Otsu Matsuri karakuri puppets

Video link: http://youtu.be/52tjGe470eA

Here’s my video of Otsu Matsuri filmed last year on Oct. 12-13, 2013. Finally got it done and in time for this year’s festival on Oct. 11-12, 2014. It’s about 28 min. and the most comprehensive English video about the festival. It includes the Yoimiya festival eve and the festival’s main day. The video spotlights the karakuri mechanical puppets. I also got on-camera comments from foreign participants (mostly American, including Shiga’s JET Programme teachers and interns from Michigan who were in Otsu in autumn 2013).

Otsu Matsuri is an annual festival of thirteen ornate floats (called hikiyama) held in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture during the weekend before the second Monday of October. It is a festival of Tenson Shrine in Otsu.

The floats were built in 17th and 18th centuries. Each one belongs to a different neighborhood in central Otsu. The floats are wooden, about 6 to 7 meters tall, and has three large wooden wheels instead of four (like Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri floats). They are gorgeously outfitted with intricate wood carvings, tapestries (from China, Korea, and even Belgium), paintings, and other art work. Art museums on wheels.

One highlight of the floats and festival are the traditional karakuri mechanical puppets. Each float has elaborate karakuri puppets depicting a scene from a Noh play or Chinese legend/myth. Although the characters and stories are well known in Noh or Chinese mythology, you would have to know the Noh story or Chinese legend/myth to understand it. The puppet performances are short, lasting only a minute or two. This post gives a synopsis of the stories behind the karakuri puppets on all thirteen Otsu Matsuri floats.

Saturday is the Yoimiya (宵宮) festival eve when the thirteen floats are displayed and paraded around their respective neighborhoods in the afternoon. The floats are then festooned with paper lanterns. From 6 pm to 9 pm, the paper lanterns are lit and festival musicians play on or next to the floats. The sound of flutes, taiko drums, and bells fill the air. Also, the karakuri puppets are removed from the floats and displayed in homes on the street. You can see them up close. Since all the floats are clustered along the streets near JR Otsu Station, it’s easy to see all of them. Not crowded at all.

On Sunday the next day, the Hon-matsuri (本祭) is the main festival day. The thirteen floats are paraded in central Otsu from 9 am to 5:30 pm. The procession starts at Tenson Shrine and the floats stop often to give karakuri puppet performances. The procession is led every year by the Saigyo-zakura Tanuki-yama float with a stuffed tanuki (raccoon dog) on the roof serving as the festival guardian. The order of the other floats is determined by drawing lots. So every year, the order of the floats in the procession (junko 巡行) is different.

Another highlight is the floats throwing chimaki which are small bundles of straw. A chimaki supposed to ward off bad luck, so we all want to catch one. You hang it above an entrance or under the eaves. They also throw small hand towels (tenugui). All the chimaki were blessed by Tenson Shrine. The chimaki lasts for one year after which you supposed to return it to the shrine to be burned during the Dondo-yaki Festival.

It’s not crowded at Otsu Matsuri so it’s easy to move around and take pictures and videos. To help you better understand and enjoy the karakuri puppet performances, I’ve written a synopsis of the karakuri puppets in alphabetical order according to the float’s name. (Sometimes even the Japanese explanation is not so complete.)

Next to the float’s name, the year it was first built is in parenthesis. The Video link will jump to the respective float’s karakuri performance in my Otsu Matsuri video embedded above.



Gekkyuden-zan (1776) 月宮殿山/上京町
From the Noh play Tsurukame (Crane and Turtle), praying for and celebrating national peace and stability. While celebrating spring, the Chinese emperor at his palace receives well-wishers for his longevity. Then a female wearing a crane crown and a male with a turtle crown start dancing in front of the Chinese emperor to celebrate his longevity. Feeling happy, the emperor also starts dancing.

This float is one of two Otsu Matsuri floats whose rear tapestry is an Important Cultural Property depicting the Sack of Troy in Greek mythology. Restored in 1999. Video



Genji-yama (1718) 源氏山/中京町
Lady Murasaki Shikibu is writing The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) at Ishiyama-dera temple in Otsu. The doll wears a 12-layer juni-hitoe kimono and the float’s design is reminiscent of the Heian Era (794-1185). Little figurines emerge from the Ishiyama rock and circle around the front before disappearing back into the rock. They are seawater salt bearers, an ox carriage, pokkuri clog bearer, and umbrella bearer. This is a rare Otsu Matsuri float to have an Otsu-based story. In 2008, it celebrated the millennium anniversary of The Tale of Genji. Video

Jingu Kogo-yama

Jingu Kogo-yama

Jingu Kogo-yama (1749) 神功皇后山/猟師町
Before going to battle, Empress Jingu in the 4th century fished for sweetfish in Nagasaki as fortunetelling to see if she would be victorious. She was actually pregnant and after the battle, she safely gave birth in Kyushu to Emperor Ojin. This float is therefore associated with safe childbirths. The karakuri shows Empress Jingu using her bow to write kanji characters on a large rock. The characters magically appear one after another. Hailed as a unique karakuri when it first appeared in the Edo Period. Video



Kakkyo-yama (1693) 郭巨山/後在家町・下小唐崎町
Kakkyo (Guo Ju in Chinese) was one of the twenty-four Chinese filial exemplars. He lived in poverty with his elderly mother, wife, and son. The elderly mother had to sacrifice some of her meals so her grandson could eat. After some discussion, Kakkyo and his wife decided that they could always have another child, but his aged mother could never be replaced. So they decided to bury (kill) their son to save the aged mother. However, as Kakkyo was digging a burial hole, he found a pot of gold as a gift from Heaven. He then was able to provide for his whole family. The karakuri shows Kakkyo digging a hole with a hoe and finding a pot of gold while his wife holds their son to be buried. Video



Komeikisui-zan (1694) 孔明祈水山/中堀町
During China’s Three Kingdoms period, Zhuge Liang, chancellor of the state of Shu Han, fought Cao Cao, the chancellor of the state of Wei. Zhuge Liang looked at flowing water and prayed to the water god to wash away the enemy’s huge army. He thereby emerged victorious. The karakuri shows Zhuge Liang opening a folding fan to beckon the water which then erupts and flows down. Video

