’s 2nd floor in Oct. 2013 before renovations, where The Calendar is now.

restaurant

After: The Calendar restaurant on the 2nd floor.

Indoors, the 2nd floor now looks to be one large room with various spaces. It replaces the old restaurants and offices on the 2nd floor. Very dramatic change if you know what the 2nd floor looked like before (photo above) with a long corridor in the middle of the partitioned restaurants and offices.

capsule

In this corner, the door to the capsule hotel. Phone: 077-526-9080

The capsule hotel, named Calendar Hotel, is on the east end of the building and accessible through an obscure door in a corner of the restaurant. Only hotel guests can enter the small door to the capsule hotel. They don’t allow people to tour the capsule hotel, so I can’t review it unless I stay there. The hotel has separate quarters for men and women with 36 capsules for men and 24 for women, starting at ¥3,000/night. There’s also free Wi-Fi. Not all capsules are equipped with a TV which costs extra. Capsule rates also vary depending on the day of the week (most expensive on Sat. nights). You can also request breakfast and/or dinner. The hotel supposed to be geared for foreign tourists so they should have information in English and other languages.

Compared to the old station building, Vierra Otsu offers a much better choice for dining and hanging out. Good to see restaurants that originated in Shiga. After seeing the Otsu Station building shuttered and almost abandoned for a significant period before the renovations started in Nov. 2015, it was a welcome sight to see it finally reopen. Next we have to wait for the new supermarket (and condominium) slated to replace the AL Plaza mall now being torn down next to Otsu Station.

The whole idea is to revitalize the sleepy Otsu Station area, attract more people (including foreign tourists), and provide a place to dine, rest, and hang out. Attracting more tourists might be quite difficult since the Hama-Otsu area at lakeside is where the action is with a shopping mall, restaurants, cruise boat port, and hotels. There’s not much near Otsu Station except for the prefectural government office.

shuttered

Otsu Station building shuttered and in limbo in 2014. This corner space now occupied by Konkian restaurant.

Built in 1975, the Otsu Station building was originally managed by a public corporation in Otsu that contracted with JR (Japan Railways) to lease floor space to businesses. When this public corporation dissolved, the city took over the building’s management from 2010. However, the aging building was in need of major repairs, especially to the air-conditioning system which would be a major expense. After March 2014, the city of Otsu quit managing the Otsu Station building that it had been sub-leasing to tourist offices, shops, and restaurants. It had been paying JR, the building’s owner, ¥16 million annually to lease the building. They cited the old air conditioning that would cost ¥200 million to renovate. JR also told the city that the building’s commercial potential was too low to justify a reconstruction.

After a few years of discussions and negotiations, the city of Otsu and JR finally came to agreement on the building’s renovations and how much of the bill both would foot. The city agreed to bear two-thirds of the cost while expecting subsidies from the central government, and JR would pay one-third. The total cost was reported to be at least ¥700 million.

Outdoor terrace

Outdoor terrace on part of the west-end rooftop.

As soon as I entered The Calendar restaurant on the 2nd floor, a friendly young waitress greeted me and asked whether I was there to eat or just drink. I was there for lunch so she told me where I could order and pay the cashier in advance. I stood in a short line to order the daily lunch special (¥850) and paid. I was given a beeper that would alert me when my order was ready. I was told that I could sit anywhere so I spent the waiting time touring the 2nd floor looking at everything except the off-limits capsule hotel. Went outside to the terrace and sat in different chairs.

The Calendar has a wide variety of seating and spaces. First you have to decide whether to sit outdoors on the terrace or stay indoors. The weather may easily decide that for you. The outdoor terrace is very spacious, airy, and well furnished with many comfy chairs. Large groups would like the large sofas and tables. It was built on an existing rooftop covering the ground floor. Too bad there are no nice views. Only buildings.

If the neighbors don’t complain, I would like to see live entertainment on the terrace. Perhaps Otsu Matsuri musicians can perform here before the festival as a PR ploy. Or have upcoming local singers, musicians, or hula dancers (especially in summer) to perform. Great place for private parties. I hope they can find a way to use the terrace even in the colder months. It looks like they can install a tarp-like roof over the entire terrace for cold or rainy weather. That space is just too big for it not to be used in the colder months. All that furniture has to be protected from the elements too.

terrace

Chic furniture on the terrace. Train platform on the left.

lounge

Reclining lounge chairs. If we could only see the lake from here.

Indoors, you will find single seats in front of the main picture window, small tables for couples and small groups, and tables for larger groups. There’s even a sit-on-the-floor room next to the ping-pong table in the corner room. This is where I decided to have lunch. It looks like a Japanese-style room, but the floor is varnished wood instead of tatami mats and the cushions are super thick to make it comfortable even for people not used to sitting on the floor. This room seemed popular among couples and families with small kids. It also had a view of passing trains at Otsu Station. I liked this room (and the cushion) as well.

singles

For singles.

couples

Window seating for couples or small groups.

Floor

Where I had lunch. On-the-floor seating next to the ping-pong room.

