Shiga History October-December 2014

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s most important and interesting news headlines for October-December 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).


Shigaraki Station’s giant tanuki welcomes train line’s restart. (Photo by Jamie Thompson)

2014/10/4 15:20 Due to Typhoon No. 18 (Phanfone), heavy rain is expected in Shiga from the evening of Oct. 5 to the 6th.
2014/10/5 11:16 On Oct. 6, JR Kusatsu Line will not be running from the morning. Fewer trains will run on the JR Tokaido/Biwako and Kosei Lines.
2014/10/5 11:22 Powerful Typhoon No. 18 (Phanfone) is expected to be closest to Shiga from daybreak on Oct. 6. Avoid mountains and rivers.
2014/10/6 2:36 Tokaido Shinkansen is still not running between Tokyo and Nagoya. JR Tokaido Line is also blocked by a landslide in Shizuoka.
2014/10/6 2:45 Tokaido Shinkansen has just started running between Tokyo and Shizuoka.
2014/10/7 12:40 Scenic Sugaura in Nagahama was officially designated as Japan’s 44th Important Cultural Landscape on Oct. 6. #重要文化的景観
2014/10/8 7:15 Uploaded my new Otsu Matsuri video shot in Oct 2013. Good to watch if you plan to see the festival this weekend. #大津祭
2014/10/9 13:04 Shiga food & crafts fair “Ee-mon Umai-mon Matsuri” being held until Oct. 14 at Seibu Otsu. Funazushi, Omi beef, etc.
2014/10/9 13:54 The approaching Typhoon No. 19 (Vongfong) might or might not affect Shiga this weekend. Still too early to tell.
2014/10/10 8:36 Otsu Matsuri will go on as planned this weekend, but if there are typhoon winds, they may cancel it even after the parade starts.
2014/10/12 12:08 Typhoon No. 19 (Vongfong) expected to rain on Shiga on Oct.13, peaking late at night. Great that it didn’t ruin this weekend (Otsu Matsuri).
2014/10/12 14:33 A mama bear and two cubs were spotted in Maibara on the road near the Ibuki Kumin Grounds on Oct. 10 at 11:40 am. クマは殺さないでください!!
2014/10/12 14:34 All Ohmi Railway trains will stop running on Oct. 13 from 4 pm due to expected typhoon winds.
2014/10/12 15:06 JR and other train lines will likely stop running all trains from around 3 pm or 4 pm on Oct. 13 in the Kansai and Kinki areas.
2014/10/13 4:18 You can check the JR train lines’ current status in English here:
2014/10/13 12:30 The typhoon is now covering all of Shiga. Higashi-Omi, Koka, and Konan are getting much rain. Typhoon winds expected to last until daybreak.
2014/10/16 12:55 Number of bullying cases in Shiga’s 397 public schools reached a record high of 1,288 cases last school year. BOE says 95% were resolved.
2014/10/16 13:01 Shigaraki Kogen Railway’s 14.7 km railroad was completely reconnected today after the collapsed bridge’s reconstruction. Wait till Nov. 29.
2014/10/16 13:12 The unique sumo ring (built in 1988) near JR Azuchi Station will be dismantled due to redevelopment of the area.
2014/10/16 13:22 Hikone’s Josei Elementary School and Rose Park Primary School in Adelaide, Australia became sister schools at a ceremony on Oct. 8. #城西小学校
2014/10/17 12:23 Rare yellow catfish on display at Lake Biwa Museum until Nov. 9. Caught last Sept. Medium size, not the big Lake Biwa Catfish. #イワトコナマズ
2014/10/28 3:22 This season’s first cold winter winds (kogarashi) blew on Oct. 27 in Kinki, 8 days sooner than last year. Kosei Line trains were delayed.
2014/10/29 14:05 A folder of papers showing the contact/personal info of all 716 students of Maibara High School vanished from the teacher’s room in Sept.
2014/10/29 14:09 Shiga BOE found that besides Maibara H.S.,10 other Shiga high schools did not keep personal info docs under lock and key. Now they do.
2014/10/30 15:49 Multiple sightings of bears in past few days in Nagahama & Maibara. Spotted on backyard persimmon trees in Nose, Yashima, & Minami-ike.
2014/10/30 15:55 48 bear sightings in Nagahama/Maibara in Oct. Beware of bears in mountains and forests at dawn and sunset. Hikers should carry noisemakers.
2014/10/30 15:59 Bears are not finding enough food in the mountains so they are invading populated areas. Don’t keep fruits on trees or any edibles outside.
2014/11/1 2:49 A 47-year-old in the Shiga Prefectural Gov’t Statistics Section got fired for drunk driving in Aug. The car overturned in a paddy in Yasu.