Nishinomiya Ebisu-yama

Nishinomiya Ebisu-yama

Nishinomiya Ebisu-yama (1658) 西宮蛭子山/白玉町
The karakuri shows Ebisu, the god of fishermen, good luck, and business prosperity and one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. He is typically shown holding a fishing pole in his right hand and holding or fishing for sea bream (tai, an auspicious fish). Merchants also pray to him for business prosperity. Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture is the headquarters shrine for worshipping Ebisu. The karakuri shows him fishing for sea bream. In the end, the fish is fished out and tossed into a basket held by another puppet. Fun to watch whether it hits or misses the basket. Video

Ryumon Taki-yama

Ryumon Taki-yama

Ryumon Taki-yama (1717) 龍門滝山/太間町
The karakuri is based on the Chinese myth saying that a carp that climbs up the Dragon Gate waterfall on the Yellow River in China will turn into a dragon and fly away. In China, this legend symbolizes perseverance and achievement such as success in passing civil service examinations. The dragon is a symbol of power and good fortune. This carp karakuri puppet is Japan’s oldest, dated 1762. The float’s rear tapestry is an Important Cultural Property depicting the Sack of Troy in Greek mythology. Video

Saigyo-zakura Tanuki-yama

Saigyo-zakura Tanuki-yama

Saigyo-zakura Tanuki-yama (1635) 西行桜狸山
This float is always first in the procession. The roof has a stuffed tanuki (raccoon dog) to lead the procession every year as the festival guardian. The float is associated with the wooden tanuki mask worn by salt vendor Jihei who started the festival. His original tanuki mask is displayed during the Yoimiya festival eve.

In 1596, salt vendor (shiouri 塩売) Jihei (治兵衛) wore a wooden tanuki mask and danced during a Tenson Shrine festival. People liked his dancing so much that they built a float two years later and Jihei danced on it. This was the beginning of the Otsu Matsuri.

Jihei danced on the float for over ten years before his old age prevented him from continuing. A tanuki karakuri puppet was then used in his place on the float.

The float is named after Saigyo Hoshi (1118-1190), a famous traveling poet and Buddhist monk. The karakuri is based on Saigyo’s poem and Noh play called Saigyo-zakura. When the old sakura tree next to Saigyo’s hermitage in Oharano in Nishiyama, Kyoto blooms in spring, his lone admiration of the flowers is disturbed by an endless stream of noisy people gawking at the flowers.

In a poem, he blames the tree for attracting such people. He then sleeps under the moonlit flowers. In his dream, the spirit of the cherry tree appears as a distinguished old man. The spirit tells Saigyo, “The noisy people is not the tree’s fault. All it does is bloom. The annoyance is within your heart.” The cherry tree spirit then tells Saigyo about other cherry blossom spots and dances to celebrate the flowers. The spirit disappears into the tree when Saigyo awakes. Video

If you visit Oharano in Kyoto, you can see the third generation of Saigyo’s sakura tree at Shojiji temple (勝持寺).



Seiobo-zan (1656) 西王母山/丸屋町
Seiobo is the Chinese goddess Xi Wangmu living on the mythological Kunlun Mountain. She floated down and danced for Emperor Wu of Han who desired longevity. She offered him a longevity peach from her peach orchard that flowers and bears fruit only once every 3,000 years. Only one peach would ripen. When the peach is split open, a peach boy appears. The float is nicknamed, Momo-yama (momo means peach). A life-size replica of this float, complete with karakuri puppets, is displayed at the Otsu Matsuri Hikiyama Museum (free admission) in the Maruya-cho shopping arcade (the neighborhood where Seiobo-zan belongs). Video



Sesshoseki-zan (1673) 殺生石山/柳町
The karakuri is from the Noh play Sessho-seki. Tamamo-no-mae was a beautiful courtesan favored by the emperor. But she actually was a nine-tailed fox with golden fur and was out to kill the emperor for an evil daimyo. Her guise and plot was exposed by astrologer Abe no Yasuchika and she escaped eastward to Nasu, Tochigi. Although she was killed, her spirit possessed a stone that killed travelers who touched it. Priest Genno appeased her spirit with Buddhist rituals and she was exorcised from the stone. The karakuri shows Priest Genno who split the killing stone in two and court lady Tamamo-no-mae’s face switching to a fox.

In Nasu, tourists can see (and touch) the Sessho-seki killing stoneVideo



Shakkyo-zan (1705) 石橋山/湊町
Named after the Noh play Shakkyo (Stone Bridge). Tendai monk Jakusho was in the Chinese state of Song and entered Mt. Tiantai. When he was about to cross the difficult stone bridge leading to the Pure Land of Manjusri Bodhisattva, he sees a red-haired Chinese lion frolicking with peony flowers. The lion was the messenger of Manjusri Bodhisattva. Tendai Buddhism (headquartered at Enryakuji) was founded by Saicho after he visited Mt. Tiantai. Video



Shojo-yama (1637) 猩々山/南保町
The float is named after the famous Noh play ShojoTakafu (Kofu), who lived near the Yangtze River in China, had a dream telling him that selling saké would be profitable. He followed this advice and his saké sales went well. However, one customer who came every day never got drunk no matter how much he drank. Being curious, Takafu asked the customer for his name. After replying that he was Shojo who lived in the sea, he left.

Later on a beautiful moonlit night, Takafu brought some saké to the riverside and waited for Shojo. From the waves, Shojo appeared and they drank the saké together and danced. Shojo praised Takafu’s virtue and rewarded him with a cask that never ran out of saké.

The karakuri shows saké seller Takafu pouring saké for Shojo, an alcohol-loving, legendary sea creature with a red face and red hair. Shojo then drinks the saké. Video



Yutate-yama (1663) 湯立山/玉屋町
The float’s architecture is modeled after Tenson Shrine, and the karakuri puppets reenact the shrine’s yudate Shinto ritual. One of the more dynamic karakuri performances. On the right, a senior priest first waves a wand for purification. In the center is a female shaman who soaks bamboo grass in a large pot of boiling water and sprinkles it on people. A shrine maiden in red also dances. People who get sprinkled by the boiling water will be blessed with a good harvest, recovery from sickness, business prosperity, etc. Here’s a short video clip of Yudate performed at Taga Taisha ShrineVideo

Hopefully this karakuri rundown will help you understand and enjoy the festival and karakuri puppets more. Wish I had time to explain about the floats’ tapestries and other art work too, but that will have to occupy a separate post.

