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.

Sept. 2014 festivals and events in Shiga Prefecture

Here are some recommended autumn/fall events and festivals in Shiga in September 2014.

Link for video above: http://youtu.be/61q1TvodzOs

September 6, 2014
♦ Nagahama-Azai Appare Matsuri, Nagahama, 9 am – 9:00 pm
A big yosakoi dance contest and festival with about 30 teams from Shiga and elsewhere. See over 1,000 dancers performing at Azai Bunka Sports Park (浅井文化スポーツ公園). The teams will dance in the morning on two stages. Sem-finalists will dance at 1:20 pm, and the finalists will dance at 7 pm. In between, there will be other performances and activities like flag waving, mochi throwing, and singers. It will end with fireworks at 8:40 pm. In case of bad weather, will be postponed to the next day. Shuttle buses will be provided only from the Azai Branch of Nagahama City Hall (no buses from Nagahama Station). Map

September 6-21, 2014
Genkyuen Garden Insect Chirping Concert, Hikone, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm (enter by 8:30 pm)
Genkyuen Garden next to Hikone Castle will be open in the evenings in September. If you miss the cicadas in summer, you can still hear insects chirping in the garden that will be lit up along with Hikone Castle in the background. Matcha tea will be served at cost and free gagaku and koto performances will be held on the weekends. Admission ¥500. Near JR Hikone Station. Map

September 6-8, 2014
Ishiyama-dera Temple Autumn Moon Viewing, Otsu, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
The temple grounds will be adorned with about 2,000 lanterns while the huge Ishiyama rock and National Treasure Tahoto Pagoda will be lit up. The temple also has a Moon-Viewing Pavilion. The Hondo main hall will also have stage performances. The event coincides with the Harvest Moon. The autumn moon over Ishiyama-dera was made famous by woodblock prints by Hiroshige. Admission ¥500. Near JR Ishiyama Station. Map
石山寺 秋月祭

Hikone Castle

Hikone Castle illuminated at night.

September 6 to December 7, 2014
♦ Hikone Castle Illumination, Hikone, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
The tenshu castle tower, inner moat stone walls, and turrets will be lit up in the evenings.
光の祝祭 彦根城ライトアップ ひこね夢灯路

September 13-14, 2014
♦ Inazuma Rock Fes, Karasuma Peninsula, Kusatsu, 2:00 pm – 8:00 pm (both days)
Annual outdoor rock concert hosted by pop singer T.M. Revolution Nishikawa Takanori who is from Yasu. Different artists will perform on both nights. Part of the concert proceeds will be used for Shiga’s environmental preservation.
Shuttle buses to the concert site provided for 1,100 yen roundtrip. Board at Nomura Undo Koen Park, 10-min. walk from JR Kusatsu Station. Advance concert tickets ¥9,200 per night. Map

September 13-14, 2014
♦ Hachiman-bori Matsuri Festival, Omi-Hachiman, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm (both days)
Hachiman-bori Canal and adjacent roads will be dotted with little candlelight lanterns. Concerts are also scheduled. Map

September 13 to 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.

Hinade Shrine

Sumo odori dance at Hinade Shrine

September 15, 2014
♦ Hinade Shrine Sumo Odori Dance, Maibara, 1:00 pm –
Near JR Sakata Station (Hokuriku Line) is Mt. Hinodeyama with Hinode Jinja Shrine holding an annual sumo festival. It features mainly children’s sumo and a sumo jinku singing dance by about 16 men dressed in ceremonial aprons. Sumo matches are also held among the kids and men. Map | PhotosVideo
日撫神社 奉納角力・角力おどり

Suijo Hachiman Shrine Taiko Drum Dance

Suijo Hachiman Shrine Taiko Drum Dance

September 23, 2014
Suijo Hachiman Shrine Taiko Drum Dance, Maibara, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Held only once every 5 years, Suijo Hachiman Jinja Taiko Odori is a colorful and unique rain-making and rain thanksgiving taiko drum dance held by Suijo Hachiman Shrine in Maibara. It starts with a procession slowly proceeding along 1 km to Suijo Hachiman Shrine. They include yakko-furi samurai laborers with their painted faces and bellies, yamabushi ascetic priests, flutists, and taiko drummers. Map | Photos | Video
春照八幡神社 太鼓おどり

September 23, 2014
♦ Buratto Gokasho Town Walk, Gokasho, Higashi-Omi, all day
Some 100 people dressed as Omi-shonin merchants will parade along central Gokasho at 1 pm. A number of festivities and entertainment will be held from the morning, A few Omi merchant homes normally closed to the public will also be open and temple and shrine treasures will be displayed in Gokasho. Gokasho is famous for the grand, old homes of wealthy Omi merchants who traveled all over Japan selling cloth, lacquerware, medicines, etc. Near Ohmi Railways Gokasho Station. Map

Biwako Ohashi Bridge

50-year-old Biwako Ohashi Bridge

September 28, 2014
♦ Biwako Ohashi Bridge 50th Anniversary Event, Moriyama and Otsu, 9:30 am –
The great Biwako Ohashi Bridge crossing the neck of Lake Biwa’s panhandle between Moriyama and Katata (Otsu) opened 50 years ago on this day. 1964 was also when the shinkansen “bullet train” started running and when the Tokyo Olympics were held. To celebrate, they will block part of the bridge to vehicular traffic and allow pedestrians on the bridge to release balloons (I hope they won’t be harmful to the environment), form a human chain, and do radio taiso exercises. Fishing boat and lake cruises will also depart from Pieri Moriyama (defunct shopping mall) and from the Biwako Ohashi Kome Plaza Michinoeki market in Katata. Map

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

Shiga festivals and events in October 2014 here.