2014/11/1 2:51 Omi Jingu Yabusame horseback archery will be on Nov. 3 at 1 pm. Just uploaded my video of last year’s event.
2014/11/2 3:41 Kusatsu’s 6th graders and 3rd-year jr high students scored higher than the national average in 6 subjects on scholastic achievement tests.
2014/11/2 4:07 Besides scholastic achievement test results, Kusatsu BOE released other stats like kids’ cell phone and study habits.
2014/11/4 11:09 On Yasu’s 10th anniversary, official mascot Dotaku-kun got a complete makeover with a wider body & light green color.
2014/11/4 12:21 As of Oct. 1, 2014, Shiga’s population declined year-on-year for the first time in 48 years with 452 fewer people. This trend will continue.
2014/11/10 11:17 Funazushi ice cream (with raspberry sauce) & other new local food now at Aeon supermarket, Nagahama Branch. #ふなずしアイス
2014/11/13 10:11 At Minakuchi-Okayama Castle site in Koka, they found remains of not one, but two tenshu-type towers on the east and west of the Honmaru.
2014/11/14 11:54 RT @japantimes: 1922 Einstein-autographed postcard turns up at Shiga museum
2014/11/16 3:19 NHK Nodo Jiman TV program now airing from Omi-Hachiman. With Godai Natsuko and Satomi Kotaro.
2014/11/20 15:24 Shiga Prefecture and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam signed pact of economic cooperation on Nov. 13 to make it mutually easier to do business.
2014/11/28 12:02 Fall foliage at Zensuiji temple (National Treasure) in Konan is at its peak now. #善水寺
2014/11/29 3:16 After 14 months of repairs, Shigaraki Kogen Railway started running again today from 9:30 am at Shigaraki Station amid much fanfare. #信楽高原鐵道
2014/12/1 17:28 Shiga Bank and Canadia Bank, one of Cambodia’s largest banks, have agreed to form a business partnership later his month.
2014/12/2 10:05 Inspired by the Lake Biwa Rowing Song in English, Linda Birmingham in the UK created and performed her own version:
2014/12/2 10:09 Overhead monitors on the JR Biwako/Tokaido Line tracking the train stations are great. Displays train delay info too.
2014/12/2 10:11 Christmas lights at JR Moriyama Station’s west side.
2014/12/4 16:38 Heavy snowfall is expected in northern Takashima/Nagahama on Dec. 5-6.
2014/12/5 17:26 Toray’s new factory completed in Maibara will double the production of carbon fiber auto parts. The lighter carbon fiber is replacing metal.
2014/12/6 5:17 This morning, Hikone saw its first snowfall this season, a week earlier than usual. And Yogo in Nagahama got dumped with 25.5 cm of snow.
2014/12/8 13:17 Shigaraki Kogen Railway’s “Santa Train” is making 2 roundtrips daily until Dec 24. (Tanuki photo by Jamie Thompson.)
2014/12/10 9:40 In Ryuo, since this afternoon, a man has been hanging from power lines after his motorized paraglider got caught. Rescuers are on the scene.
2014/12/11 6:25 Everyone in Japan has now heard of Ryuo thanks to a local 59-year-old male paraglider who got stuck 3 hr yesterday. Made national headlines.
2014/12/17 16:40 Under new ownership, Pieri Moriyama shopping mall reopened on Dec. 17 with many new shops attracting a large crowd.
2014/12/18 14:43 I welcome any English sites/blogs dedicated to Shiga if they are serious about it. They can understand how much passion+work is required.
2014/12/18 14:48 Here’s a photo blog in English about hiking. Dave has hiked on most of Shiga’s trails. A good photographer to boot.
2014/12/18 14:58 If you’re into small aquatic animals, see Dr. Robin Smith’s page about ostracods (seed shrimps) in Lake Biwa:
2014/12/18 15:08 More snow is expected tonight especially in northern Shiga. Also beware of the flu going around. What a dump of snow Nagoya got today.
2014/12/19 11:08 Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi stated that the Lower House elections on Dec. 14 were unnecessary, and they should instead focus on the economy.
2014/12/19 11:16 Shiga Prefectural police worker in his 30s nabbed using his cellphone to snap upskirt photos of a woman in a Higashi-Omi bookstore in Sept.
2014/12/19 11:28 Takashima’s incinerated refuse is still stuck in the city as their old dump in Kobe continues to reject their waste even with lower dioxins.