Otsu Matsuri official Website here

Happy 50th Anniversary Tokaido Shinkansen


Shinkansen speeding past Mt. Ibuki.

Happy 50th anniversary to the Tokaido Shinkansen! The world’s first high-speed train. After about 5 years of construction and test runs, it was on Oct. 1, 1964 when the shinkansen “bullet train” started commercial service between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka Stations. It initially took 4 hours (via Hikari trains) to cover the 515 km (320 mi.) distance at a maximum speed of 210 km/hour (130 mph). By Nov. 1965, travel time was shortened to 3 hr 10 min., and now it’s 2 hr. 25 min. via Nozomi trains. Before the shinkansen, it took 6.5 hours between Tokyo and Osaka by train. A commemorative ceremony was held this morning on Oct. 1, 2014 at Tokyo Station next to the first shinkansen departing at 6 am.


Original 0-series (1st generation) shinkansen at Maibara Station.

Shiga is fortunate to have Maibara Station as a shinkansen station. They first wanted Hikone to be the shinkansen station since it had a higher population, but construction would be more expensive and people in the Hokuriku Region (Fukui, Kanazawa, and Toyama) wanted Maibara Station since it was closer to them. After the shinkansen opened, people in the Hokuriku Region usually transferred trains at Maibara to go to Tokyo or Osaka. And those of us in northern Shiga lucked out with the shinkansen stopping at Maibara. (People in southern Shiga used Kyoto Station.) It was highly unusual to have a shinkansen station in a town (Maihara-cho) rather than a city. Of course, Maibara is now a city.

Generations of kids and adults alike are still awed whenever they see a shinkansen whizzing by. I have to say “Arigato” to the shinkansen for transporting me safely and quickly many times. Sometimes it wasn’t so comfortable when it was standing room only. For peak travel times, I wish they offered a cheaper, standing-room only ticket. I also wish they had more room for large pieces of luggage. I remember the double-decker shinkansen and dining room car on the upper deck. The first time I saw Mt. Fuji was from the shinkansen on a clear winter day. The attendant pushing the cart selling food and drinks used to look like a kitchen worker. Now they look like an airline stewardess. Lots of memories.

I’m posting photos of the original 0-series shinkansen trains. This is the original “bullet train” that was in service from 1964 to the mid-1980s on the Tokaido Shinkansen. The design of shinkansen trains has evolved dramatically since then, especially changes to the nose. Call me sentimental, but I never liked any of the latter nose designs (sometimes looking like a duckbill or platypus). Why tamper with perfection and a worldwide icon? The original bullet nose looked perfect to me.


First-generation Hikari shinkansen passing through Maibara Station.

If you’ve never seen the original 0-series shinkansen train, you should visit a train museum such as the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya and Railway Museum in Omiya (Saitama). In spring 2016, the Kyoto Railway Museum will open as well.

Here’s a good visual history of the shinkansen (in English): http://shinkansen.the-japan-news.com/index.html

Maibara Station is also celebrating the 50th anniversary with a weekend of fun and entertainment (especially for kids) on Oct. 11-12, 2014 from 10 am to 9 pm on Sat. and 10 am to 6 pm on Sun. (weather permitting). http://poppofes.com/

Shiga History July-September 2014

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s most important and interesting news headlines for July-September 2014 (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).


Taizo Mikazuki, Shiga’s new governor.