Ping-pong

Ping-pong room. Close the sliding doors before playing. Paddles and balls provided.

lunch

My lunch: Daily special (hi-gawari lunch) served 11 am–2:30 pm for ¥850 includes soup, rice or bread, and the drink bar (coffee, tea, juices).

My beeper sounded and I went to get my food. The lunch special was okay, but not especially delicious. Main dish was chicken. While I had lunch, a few boys eating in front of me played ping-pong. To play ping-pong, you have to close the sliding doors so the ball doesn’t bounce out. They seemed to have fun, but I wondered how popular it would be among customers. It’s a novel idea to have a ping-pong table, but that room was about the same size as the adjacent sit-on-the-floor dining room where 10 people and I were eating. The ping-pong room is only for 2 or 4 people at the most, and it could seat at least 12 people as a dining room. If they wanted to offer something unique, I think it would be more practical and attractive to convert the ping-pong room into a kids’ playroom where parents can easily watch over their kids while dining. Instead of going to the neighborhood park to socialize with other moms and kids, they could all come here, especially in the colder months. The noisy kids wouldn’t really bother the other customers because the room is set apart from the rest of the restaurant. Great place for kids’ birthday parties too.

The Calendar restaurant is nice and I felt good vibes, but it didn’t make me feel like I was in Otsu. What was missing was localized decor. At the top of the stairs, there were modern posters on the wall, but none were apparently related to Otsu. There is some artwork on the walls here and there (even inside the restroom), but they have nothing to do with Otsu or Shiga. Even the books on the bookshelves, I couldn’t find any Otsu- or Shiga-related books or magazines. How about installing Otsu-e paintings, pictures or paintings of Otsu Matsuri, Otsu-juku, Omi Hakkei, the lake, etc? Promote Otsu. There’s lots of wall space and it needs some local flavor since there aren’t any views of the lake.

Bookshelves

Bookshelves of books for sale. Couldn’t find any books about Otsu.

Central

Central area of The Calendar restaurant. The place was abuzz even well past lunch time. Open from 7 am to 11:30 pm.

Together with the Otsu Tourist Information Center, The Calendar also holds activities such as craft making, cooking, shogi, sake brewery tours, daily exercises, etc. This is good, to have community and cultural activities. They should add foreign language classes for tourist/restaurant/hotel staff if they want to welcome foreign visitors.

One confusing thing is that they have so many different names for the spaces they have: Restaurant, cafe, bar, Japanese-style multipurpose room, Calendar Hotel, capsule hotel, Lobby & Lounge (and Lobby Lounge), Terrace Restaurant, BBQ Terrace, Beer Garden, Book Cafe, Book Store & Cafe, and ping-pong lounge. Some things like the hotel and terrace are obvious, but the restaurant, cafe, lounge, lobby, and bar all look to be in the same room. I don’t know why it was named “The Calendar” either. Couldn’t see any obvious connection nor find any answer.

The Calendar is very spacious and quite big (maybe too big), and it looks like a great place for locals and tourists to hang out. Even the restroom was very modern and chic. I think it has great appeal and potential for people who live or work near Otsu Station. It’s certainly a great improvement over the old building. But Otsu Station is still only restaurants and no shops except for 7-Eleven. It’s going to mainly cater to local residents and workers. It’s great for them, but I don’t think normal tourists would get off the train just to dine here. The simple truth is that there are no major tourist attractions near Otsu Station except during major festivals like Otsu Matsuri. Central Otsu’s attractions are mainly along the Keihan Line which is not connected to Otsu Station on the JR Tokaido Line.

tourist

Otsu Tourist Information Center on 1st floor.

Information

Inside Otsu Tourist Information Center.

After lunch, I dropped by the Otsu Tourist Information Center on the 1st floor. The location and space are great improvements over the old office on the 2nd floor (and in the temporary quarters during the renovations). They still need to have a large sign inside the train station near the turnstiles to point the way to the Center.

I entered the new Otsu Tourist Information Center and expected the usual and polite “Irasshaimase” (Welcome!) that I’m so used to in Japan. But the three women staff never even paid attention to me. Another man soon walked in, and they never said anything to him either. It was like we were invisible to them. They just continued to whisper amongst themselves with their backs facing outward. How can you work there and totally ignore walk-in visitors when you’re not even busy? It’s common sense and standard procedure to greet visitors, especially if you’re in the hospitality industry.

I walked around the room and saw some local products on sale (they need to sell more products unless 7-Eleven already has an Otsu section), a large video monitor, and tourist pamphlets. But the atmosphere was strange. The place was nice enough, but it lacked soul and warmth (人情), at least when I was there in late Nov. I didn’t feel any welcoming vibes, and it was a silent, cold space compared to the many other tourist information centers I’ve been to in Japan. Yes, you could call me a tourist information center connoisseur.

When one of the women finally faced outward, I went up to her and asked a simple question about Ogoto Onsen. She said they didn’t have the answer to my question, so she would give me the phone number for the Ogoto Onsen tourist/ryokan association for me to call them and find out for myself. I was flabbergasted.