2014/7/2 10:34 Takashima’s incineration plant workers didn’t wear protective clothing despite excessive dioxin levels in incinerated waste for 7 years.
2014/7/6 7:29 So you think you know ninja? – The Japan News http://t.co/F8Spf4fuBL
2014/7/6 9:10 On the Minami-Kusatsu Station platform this morning, a local 28-year-old pregnant woman died after collapsing and hitting an oncoming train.
2014/7/9 10:16 Typhoon is expected to hit Shiga by this Friday. Avoid mountains and rivers for the next week.
2014/7/10 3:22 Shiga is currently under the fringe of the typhoon. Peak is expected to pass over tonight.
2014/7/10 7:21 Southern Shiga is getting more winds and rain than northern Shiga. As we saw last Sept., central Otsu can be very susceptible to flooding.
2014/7/11 3:39 No serious typhoon damage or flooding in Shiga have been reported. The typhoon did bring much needed rain this rainy season.
2014/7/11 3:43 Kudos to Kansai Art Beat for including exhibition schedules in English for major museums in Shiga. http://t.co/1m7zEOVEBS
2014/7/13 13:07 Shiga’s gubernatorial election results so far is showing a very close race between Taizo Mikazuki and Takashi Koyari. http://t.co/ifA75sbnzM
2014/7/13 13:30 With 31% of votes counted, Taizo Mikazuki (43), backed by Gov. Yukiko Kada, is declared Shiga’s Governor-elect.
2014/7/13 14:51 Shiga Governor-elect Taizo Mikazuki got a total of 253,728 votes, Takashi Koyari 240,652, and Ikuo Tsubota 53,280. http://t.co/wSXwaTQviS
2014/7/15 10:44 A new Heiwado store is rising right next to Nagahama Station. Supposed to open later this year. http://t.co/dtpZ3d2Cuh
2014/7/16 23:04 Today’s the 1st anniversary of Shiga Headlines. After 203 tweets, I find Twitter quite useful. Thanks for reading! http://t.co/5X0M89XIFw
2014/7/18 9:35 In her farewell speech today, Gov. Kada said that these 8 yrs were the most satisfying of her life. She has now left the building. #嘉田知事お疲れ様
2014/7/21 23:39 The rainy season ended in the Kinki Region yesterday according to the weatherman in Osaka.
2014/7/22 5:18 Built in 1939, the Shiga Prefectural Government Building will be designated as a National Tangible Cultural Property (登録有形文化財).
2014/7/22 13:50 Taizo Mikazuki reported to the Kencho today on his first day as the new Shiga Governor. He later went around and met with 10 local mayors.
2014/7/25 23:31 Yesterday was the hottest day of the year, with Nagahama reaching 36.2˚C, a new July record for the city. Even hotter than Otsu’s 34.9˚C.
2014/7/29 5:29 Ohmi High School beat Kita Ohtsu 4-0 today to represent Shiga at the national high school baseball tournament at Koshien this summer.
2014/8/4 7:55 Enjoyed Yanmar Museum in Nagahama. Even kids can operate a small excavator. Everything is in English too. http://t.co/j7v2M88efB
2014/8/5 15:25 On July 20, 2014, the JR Kosei Line celebrated its 40th anniversary at Omi-Imazu Station and aboard a special train. http://t.co/Bzq64waMly
2014/8/8 13:35 Famous for funazushi, nigorobuna carp in Lake Biwa has been increasing. Young nigorobuna increased from 280,000 in 1998 to 5.18 mil in 2012.
2014/8/9 0:30 Typhoon No. 11 (Halong) is expected to reach Shiga on the 10th around noon. Already raining in Shiga since yesterday.
2014/8/9 1:31 If you’re planning to attend any events this weekend, make sure it’s still on. Ibuki no Tenmado in Maibara has been canceled today.
2014/8/9 1:48 The Ishiyama-dera Sennichikai Seta River fireworks in Otsu scheduled for Aug. 9 has been canceled due to the expected typhoon. #石山寺花火大会中止
2014/8/9 9:52 JR Kusatsu Line is not running between Kibukawa and Tsuge Stations since 2:50 pm today due to heavy rain.
2014/8/9 9:59 Shin-Meishin Expressway between Koka-Tsuchiyama Interchange and Kameyama Junction in Mie is closed to traffic since 2:45 pm today.
2014/8/9 10:15 Landslide and/or flood warnings have been issued this afternoon for Ryuo, Hino, Otsu, Taga, Koka, Konan, Higashi-Omi, and Ritto.
2014/8/9 23:18 JR Kusatsu Line is not running between Kibukawa and Tsuge Stations all day today.
2014/8/9 23:22 Shin-Meishin Expressway between Kusatsu-Takami Interchange and Kameyama Junction in Mie is closed to traffic today.
2014/8/9 23:25 JR Biwako Line is running only 60% of normal train runs today. All Ohmi Railway Lines are not running.
2014/8/9 23:30 JR Kosei Line Shin-kaisoku (Special Rapid Service) trains are running only between Omi-Imazu and Tsuruga Stations.
2014/8/9 23:31 Typhoon No. 11 (Halong) is expected to come closest to Shiga this morning within the next few hours, especially on the west side.
2014/8/10 0:19 Shinkansen trains are not running between Gifu-Hashima and Maibara Stations.
2014/8/10 0:31 Shinkansen trains are running again between Gifu-Hashima and Maibara Stations.
2014/8/10 1:42 As of 10 am today, power outages are affecting 1,160 homes in Nagahama and 10 homes in Otsu.
2014/8/10 1:45 Trains are not running on the JR Tokaido Line between Kusatsu and Nagahama Stations since 9:49 am this morning.
2014/8/10 1:47 Trains are not running on the Hokuriku Line between Nagahama and Omi-Shiotsu Stations since 9:04 am this morning.
2014/8/10 1:54 滋賀の最新の台風11号情報はNHK大津放送局がよい。 http://t.co/2KK2aYroqs
2014/8/10 2:42 Power outage in Nagahama has been fixed, but some households in Higashi-Omi, Omi-Hachiman, and Otsu are without power as of 11 am.
2014/8/10 9:06 The worst part of the typhoon has left Shiga, but avoid mountains, hillsides, and rivers for possible landslides or flooding.
2014/8/10 9:16 On the JR Kosei Line, trains are not running between Omi-Maiko and Omi-Shiotsu Stations. Kyoto to Omi-Maiko trains are few and running slow.
2014/8/10 9:24 JR Hokuriku Line trains are still not running between Nagahama and Omi-Shiotsu Stations. Where trains are running, they are few and slow.
2014/8/10 9:29 Ohmi Railways is running only between Yokaichi and Omi-Hachiman Stations since 4:10 pm today.
2014/8/11 0:56 All flood/landslide warnings and evacuation advisories in Shiga were canceled last night. All JR & Omi Railways trains in Shiga are running.
2014/8/11 12:08 In Shiga, Typhoon No. 11 Halong injured 5, flooded 1 home (Koka), damaged crops like peaches (Ryuo), 30 ha of rice plants, grapes, soybeans.
2014/8/11 12:16 Ohmi High School is scheduled to play their first Koshien game against Naruto (Tokushima) on Aug. 16.
2014/8/15 14:50 Lake Biwa Museum now has three Little Grebe chicks on display. They hatched in captivity in late July. Watch the mother feed her chicks.
2014/8/15 14:50 To mark the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II today, about 300 temples and churches in Otsu rang their bells at noon for peace.
2014/8/16 9:11 Ohmi High School beat Naruto today 8-0 at their 1st Koshien game. Their 2nd game is on Aug. 21. Video digest: http://t.co/0GMsc4DYc0
2014/8/20 0:58 A small section of Hikone Castle’s lower-level stone wall in the uchibori moat has collapsed. Likely due to the typhoon and heavy rains.
2014/8/20 1:07 Shiga police wants 10% of its 2,000-member police force to be women by 2020. They will deal with female victims of stalkers, DV, etc.
2014/8/20 1:19 Shizu Elementary School students in Kusatsu will use tablets from the 2nd term to interact with the interactive whiteboard in the classroom.
2014/8/20 11:32 Shigaraki Kogen Railway is aiming to restore rail service on Nov. 29, 2014 as repairs have been progressing well.
2014/8/20 11:39 Beware of the venomous redback spider spotted in Kusatsu’s Yabase-cho island. Kill it if you see one. セアカゴケグモ http://t.co/ouComjdR3L
2014/8/21 7:38 Ohmi High School lost to Seiko Gakuin (Fukushima) 1-2 today despite a longtime lead of 1-0. Great game! Video digest: http://t.co/Ix4WZFtKWY
2014/8/22 12:40 Prompted by the Hiroshima mudslide tragedies, Otsu is inspecting areas vulnerable to mudslides. Don’t sleep in a room facing the mountain.
2014/8/23 13:58 Yesterday, a woman found a needle in her mouth while eating an onigiri she bought at a convenience store in Hikone. Police are on it.
2014/8/23 14:06 Lightning this afternoon set fire to 2 buildings in Higashi-Omi & Aisho and caused an hour-long power outage to 1,600 homes in Hikone.
2014/8/25 13:16 Shiga’s 6th graders and 3rd-year jr high students scored lower than the national average on scholastic achievement tests in April. #全国学力テスト
2014/8/25 13:36 Shiga Pref. Board of Education is calling it “a crisis situation” over the poor scholastic achievement test scores of 26,600 students. #全国学力テスト
2014/8/25 13:46 Although local boards of education now have the option to make scholastic achievement test results public, only Otsu and Ritto will do so.
2014/8/28 12:25 Southern Biwako is seeing abundant waterweeds this summer. It washes up on shore in Otsu & Kusatsu & smells bad. Action will be taken soon.
2014/9/1 15:39 New species of Gammaridea shrimp called Morino-yokoebi (モリノ ヨコエビ) has been discovered in household wells & riverbeds in Higashi-Omi & Taga.
2014/9/1 15:51 Hotel Biwa Dog in Hikone opened on Aug. 28 as Shiga’s first hotel allowing pet dogs to stay with guests. Dog amenities provided. #ホテルビワドッグ
2014/9/2 3:20 Today at 10:30 am, a JR Hokuriku Line Tokkyu train collided with a truck in Kinomoto and partially derailed. Train passengers uninjured.
2014/9/2 3:24 Due to the train accident this morning, the Hokuriku Line is currently not operating between Nagahama and Omi-Shiotsu Stations.
2014/9/2 9:21 The JR Hokuriku Line between Nagahama and Omi-Shiotsu Stations should be back in service tomorrow on Sept. 3. Will be closed all day today.
2014/9/3 13:05 The Half Marathon held in Moriyama every Dec. will be canceled this year due to a senior director embezzling ¥1.55 million from the event.
2014/9/4 5:04 祭りの二日前でもまだ案内情報がほとんど掲載されてない長浜あざいあっぱれ祭りのHP。長浜駅からのシャトルバスが運行されないことも知らせたらいいな。
2014/9/5 10:34 Reconstruction work started today on the Shigaraki Kogen Railway bridge that collapsed last Sept. due to Typhoon Man-Yi (No. 18).
2014/9/6 11:16 Heavy rain will continue to fall late tonight especially in southern Shiga and Koka. Beware of rivers, mudslides, gusts, and lightning.
2014/9/9 11:43 Shiga’s population is expected to peak at 1,420,000 in 2015 before declining. By 2040, only Kusatsu, Moriyama, & Ritto will see an increase.
2014/9/10 9:43 国際観光振興に携わる役所の職員が受講して欲しい研修です: http://t.co/fzZfiFOplg
2014/9/10 13:05 In the Kansai Region of six prefectures, Shiga has the highest suicide rate per 100,000 people per year (334 suicides in 2013). So sad.
2014/9/12 5:30 Japan has a record 58,820 centenarians, mostly women. Shiga has 549 of them. Oldest woman in the world is Okawa Misao, 116, in Osaka.
2014/9/17 23:51 A wind barrier will be built by Jan. 2016 between JR Kosei Line’s Shiga and Hira Stations to reduce train delays due to Hira mountain winds.
2014/9/22 1:17 A tourist couple fell ill on Sep. 21 after eating poisonous mushrooms (tsukiyotake) sold at Kutsuki Shin Honjin (michi-no-eki) in Takashima.
2014/9/22 10:59 Tonight at 8 pm, NHK TV Sogo will broadcast Part 1 of Tsurubei no Kazoku ni Kanpai program filmed in Otsu.
2014/9/22 14:38 They found 12 more people who fell ill from eating poisonous mushrooms sold at Kutsuki Shin Honjin (michi-no-eki) in Takashima.
2014/9/22 14:47 Mt. Mikami in Yasu has the same type of fragile-when-wet soil (masado) that caused Hiroshima’s fatal mudslides.
2014/9/22 14:54 Hikone Castle’s Horse Stable is being reroofed and the public can observe it on a special platform until next March.
2014/9/29 11:01 Tonight at 8 pm, NHK TV Sogo will broadcast Part 2 of Tsurubei no Kazoku ni Kanpai program filmed in Otsu. Should be very interesting.
2014/9/29 12:00 Enjoyed watching Tsurubei in Otsu on NHK TV. Nice PR for Otsu Matsuri & Enryakuji. 鶴瓶さん、また滋賀へおいでね! http://t.co/dAq2E8gn0M #鶴瓶の家族に乾杯
2014/9/29 12:28 Otsu and Kyoto are preparing to launch tourist boat rides on Lake Biwa Canal from spring 2015 on a trial basis. Not for the claustrophobic.

Shiga Prefecture at Tourism Expo Japan 2014



Updated: Sept. 30, 2014

Great fun and entertainment at the huge Tourism Expo Japan trade show held on September 27-28, 2014 for the public at Tokyo Big Sight. The expo had tourist booths from all 47 prefectures and 150 countries. A great place to pick up travel information, ask travel/sightseeing questions, see traditional Japanese crafts, and enjoy dances and entertainment from around Japan and the world. For the first time this year, they combined the domestic travel fair and the international travel showcase to create this new trade show. So it’s now one of the world’s largest travel/tourism trade shows. About 150,000 attended the expo (admission ¥1,300 for adults).

Lots of local food and entertainment too. Besides three large performance stages to showcase Japanese dances and festivals, many booths had their own mini stages for cultural entertainment like hula dancers at the Hawaii booth. I thoroughly enjoyed the expo and hope to see it every year from now on. Regretfully, I didn’t get to see everything in one day. So much stuff and so many things going on.

Shiga Prefecture had a medium-size booth and a 30-min. slot on one of the large entertainment stages.

One of the food courts also held a donburi (bowl of rice with a topping) contest where Shiga had a booth. Sixteen donburi booths sold donburi from various parts of Japan for ¥500 and we could vote for our favorite donburi. Very popular place for lunch.

Here are some photos of Shiga at Tourism Expo Japan 2014.


Shiga Prefecture’s booth.

Shiga’s booth represented only Hikone, Maibara, and Nagahama. But I didn’t see anything related to Maibara. Even Otsu wasn’t there. No Lake Biwa, no ninja either. Very puzzling. Perhaps the other cities did not have the budget for a booth. Or maybe the cities are taking turns at this expo, which still doesn’t make sense.