“What?? You want me to call them?!” (For information that they should’ve known in the first place.) She said yes, and I shook my head in disbelief and walked out. I didn’t want to start an argument. Like what prevented her from making that call and asking for me?? She could’ve learned something new in the process. If they don’t know the answer, it is THEIR job to try and find out for the visitor. Perhaps if I spoke in English, they might have been more helpful. But it shouldn’t have made a difference.

They need to understand that they are representing the city of Otsu, that they are the city’s front-line ambassadors who give tourists their first impressions of the city. They give the city a human face. Their job might be mundane at times, but tourist information staff are actually very important. (More important than the largely ceremonial Miss Biwako-Otsu Tourist Ambassadors.) It seems the company (BALNIBARBI Co., Ltd.) operating The Calendar is also managing the tourist information center. The restaurant staff were good, but the tourist information staff need to receive better training in both local tourism information and customer service. Please note that I don’t criticize to embarrass people. I criticize to help them improve their product, service, attitude, knowledge, skills, effectiveness, efficiency, professionalism, etc. Because I care about them.

I’m also amused that, as of this writing, Otsu’s official tourist information website does not mention The Calendar in their list of hotels nor in their list of Otsu restaurants even though they are right next door and co-organize tourist activities with The Calendar. Japan is a land of ironies, is what I always say.

Good luck to Otsu Station. Just because the renovated station building has reopened doesn’t mean that the job is done. It’s only the beginning, a stepping stone. They still need to keep brainstorming and working on how to attract more people to the area and the city. The new station building is only a small part of it.

*For detailed restaurant hours, menus, hotel reservations, etc., see The Calendar website in English or in Japanese.

*Additional reading: Top 20 train stations in Shiga

PR posters for the reopened Otsu Station building.

Autumn festivals and foliage November 2016 in Shiga Prefecture

Recommended festivals (matsuri), events, exhibitions, and fall leaves in Shiga Prefecture in November–December 2016. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.)

Compiled by Philbert Ono. Updated: Nov. 26, 2016

Eigenji's hidden Buddha

Eigenji’s hidden Buddha

November 8–27, 2016, 8 am–5 pm
♦ Eigenji Hidden Buddha Display (本尊『如意輪観世音菩薩』の御開扉), Higashi-Omi
Eigenji is one of Higashi-Omi’s major temples, famous for autumn leaves. This month in November 2016, they will be showing their hidden Kannon statue for the first time in 30 years. It is the temple’s main object of worship is 60 cm high with a peaceful, golden face. A smaller Buddha said to have been carried by Genko is also on the top of the Kannon’s head. It is to mark the 650th anniversary of Zen Rinzai Sect priest and poet Jakushitsu Genko (寂室 元光 1290-1367) who founded Eigenji. 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 | SaturdaySunday.
Temple admission: ¥500

Ishiyama-dera reveals its hidden Kannon (center).

Ishiyama-dera reveals its hidden Kannon (center).

March 18–December 4, 2016, 9 am–4 pm
♦ Ishiyama-dera Hidden Buddha Display (本尊『如意輪観世音菩薩』の御開扉), Otsu
Ishiyama-dera is one of Otsu’s main temples and attractions, famous as the place supposedly where Lady Murasaki wrote the epic novel The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). The temple’s main object of worship is a seated Kannon statue (Important Cultural Property) three meters high and normally behind closed doors in the main Hondo hall (National Treasure). This year in 2016, this main Kannon statue is open for public viewing. They open this Kannon statue’s doors only once every 33 years! The main Kannon statue is a Nyoirin Kannon (Omnipotent One) with six arms dating from around 1096. It is worshiped for finding a marriage partner, safe childbirth, and happiness and prosperity. They say that it is Japan’s only Kannon that was ordered by the emperor to stay hidden (勅封秘仏). Because of its large size, it’s truly awesome. You may have to stand in line for a few minutes before you can see the statue. It has so much detail. Quite breathtaking and surprisingly it’s not a National Treasure (but an Important Cultural Property). (Photography of the Kannon statue is not allowed.) In addition, they are displaying four little Kannon statues dating from the 7th and 8th centuries that were found inside this main Kannon statue in 2002 (本尊如意輪観音像胎内佛像). A separate admission is charged to view the main Kannon statue. The spacious temple grounds also has autumn leaves and other National Treasure structures like the Tahoto pagoda. For this occasion, they are also allowing people to ring the temple bell (for ¥300) in the tall bell tower. I recommend doing that too, quite unique. Near Ishiyama-dera Station on the Keihan Ishisaka Line accessible from JR Ishiyama Station.
Temple admission: ¥600 + Kannon display ¥500
Official site: http://www.ishiyamadera.or.jp/ishiyamadera/gyouji/gokaihi/index.html
Photos | Map

Hikone Castle light-up

Hikone Castle light-up (Image: 光とアートで発信するブランディング事業 彦根・多賀地域連携組織委員会)

October 1–December 31, 2016 evenings
♦ Light & Art – Dramatic Legacy Castle Light-upHikone Castle, Sunset–10:00 pm
New evening event with Hikone Castle’s moat, stone walls, and moatside structures lit up with patterned and colored lighting. Check out the Sawaguchi Tamon turret. Looks beautiful at night.