Shiga booth


Inside Shiga’s booth.

Shiga’s booth was mainly occupied by this space, supposedly for some kind of entertainment. But there was no schedule of who or what would appear. Hiko-nyan supposed to appear, but the staff I asked couldn’t tell me any specifics. At one small corner of the booth, they gave out brochures. Caffy was there too, but only sporadically. The booth’s emphasis was on Hikone Castle billed as on the “World Heritage Site Tentative List” which is really nothing to brag about. And Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri being included in Japan’s application for inclusion in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list (to join Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri floats). This is also nothing to brag about, not until it actually makes the list. Really couldn’t understand this booth.



Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri musicians on stage.


Nagahama Hikiyama musicians on stage. Extreme left is the mayor of Nagahama. They all looked too serious and glum.

On September 27, 2014, Shiga had a 30-min. slot on the large Stage A from 2 pm. First the mayor of Nagahama gave a short speech, then these musicians from the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival played while the large screen above projected a video of the festival.


Nagahama Hikiyama singer was excellent.

Nagahama Hikiyama narrator-singer was excellent.


Nagahama Hikiyama Festival kabuki dancer.

Following the Nagahama Hikiyama musicians, this young kabuki dancer performed with live narrator-singers. He was very good. But I wish there were at least two or three of them.



Hiko-nyan’s turn on stage.

Hiko-nyan promoting mascot character festival.

Hiko-nyan promoting mascot character festival.

Following the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival introduction was Hiko-nyan’s appearance. Still a shutterbug’s darling, he only had to walk left and right on stage and pose for cell phone photos. Although Kumamon and Funasshi have overtaken Hiko-nyan in terms of fame and popularity, Hiko-nyan remains popular. Disappointed that nothing from Maibara was featured on stage. They should’ve brought Maibara’s taiko drum dancers.


Shiga donburi

Shiga donburi

An eatery in Shiga had this donburi booth (left) for lunch. Unfortunately, it was right next to the super popular Kobe beef booth (right) which always had long lines. As you can see, the Shiga booth wasn’t crowded at all. It served a rice bowl with a topping of Omi beef, pork, and chicken.


Shiga’s donburi




Hikone butsudan maker

The expo had a traditional crafts area with traditional crafts people giving live demos. Shiga had two two crafts booths. One was this Hikone butsudan (Buddhist altar) maker. I had a nice talk with this master craftsman from Hikone. He builds the altar doors. The sculptured wooden parts are made in Maibara (Samegai). He makes several hundred butsudan every year. He even makes altars for Buddhist temples and repairs butsudan too. Seems very busy. He said I could visit and see him work in Hikone. Yep, I will do so. The butsudan on the left behind him showed a price tag of 1,641,600 yen.


Omi jofu hemp cloth

Omi jofu hemp cloth 近江上布

Besides the butsudan maker, there was a booth for weaving Omi jofu (hemp cloth) from Aisho. Happy to see not one, but two crafts people from Shiga. You could try and weave the cloth yourself.


Miss Sansa Odori from Morioka, Iwate.

Miss Sansa Odori from Morioka, Iwate.

I wasn’t too impressed with Shiga’s booth and stage presentation. They need to have better spokespersons on stage like these two Miss Sansa Odori from Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. They had bright, smiling faces and a welcome tone of voice. Not only that, they could dance too. Sansa Odori is a native dance of Morioka performed in August. The tourism expo was like a virtual tour of Japan at one place. Highly recommend it.

Sansa Odori dancers from Morioka, Iwate.

Sansa Odori dancers from Morioka, Iwate.





October 2014 autumn festivals and events in Shiga Prefecture

Here are some recommended autumn/fall festivals (matsuri) and events in Shiga in October 2014. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.)

Updated: Oct. 17, 2014


Former Hachiman YMCA, the first building designed by Vories in 1907.

October 4-November 3, 2014
♦ W.M. Vories 50th Memorial in Omi-Hachiman, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (enter by 4 pm)
To mark the 50th anniversary of William Merrell Vories’ passing on May 7, 1964, a month-long event will be held in Omi-Hachiman where you can see and sometimes enter around ten of the buildings he designed in central Omi-Hachiman. Some of the buildings will include panel exhibitions, and some buildings cannot be entered. Born in Kansas, Vories (1880-1964) moved to Omi-Hachiman in 1905 to work as an English teacher while engaging in Christian missionary activities. He always had an interest in architecture and never had formal training as an architect, but he studied on his own and opened his own architectural firm in Omi-Hachiman in 1908. He and his firm went on to design numerous buildings in Shiga and other places in Japan.

Admission is ¥1,500 for adults (¥1,200 for college students and free for high school and younger kids). Buy your ticket (“passport”) at Hakuunkan hall (near Hachiman-bori Canal) where they will give you a map to all the buildings on the tour. The entire tour is about 2.5 km. There’s no tour guide (except inside the buildings that you can enter) so you just walk on your own. The highlights are his former residence’s living room and the large Hyde Memorial Building inside Omi Kyodaisha Gakuen (Omi Brotherhood Schools). Also interesting is the Andrews Memorial Hall, the first building designed by William Merrell Vories. It was formerly the Hachiman YMCA.

For an extra ¥2,000, you can take a special 2-hour bus tour (called “Tokubetsu Kanran Course” 特別観覧コース) to see and enter two private homes designed by Vories. The bus tour is held on Mondays and Fridays, leaving at 10 am and 3 pm. Reservations required (send email to 50@vories.jp). These homes are outside central Omi-Hachiman such as in Azuchi. Also on the bus tour is the chapel within the Vories Memorial Hospital. Mini lectures (in Japanese) and concerts will also be held during the month (schedule in Japanese here). A similar event was held in 2009 and you can see my photos of the Vories buildings (and maps) in Omi-Hachiman. Hakuunkan hall is an 8-min. bus ride from JR Omi-Hachiman Station’s north exit. Go to bus stop 6 and board the bus going to Chomeiji. Get off at Shinmachi (新町) or Osugicho (大杉町). Map | Photos
ヴォーリズ・メモリアルin近江八幡 ~没後50年記念~

October 4-5, 2014
♦ Art in Nagahama 2014, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (till 4 pm on 5th)
Art works by a few hundred artists from all over Japan will be displayed in central Nagahama. Paintings, pottery, sculptures, etc. Artists will be at booths along the streets in the neighborhood of Kurokabe Square and the Hikiyama Museum. Artist performances (live painting, etc.) will also be held. Art will be for sale. Near JR Nagahama Station. Map

Odani Castle

Odani Castle

October 5, 2014
♦ Odani Castle Furusato Matsuri, Odani Castle Park, Nagahama, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Local hometown festival honoring the Azai Clan who lived in Odani Castle. They include Lord Azai Nagamasa and his wife O-Ichi (sister of Oda Nobunaga) and their famous three daughters known as the Azai sister trio (Chacha, Go, Hatsu). The festival includes a samurai costume parade (at 2:25 pm), stage entertainment (all day), falconry demo (at 1:55 pm), food booths, flea market, and mochi tossing (at 2:55 pm). Games and stuff for kids too. A shuttle bus going up to Odani Castle will also depart at the nearby bus stop at 9:45 am, 10:30 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 1:45 pm, and 2:30 pm (500 yen roundtrip). A guide will give a tour of the castle in Japanese. Lot easier/faster than walking up the mountain. The adjacent Odani Castle History Museum will also be free. From JR Kawake Station, take a bus for Odani-jo Atoguchi (小谷城址口) taking 10 min. Map

October 8, 2014
♦ Zensuiji Candlelight Ceremony (Zensuiji Sento-e), Konan, 5:00 pm
Zensuiji is a National Treasure and one of Shiga’s most beautiful temples. They will light over 1,000 candles around the temple’s Hondo main hall at 5 pm. A prayer service will start at 6 pm, followed by a concert at 7 pm. Oct. 8 is the temple’s festival day for Yakushi Nyorai (the buddha of healing and medicine) that it worships. From JR Kosei Station (North exit) on the JR Kusatsu Line, catch the Megurukun community bus bound for Shimoda (下田) and get off at Iwane 岩根. From there, you still have to walk 10 min. Follow the signs (if you can read Japanese). Note that to go back to the Kosei Station, the last bus leaves Iwane at 6:20 pm. Map
善水寺 千灯会

Otsu Matsuri festival eve.

October 11-12, 2014
Otsu Matsuri Festival, streets north of JR Otsu Station, sunset till 9 pm on the 11th, 9:00 am-5:30 pm on 12th
One of Shiga’s major festivals with thirteen ornate floats displayed and paraded around central Otsu over two days. The first day of the festival has the floats parked and displayed on the streets and lit up in the evening (Yoimiya) with musicians playing on or near the floats. Very enjoyable. The second day is the festival climax with an all-day procession of all the floats highlighted by occasional performances of karakuri mechanical puppets on the floats (see this post for details about the puppets). It’s not so crowded so it’s easy to get around, take photos, etc. Held by Tenson Shrine in Otsu. At Otsu Station, there will be a festival information booth where you can pick up maps of the parade route. Parade route is within walking distance from Otsu Station. Map | Video | Photos

Maibara Hikiyama Festival

Maibara Hikiyama Festival

October 11-13, 2014
Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri Festival, near Maibara Station, afternoon and evening
Held annually by Yutani Shrine, festival with two ornate floats pulled around the streets mainly on the east side of JR Maibara Station. Like the Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri, the floats have young boys performing kabuki. There are three floats and most years only two floats appear. Each float will be paraded and parked at certain spots for kabuki performances three or four times each day. If you go from around noon to around 9 or 10 pm, you’ll see one or two of the floats sooner or later. Exact show times in Japanese. Map | Video | Photos

Shigaraki Pottery Festival

Shigaraki Pottery Festival

October 11-13, 2014
♦ Shigaraki Pottery Festival 2014 and Shigaraki Ceramic Art Market, Koka, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Shigaraki Pottery Festival is an outdoor pottery fair at a few venues are in central Shigaraki near Shigaraki Station. Many pottery pieces large and small are displayed in parking lots, tents, etc.

At the same time, the Shigaraki Ceramic Art Market is held at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park (Togei no Mori), a short bus ride away. Ceramics artists have their own tent booths selling their wares. A great time to visit Shigaraki.
Note that the Shigaraki Kogen Railway is out of service and buses are running instead between Kibukawa and Shigaraki Stations. You can also take a bus (帝産湖南交通バス) from JR Ishiyama Station in Otsu and get off at Shigaraki Shisho (信楽支所). Map | Photos
信楽セラミック・アート・マーケット in 陶芸の森

October 12, 2014
♦ Daidogei (Street Performance) Festa in Toragozen, Nagahama (Torahime Ikigai Center 虎姫生きがいセンター), 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Several top-notch street performers will perform on stage, including a Chinese acrobat. The venue will also have food stalls and other entertainment. Performance schedule here. Free admission. The venue is a 10-min. walk from JR Torahime Station. Map

October 12, 2014
♦ Hoko Matsuri, Nagahama, 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Procession of people and kids dressed in samurai costume marching from Hokoku Shrine (豊国神社) to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine and back. They impersonate Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his “Seven Spears” samurai who won the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583. It’s a not grand procession, but if you happen to be there that day, it’s worth seeing. Map

Koka Ninja Village

Koka Ninja Village

October 12, 2014
♦ All-Japan Ninja Contest, Koka, 12:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Koka Ninja Village (Koka-no-Sato) will holds it annual ninja contest for up to 100 contestants competing in shuriken knife throwing, walking on water, castle wall climbing, etc. Contestants must be high school age or older. (The call for contestants has already ended.) The winner and runner-up get a trophy and free trip overseas (last year it was to Guam). The public is invited to watch the contestants. Admission is ¥1,030 for adults (cheaper for kids). A free shuttle bus will run from JR Koka Station‘s North exit. Map

Mascot Character Expo in Hikone

October 18-19, 2014
♦ Local Mascot Character Expo in Hikone (Gotochi Kyara-haku in Hikone 2014), Hikone, Yume Kyobashi Castle Road and Yonbancho Square, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Large gathering of many lovable mascots called “yuru-kyara” (now called gotochi-kyara due to trademark infringement problems) from Shiga and most other prefectures. The mascot star will be Hiko-nyan. There will be booths to show off whatever they are showing off. Mainly tourist destinations and products. Besides posing with the mascots for pictures, there will be stage entertainment. Note that Hiko-nyan will be untouchable. You can’t take pictures with him. They changed the name of this event from Yuru-kyara Matsuri in Hikone. Some 80,000 visitors are expected during the two days. Map | Video | Photos
ご当地キャラ博in彦根 2014