Taga Taisha light-up

Taga Taisha light-up (Image: 光とアートで発信するブランディング事業 彦根・多賀地域連携組織委員会)

October 1–November 30, 2016 evenings
♦ Light & Art – Dramatic Legacy Shrine Light-upTaga Taisha Shrine, Sunset–10:00 pm
New evening event with colorful LEDs and laser light shining at the shrine, including tori and trees. Looks surreal and dreamy at night. Special event on Nov. 11, 12, and 13.

Matsuri in Nagahama

Matsuri in Nagahama

October 29–30, 2016
Japan Matsuri in Nagahama 2016 (日本の祭り in ながはま), Nagahama and Kinomoto
First-time festival extravaganza over the weekend in late Oct. Streets and plazas in central Nagahama near JR Nagahama Station and JR Kinomoto Station will host festivals from Nagahama and other parts of Japan. If you missed seeing this spring’s Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri, you can see all three hikiyama floats perform in front of the Hikiyama Museum on Oct. 30 from 10 am to 3 pm. Yogo’s Chawan Matsuri will also be performed in Kinomoto on Oct. 30 at 3 pm. Other festivals include Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri and Awa Odori from Tokushima on Oct. 30 in central Nagahama. Tonda puppet show, Dosukoi from Kagoshima, and taiko drummers from Shimo-Yogo and Yokaichi (Nagahama) on Oct. 29 in central Nagahama. Omi-Hachiman’s Sagicho will be on Oct. 29 and 30 in central Nagahama. It may be difficult to decide what to see because you can’t see everything. Free admission. They have a pdf in rough English here, but it does not have detailed schedule of events.
Pamphlet in Japanese has detailed schedule: http://matsurinagahama.jp/oshirase01/program.pdf

Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade

Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade

November 3, 2016
♦ 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

Hiyoshi Taisha torii lit up in autumn.

November 12–27, 2016, 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/

Saimyoji

Saimyoji

November 19-27, 2016
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 KoraKongorinji (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 these three temples from Hikone Station and Yokaichi Station. For more details and the shuttle bus schedule in English, click here.

Eigenji

Eigenji

November 6-27, 2016
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. Shuttle buses from Hyakusaiji also run to Eigenji during Nov. 16-Dec. 1. Map
永源寺 ライトアップ
http://eigenji-t.jp

Hyozu Taisha

Hyozu Taisha garden

November 17-30, 2016
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. Mini concerts will be held during the foliage illumination in the evenings.

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

Genkyuen

Genkyuen autumn foliage light-up.

November 12-27, 2016
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

Zensuiji

Zensuiji and maples.

November 13-30, 2016
♦ 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. The last bus leaves Zensuiji at 5:17 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 schedule in Japanese Map
湖南三山めぐり
http://www.burari-konan.jp/konan3zan/

November 12–December 4, 2016, 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/

December 3–4, 2016
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 so you would have stay near the launching beach in Takashima. Note that weather conditions can cancel the event.
熱気球琵琶湖横断
http://www.takashima-kanko.jp/

December 4,  2016 
♦ 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 4, 2016
♦ 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.

Koto Sanzan Temple Trio autumn foliage

Saimyoji

Saimyoji

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 KoraKongorinji (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.

Each temple has its own unique characteristics. Saimyoji’s main temple and pagoda are both National Treasures that you can enter. It’s also deservedly one of Japan’s 100 Grand Autumn Foliage Sites. Kongorinji has many colorfully dressed Jizo statues and a National Treasure main temple housing an 11-faced Kannon statue and 13 other statues that are Important Cultural Properties. Hyakusaiji is famous for giant straw sandals on a gate and a Japanese garden. Established by Shotoku Taishi in 609, Hyakusaiji is Shiga Prefecture’s oldest temple and one of Japan’s oldest. The Hondo temple hall has an 11-faced Kannon statue carved by Shotoku Taishi, a prince credited with spreading Buddhism in Japan. Each temple charges admission of ¥600 for adults.

Kongorinji

Kongorinji

Autumn foliage shuttle bus

Autumn foliage shuttle bus

During the autumn foliage season from November 19–27, 2016, convenient, low-cost shuttle buses (Koto Sanzan Shuttle Bus) run every day between these three temples and Hikone Station and Yokaichi Station. You can either start at Hikone Station or Yokaichi Station. At Hikone Station, the first shuttle bus leaves at 9 am and goes to Saimyoji first. From Yokaichi Station, you can get on the first (and only) shuttle bus at 9:45 am to go to Hyakusaiji. It will take most of the day to see all three temples so start as early as you can in the morning. Another option is to also see Eigenji temple in Higashi-Omi. Being a Zen Buddhist temple, it’s not part of the Koto Sanzan Trio, but it is near Hyakusaiji and also famous for autumn leaves. You can either visit Eigenji first by taking a bus from Yokaichi Station, or visit it last after Hyakusaiji.

Hyakusaiji

Hyakusaiji

I recommend starting from Hikone Station so you’ll work your way south by visiting Saimyoji first, then Kongorinji and Hyakusaiji (see shuttle bus schedule below). If you have time, you can take a local bus from Hyakusaiji to Eigenji. If you don’t have time, from Hyakusaiji, you can take the shuttle bus back to Hikone Station (last bus at 4:50 pm) or to Yokaichi Station (last bus at 5 pm). From Yokaichi Station, you can take the Ohmi Railways to JR Omi-Hachiman Station.

Bus fare is ¥200 to ¥600 per ride depending on the distance. They also offer a day pass called Momiji kippu (Maple ticket) for ¥1,800 (¥900 for kids). This day pass includes passage on the shuttle buses and local buses to/from the train stations to the three Koto Sanzan temples and Eigenji and Ohmi Railways trains between Yokaichi and Omi-Hachiman Stations. A good deal if you plan to ride on Ohmi Railways. The Momiji kippu day pass is sold at Hikone Station (west exit bus stop), Omi-Hachiman Station (Ohmi Railways ticket office), and Yokaichi Station. If you like to take your time (for photography, etc.), you might not have time to see all three temples in one day. There are also guided tour buses (teiki kanko bus) departing Nagahama, Kyoto, Maibara, and Hikone Stations that are much more expensive (around ¥8,000) and follow a set tour schedule. The shuttle buses allows you a more flexible schedule, but just remember what time the last bus leaves.

Koto Sanzan Foliage Shuttle Bus Schedule, Hikone Station to Yokaichi (Read down)
Bus StopBus 1Bus 2Bus 3Bus 4Bus 5Bus 6 
Hikone Station9:00 am9:35 am10:00 am11:00 am1:00 pm2:30 pm
Taga Town Hall9:25 am10:00 am10:25 am11:25 am1:25 pm2:55 pm
Seseragi no Sato9:30 am10:05 am10:30 am11:30 am1:30 pm3:00 pm
Saimyoji9:35 am10:10 am10:35 am11:35 am1:35 pm3:05 pm
Kongorinji9:45 am10:45 am11:45 am1:45 pm3:15 pm
Kongoen-guchi9:50 am10:50 am11:50 am1:50 pm3:20 pm
Crefeel Koto9:56 am10:56 am11:56 am1:56 pm3:26 pm
Yomiaido10:00 am11:00 am12:00 pm2:00 pm3:30 pm
Arrive Hyakusaiji10:10 am11:10 am12:10 pm2:10 pm3:40 pm
Depart Hyakusaiji10:20 am11:25 am12:50 pm1:55 pm3:00 pm3:55 pm5:00 pm
Arrive Eigenji*10:40 am11:45 am1:10 pm2:15 pm3:20 pm4:15 pm-
Arrive Yokaichi Station5:25 pm

*From Eigenji, buses bound for Yokaichi Station leave once or twice an hour until 8:27 pm on weekdays or 7:16 pm on weekends and holidays.

Local Bus Schedule, Yokaichi to Eigenji and Hyakusaiji (Read down)
Bus Stop       
Depart Yokaichi Station9:45 amFor Eigenji on weekdays: 8:32 am, 9:10 am, 10:10 am, 11:15 am, 12:15 pmFor Eigenji on weekends: 7:50 am, 8:40 am, 9:10 am, 10:15 am, 11:15 am, 12:15 pm
Depart Eigenji-10:50 am11:55 am1:20 pm2:25 pm3:30 pm4:20 pm
Arrive Hyakusaiji10:10 am11:10 am12:15 pm1:40 pm2:45 pm3:50 pm4:40 pm
Koto Sanzan Foliage Shuttle Bus Schedule, Hyakusaiji to Hikone Station (Read down)
Bus StopBus 1Bus 2Bus 3Bus 4Bus 5Bus 6 
Depart Hyakusaiji10:30 am12:05 pm1:30 pm2:50 pm4:10 pm4:50 pm
Yomiaido10:35 am12:10 pm1:35 pm2:55 pm4:15 pm4:55 pm
Crefeel Koto10:39 am12:14 pm1:39 pm2:59 pm4:19 pm4:59 pm
Kongoen-guchi10:45 am12:20 pm1:45 pm3:05 pm4:25 pm5:05 pm
Kongorinji10:50 am12:25 pm1:50 pm3:10 pm4:30 pm5:10 pm
Saimyoji11:00 am12:35 pm2:00 pm3:20 pm4:40 pm5:20 pm
Seseragi no Sato11:05 am12:40 pm2:05 pm3:25 pm4:45 pm5:25 pm
Taga Town Hall11:10 am12:45 pm2:10 pm3:30 pm4:50 pm5:30 pm
Arrive Hikone Station11:40 am1:15 pm2:40 pm4:00 pm5:20 pm6:00 pm
Eigenji

Eigenji

秋の湖東三山
Shuttle bus info in Japanese: http://www.ohmitetudo.co.jp/bus/kotousanzan_shuttle/index.html/
Japanese pamphlet: http://www.ohmitetudo.co.jp/file/bus_kotousanzan_shuttle2016.pdf
Official sites: Saimyoji | Kongorinji | Hyakusaiji

Visiting University of Shiga Prefecture

usp

“Pencil Tower” at the center of the University of Shiga Prefecture.