October 18, 2014
♦ Nagahama Kimono Garden Party (Kimono Enyu-kai), Nagahama, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Central Nagahama will be a colorful sight with 1,000 women age 18-40 walking around dressed in kimono from 10 am. At 2:30 pm, they will all gather at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine for a grand prize drawing. Prizes include overseas trips and expensive kimono. A few hundred other prizes from local merchants and gift certificates will also be given away. You have to register here by Oct. 6 to participate in the drawing (and wear a kimono on the party day). Participants will receive a gift certificate worth 1,000 yen by signing in at Nagahama City Hall (main building) during 10 am – 11 am. All within walking distance from JR Nagahama StationMap

Yahei super hot chili peppers

Yahei super hot chili peppers. Image courtesy of fmcraic.com.

October 18, 2014
♦ Yahei Spicy-Hot Food Summit 2014 (Yahei Gekikara Summit), Ameyama Cultural Sports Park (Shukuba no Sato), Konan, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
This new event replaces the Konan City Local B-kyu Gourmet event held until 2013. A contest of spicy foods made with yahei chili peppers and sold by food booths in the park. The winner will receive a cash award and a free, year-long PR by the city of Konan. “Yahei” is the name of the man in Konan who brought over yahei hot chili peppers from Korea about 100 years ago. These orange yahei chili peppers are super hot. They will also hold the Ishibe-juku Matsuri Festival at the same time/place. From JR Ishibe Station, community buses leave about once an hour (bus schedule here). Get off at Ishibe Chugakko 5 min. later and walk a bit to the park. Map

October 18-19, 2014
♦ Hino History Walk and Autumn Saijiki Window Art, Hino, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Central Hino will be colorful and buzzing with art and entertainment during this weekend. While the town’s main road (from Okubo to Murai) is accented with saijiki windows decorated with a red cloth, you will find musical performances, rickshaw rides, games for kids, art exhibits, and more. One of the Hino Matsuri floats will also be on display. See the Website for photos of last year’s event. Map

October 19, 2014
♦ Seta Karahashi Bridge East-West Tug of War (Seta Karahashi Tozai Tsunahiki Gassen), Otsu, 2 pm
A hundred people on the east end (in red samurai armor T-shirts) and a hundred on the west end  (in blue samurai armor T-shirts) will pull a 200-meter, red-and-white rope on the famous Seta-no-Karahashi Bridge that was recently repainted. A raucous spectacle first held in Oct. 2013. Fringe events include food/souvenir stalls and stage entertainment near the bridge starting at 10 am. Also, free boat rides on the Seta River. Map | Video

Until November 9, 2014 (closed Thursdays)
♦ BIWAKO Biennale 2014, Omi-Hachiman, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Held for the 6th time, the BIWAKO Biennale showcases the work of about 60 artists in Omi-Hachiman’s traditional townscape area. Art exhibitions will be in former merchant homes, traditional houses, and a sake factory. A blend of modern art and traditional Japanese buildings. Workshops for kids by the artists, and concerts in various places. Advance tickets ¥1,800 (available at Lawson) or ¥2,000 at the door.

Until November 9, 2014 (closed Oct. 20 and 27)
♦ Yellow catfish exhibit at Lake Biwa MuseumKusatsu, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Live display of a rare yellow catfish endemic to Lake Biwa is at the museum’s aquarium. It is a medium-size species called Iwatoko-namazu (イワトコナマズ Silurus lithophilus) in Japanese. It is not the large Lake Biwa Giant Catfish which can also be yellow. This species normally live in rocky waters in northern Lake Biwa. Map


Sengoku Taiga Kinomoto-kan

Until Dec. 28, 2014
♦ Kuroda Kanbe’e Expo
Nagahama, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Yet another “expo” (an overkill name) based on another year-long NHK Taiga Drama. This is the third such expo held in Nagahama in recent years. The drama this time is Gunshi Kanbei airing on NHK-G on Sunday evenings until Dec. 2014. The subject is Kuroda Kanbe’e (also called Kanbei and Yoshitaka), a samurai daimyo and brilliant military strategist for warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the 16th century. Although he was from Himeji, the Kuroda clan supposedly came from Omi (Shiga). This thin connection prompted Nagahama to hold year-long, small-scale exhibitions in Kinomoto and central Nagahama.

The main exhibition is in Kinomoto. It’s in a western-style, former bank building called Sengoku Taiga Kinomoto-kan (戦国大河きのもと館). A short walk from JR Kinomoto Station. The building, nicknamed Drama-kan, has exhibits introducing the characters in the Taiga Drama. No English captions. The display layout is very similar to the last expo held there in 2012. Admission is 300 yen for adults, free for kids. Open every day. Map

Also, a 10-min. walk from Kinomoto Station is the Kuroda Clan gravesite (黒田家御廟所) for six generations of the Kuroda Clan who lived in this area for 200 years. Nearby is a resthouse. Free admission. Map

The second exhibition venue is Nagahama Castle near JR Nagahama Station. Called Rekishi-kan, it mainly explains the historical background, slanted toward Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Admission is 400 yen, and 200 yen for elementary and jr. high kids (free for infants). Open every day. Map

If you plan to visit the venues in both Kinomoto and Nagahama, it is cheaper to buy the “set ticket” costing 500 yen. Expo tickets are sold at all the venues. The “set ticket” includes a bus tour called the Oku-Biwako Omotenashi Bus leaving Kinomoto Station and Takatsuki Station on weekends. It tours northern Nagahama to the Drama-kan in Kinomoto, the Kuroda Clan gravesite, and a few Kannon temples and museum in Takatsuki. Bus departure times are on the pamphlet here (in Japanese).

A minor venue is the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum. It just has a few panel displays about Kuroda and the Taiga Drama. It’s in the lobby area and free. Pay the admission if you want to see Hikiyama Matsuri floats. Map

For art and museum exhibitions in Shiga, see Kansai Art Beat’s exhibition schedule for Shiga museums.

Festivals, events, and autumn foliage in November 2014 coming soon.