I finally visited the University of Shiga Prefecture (USP or Shiga Kenritsu Daigaku 滋賀県立大学) for the first time in Jan. 2016. It’s a 15-min. bus ride from JR Minami-Hikone Station. The largely flat, rectangular campus is quite near the shore of Lake Biwa in a rural fishing neighborhood called Hassaka (八坂町) in Hikone. Established by the prefecture, USP is not to be confused with Shiga University (Shiga Daigaku 滋賀大学) which is a national university with a campus adjacent to Hikone Castle.

Founded in 1995, USP has an enrollment of about 2,400 undergraduate and 270 graduate students. They have the School of Environmental Science with over 800 students, School of Engineering with over 700 students, School of Human Cultures with almost 900 students, and School of Nursing with about 300. There were 93 foreign students as of May 2015 with 66 of them coming from China. Only four were from the U.S. as exchange students.

In the School of Human Cultures, the Department of Intercultural Communications has 200 students learning foreign languages. They are required to learn two foreign languages. That must be really tough. Studying just one foreign language is tough enough. Most of them take advantage of the exchange program to study abroad.

Since USP is only 20 years old, the buildings still look new and modern. Different clusters of buildings have different designs to reflect their respective departments such as buildings that look like barns or a hospital.

But the most distinctive structure and symbol of the school is a tower nicknamed “Pencil Tower.” It does look like a pencil, but I’m told that it wasn’t designed to look like a pencil. Too bad we cannot go up the tower since the views must be great from the top. The tower does not seem to serve any purpose except as an architectural focal point and reference point to help you get your bearings on campus.

Scale model of USP. Lake Biwa is toward the top of the photo.

The campus is fairly large, including an athletic field and gymnasium. The central buildings are surrounded by a cherry tree-lined circular moat complete with ducks. (The school even has a duck club to take care of the ducks.) The sports facilities are used only for practice and do not have spectator seats since no sports competitions are held at USP. Competitive games are instead held at public sports facilities elsewhere in Hikone.

USP has no museum (like the Omi merchant museum at Shiga University) nor outdoor sculptures and art galleries (like at Seian University of Art and Design). So what does USP have that could attract visitors? It’s cherry blossoms. There are many sakura trees at the University of Shiga Prefecture. The ones lining the circular moat would look nice when in bloom.

The only thing is, no one knows about USP’s cherry blossoms and Hikone Castle’s cherry blossoms are so famous and easy to get to that no one thinks about seeing cherry blossoms anywhere else in Hikone. USP’s cherry blossoms bloom during spring break when there are hardly any students on campus. The poor cherry blossoms thereby bloom with almost no one to enjoy them. So if you want to enjoy sakura with almost no people around, visit USP around early April.

moat

Circular moat and cherry trees.

Lecture hall

Lecture room with lots of wood.

Cafeteria

Cafeteria

Cafe Pianissimo

Besides the cherry blossoms, the school cafeteria, Cafe Pianissimo, and the small University Shop are open to the public when classes are in session. Lunch in the cafeteria was good and cheap. It gets very crowded during lunch time (11 am–2 pm, 6 pm–8 pm). The cafe next to the auditorium was run by a pair of friendly ladies. Good place for coffee and cake.

The small University Shop is more like a small, neighborhood convenience store. Although it sells books (including books about Shiga), it doesn’t sell textbooks nor USP merchandise like T-shirts and hoodies. (Textbooks are sold in a special area at the start of each school session.) The only USP-branded item I found was a pink pen with the university’s name in Japanese. There was also a bottle of local sake. I guess the school is not big enough to market USP merchandise which is a shame since it can spark and spread school pride. How about selling pencils having the same design as the Pencil Tower? The USP Pencil Tower pencil. Picture postcards of the school would also be nice.

pen

Pen with USP’s name imprinted. Made of recycled materials.

partner universities

Some of USP’s partner universities. (Cal State East Bay is no longer a partner.)

Also visited the Office of International Programs and Development. The director’s office has these flags of some of USP’s overseas partner universities for exchange programs in the U.S. (including Michigan, Shiga’s sister state), Europe, Australia, China, Taiwan, Mongolia, and Korea. (List of partner schools here.)

Hassaka

Lake Biwa shore in Hassaka, Hikone.

USP’s rural, lakeside neighborhood of Hassaka (八坂町) is quite well known among Japanese-Canadians in Canada. Did you know that the largest group of Japanese immigrants to Canada before World War II came from Shiga? Many came from eastern Shiga, namely Hikone and the old fishing villages of Hassaka and neighboring Oyabu (大藪町). I had thought that most came from Wakayama Prefecture since they even had a museum dedicated to the immigrants. (Too bad that it recently closed.) During WWII, the Japanese immigrants were forced to either relocate to camps in the interior or to return to Japan. So there are descendants in Hikone of those immigrants who returned to Shiga. Sadly, their stories are being lost in Shiga. Even the descendants might not know much about the experiences of their immigrant grandparents or great grandparents.

Something I would like to see at USP is a public exhibition space showing the basic history of Hikone’s immigrant past and some immigrant artifacts donated or loaned by immigrant descendants. The oral histories of those who returned to Shiga should also be recorded. (Their numbers and memories are quickly dwindling.) Back in Feb. 2011, Hikone City Hall had a photo exhibition of Hikone’s immigrants for a short time in the lobby. Shiga should have something more permanent and USP would be the ideal place for it.

Despite the historical connection with Canada, Shiga has only one sister city in Canada, between Higashi-Omi and Taber, Alberta (not a place where the Japanese immigrated). USP also does not have any student exchange partner universities in Canada.

But anyway, USP is a viable choice for students. Somewhat out of the way, but the neighborhood is nice and peaceful.

*Special thanks to former USP associate professor Martin Stack for guiding me around USP. 

Click here for more photos of USP. Below is a video of the cherry blossoms on campus:

Shiga History May–August 2016

fb020-20160822_5176Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s major and interesting news headlines for May–August 2016 (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 140 characters including spaces and links (shortened by Twitter). Dates and times below are based on GMT instead of Japan time.

2016/5/3 8:59 Beware of bears while hiking in the Suzuka mountains along the border with Mie Pref. Bears have been spotted in Taga.
2016/5/6 23:30 Japan’s badminton team for the Rio Olympics will include two players from Otsu: KAZUNO Kenta (31) and HAYAKAWA Ken’ichi (30) #数野健太 #早川賢一
2016/5/12 20:51 Biwako fishermen numbered 2,926 in 1968 and only 687 in 2013. 57% age 65 or older. Help now available to those wanting to become fishermen.
2016/5/15 12:14 Topaz has been designated as Shiga’s official stone/mineral.
2016/5/15 12:25 Memorial service marking the 25th anniversary of the fatal May 14, 1991 collision of a Shigaraki Kogen & JR train was held at the crash site.
2016/5/22 8:24 Monjuro Gate (photo) is 1 of 11 buildings at Enryakuji to be designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan. https://t.co/5OFh310jNh
2016/5/25 3:31 King Liu of Taiwanese bicycle maker Giant cycled along Biwako from a Giant shop at Laforet Biwako in Moriyama to promote lakeside cycling.
2016/5/26 2:36 Citizens’ group found that Takashima spent ¥120 mil. to resolve its 7-year illegal dumping & coverup of waste having excessive dioxin. #見張り番
2016/5/30 10:59 滋賀の魅力と発信方法について中日新聞の滋賀版に県内在住の7人の外国人の対談が載せられた。https://t.co/3JXxHGYt6P
2016/5/31 15:12 Memorial service was held on the 1st anniversary of the fatal giant kite crash in Higashi-Omi. Still no talk about continuing the festival.
2016/6/3 12:28 Due to excessive lead levels detected on May 18, incinerated waste from Ritto is being rejected by a Kobe garbage dump.
2016/6/3 12:33 Stressed by power harassment by a superior for a year, an Otsu City Hall worker in his 40s overdosed on tranquilizers & died in March 2015.
2016/6/5 3:19 Weather bureau announced that the rainy season started yesterday in Shiga (Kinki Region), three days earlier than usual.
2016/6/8 15:04 Ritto City Hall social welfare case worker Fujikuma Toshihiro (33, 藤熊俊宏) arrested for exposing himself to high school girls on a Kyoto train.
2016/6/9 17:25 Age 40 Enryakuji priest verbally reprimanded for hitting and injuring three younger priests earlier this year. One victim broke his eardrum.
2016/6/12 12:37 Hikone-native sprinter Kiryu Yoshihide (20) couldn’t break the 9-sec. barrier at a college meet in Hiratsuka with 10.1 sec. in the 100 m.
2016/6/14 12:32 For the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Shiga & Otsu will be the host town for Denmark’s rowing team & Maibara will host New Zealand’s hockey team.
2016/6/15 1:11 Blog post about Biwako Nagahama Kannon House that opened in Tokyo in March. https://t.co/bJ2XkgLu7W
2016/6/17 14:35 Jiun-in Kannon temple in Maibara was burglarized & three Buddha statues valued at ¥13.5 mil. were found stolen on June 16. 慈雲院本荘観音堂
2016/6/20 22:57 Miyagino Stable held sumo practice in Nagahama on June 17–20. On the 19th, local people could see Yokozuna Hakuho & others practice.
2016/6/22 20:11 Opened in 1974, AL Plaza Otsu (Heiwado) at Otsu Station closed on June 20. To be replaced by a condo with a supermarket on the lower floors.
2016/6/25 13:17 Japan National Championships today saw Kiryu Yoshihide place 3rd in the 100 m finals (10.31 sec.), earning him a slot at the Rio Olympics.
2016/6/29 7:39 My latest video shows the Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri festival, soon to be a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. https://t.co/rMOMixEywi
2016/7/6 13:23 Over 40 Nagahama Kannon statues at University Art Museum (東京藝術大学美術館), Tokyo Univ. of the Arts July 5–Aug. 7, 2016. https://t.co/rpZQ3DOs5v
2016/7/13 11:45 Hikone, Maibara, and Nagahama will have a booth at Taiwan’s largest Japan tourism expo (“Touch the Japan”) to be held July 17–20, 2016.
2016/7/13 11:51 As of June 30, Hikone Castle received donations from visitors totaling ¥896,888 for Kumamoto Castle. The total has been given to Kumamoto.
2016/7/13 16:05 Summer 2016 fireworks schedule in Shiga Prefecture: https://t.co/H8HHzwmWEZ
2016/7/14 3:36 Lake Biwa Museum reopened today for their 20th anniv. after major renovations that include new exhibits like a Baikal seal from Lake Baikal.
2016/7/19 1:54 Went to see the Nagahama Kannon exhibition in Tokyo that goes on until Aug. 7. https://t.co/5zlzvknBzl
2016/7/22 10:09 The Mizunomori Lotus Pond in Kusatsu is almost extinct this year. No flowers at all. Cause is still unknown. https://t.co/mtCMRLDBxw
2016/7/24 13:48 Shigaraki Fire Festival last night. Not crowded at all. Their kilns worship fire. Missed the 9 pm fireworks though. https://t.co/sIuEKoHQMa
2016/7/26 0:57 In Otsu, a man (21) was playing Pokemon Go while driving & hit a car at a stop light causing a 3-car collision & neck injury to a driver.
2016/7/28 8:51 Ohmi High School beat Takashima 3-0   yesterday to represent Shiga at the national high school baseball tournament at Koshien this summer.
2016/7/28 14:52 Omi Jingu Shrine saw a record 402,000 visitors during Jan.–June this year, thanks to the Chihayafuru movie that hit theaters in March.
2016/8/1 18:27 Let’s cheer on the Olympic athletes from Shiga Prefecture in Rio de Janeiro! Shiga athlete list here: https://t.co/prgef7ZFTZ
2016/8/7 14:17 Hikone Weather Bureau has issued a high-temperature warning for Shiga 8 days in a row. More hot days (35˚C or higher) expected. Keep cool!
2016/8/7 15:31 OTA Yuki all but announced his retirement after losing his first fencing match in Rio against Brazilian TOLDO Guilherme.
2016/8/11 13:24 Hordes of people visited sunny Mt. Ibuki today on Aug. 11, 2016, Japan’s new national holiday called Mountain Day. https://t.co/vPdAMZphGx
2016/8/13 10:00 Ohmi High School lost to Joso Gakuin 0-11 in their 1st game on Aug. 9, 2016 at the Summer Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2016/8/13 15:56 In Rio, KIRYU Yoshihide ran 100 m in 10.23 sec. which was not enough to advance to the semifinals like Cambridge and Yamagata.
2016/8/15 8:05 Maibara rice paddy art of Yokosuka mascot Sucurry by Taura Jr. High students who visited from Yokosuka, Kanagawa. https://t.co/rEjp5b3fPG
2016/8/16 19:18 Omi-Hachiman native INUI Yukiko & partner MITSUI Risako won the Bronze medal in Duet synchronized swimming in Rio! https://t.co/8lftbirLrs
2016/8/19 17:18 Team Captain INUI Yukiko (from Omi-Hachiman) & her team won the Bronze in Team synchronized swimming in Rio! https://t.co/thV09Mf6uz
2016/8/20 2:30 Hikone native KIRYU Yoshihide & his 3 track mates won the Silver in the Men’s 400m relay race in 37.60 sec. in Rio! https://t.co/o1WbyNvAlb
2016/8/25 14:01 New edition of Japan Post’s die-cut postcards (gotochi form card) are out. Shiga’s latest one is red devil’s tongue. gotochiFormCard2016
2016/8/26 1:09 Only 8.9% of CEOs in Shiga are female, lower than the 11.9% national average. That’s 1,991 women out of 22,479 Shiga companies as of 2015.
2016/8/26 1:13 Due to a lack of rain, Lake Biwa’s water level is 43 cm below the standard level, the lowest in Aug. in 8 years. No adverse effects yet.
2016/8/28 2:58 Age 21 teacher’s assistant (籔中博文) from Nagahama arrested for putting a video camera inside a girls’ restroom at a Kusatsu public high school
2016/8/29 10:45 Nagahama City Hall received a 12 pm bomb threat again by phone this morning. Everyone evacuated by 11:30 am and returned safely at 12:30 pm.
2016/8/31 12:18 A group in Nagahama is soliciting donations to build a monument for “Biwako Shuko no Uta” (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) at Hokoen Park next June.

Shiga History Jan.–April 2016Chronological History of Shiga | Shiga History Sept–Dec. 2016

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