To Shiga history January-March 2015

Autumn festivals and foliage November 2014 in Shiga Prefecture

Recommended festivals, events, exhibitions, and autumn leaves in Shiga Prefecture in November 2014. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.) Compiled by Philbert Ono. Updated: Nov. 5, 2014

Video link:

Omi Shrine Yabusame

Omi Shrine Yabusame

November 3, 2014
♦ Omi Jingu Shrine Yabusame Horseback Archery, Otsu, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
One of Shiga’s largest shrines, Omi Jingu will hold horseback archery on this national holiday known as Culture Day. The festival starts with a ceremony at 12:30 pm in the Haiden worship hall and the archery begins at 1 pm along the main path to the shrine serving as the horse track. Expert archers from the Takeda School of Mounted Archery (from Kamakura) will perform. Reserved seating is also available for 500 yen. Call the shrine at 077-522-3725 to make reservations. Otherwise, get there early to get a good spot (standing room only). Good to see it this year since it’s the Year of the Horse. The shrine is also famous for clocks and karuta tournaments. Near Omi Jingu-mae Station on the Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto Line. Map | Video | Photos

November 3, 2014
♦ Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade, Hikone Castle, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Very elaborate costume parade of mainly kids dressed as samurai and Edo-Period ladies. Highlights include the Hikone Gun Battalion giving a matchlock gun demo (in front of Horse Stable), Ii Naosuke played by an actor on horseback, fireman acrobatics, and Sarugaku dancers. The parade route starts from Joto Elementary School and proceeds along the road to the castle and passes in front of the Umaya Horse Stable. Video here. Short walk from JR Hikone Station. Map | Video | Photos

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

November 8-9, 2014
♦ Shiga-Biwako Brand Fair, JR Osaka Station (Osaka Station City 1st floor), 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
This event is not in Shiga, but in Osaka. It’s a Shiga products fair where you can taste and buy stuff from Shiga. There will also be stage entertainment such as mascots from Shiga. Hiko-nyan is scheduled to appear on Nov. 8 at 11:30 am and 2 pm. Crafts people will also demonstrate the making of Omi-jofu hemp cloth and Hikone Buddhist altars.

Hiyoshi Taisha torii lit up in autumn.

November 15-30, 2014
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine Maple Festival Light-up, Otsu
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine at the foot of Mt. Hie in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture is the head shrine for all Hiyoshi, Hie, and Sanno Shrines in Japan (around 2,000). The spacious grounds includes two shrines that are National Treasures and 3,000 maple trees lit up at night 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm during this period. Even the green leaves look great against the dark sky. Highly recommended if you’re in that part of the city. Near Hiezan Sakamoto Station on the JR Kosei Line and Keihan Line’s Sakamoto Station. Map | Photos



November 22-30, 2014
♦ Koto Sanzan Temple Trio autumn foliage, Kora, Aisho, and Higashi-Omi
Koto Sanzan (湖東三山) is a trio of large Tendai Buddhist temples in eastern Shiga: Saimyoji (西明寺) in Kora, Kongorinji (金剛輪寺) in Aisho, and Hyakusaiji (百済寺) in Higashi-Omi. They are famous for autumn leaves and structures that are National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. Each temple also has its own unique characteristics. Saimyoji has a National Treasure Hondo worship hall and National Treasure pagoda that you can enter. It’s also deservedly one of Japan’s 100 Grand Autumn Foliage Sites. Kongorinji has many little Jizo statues and a National Treasure Hondo main hall housing an 11-faced Kannon statue and 13 other statues that are Important Cultural Properties. It is also displaying Japan’s oldest Daikokuten statue until Nov. 30, normally hidden from view. It’s 1,200 years old. Hyakusaiji is famous for giant straw sandals on a gate and a Japanese garden. Established by Shotoku Taishi in 609, Hyakusaiji is Shiga Prefecture’s oldest temple and one of Japan’s oldest. The Hondo temple hall has an 11-faced Kannon statue carved by Shotoku Taishi, a prince credited with spreading Buddhism in Japan.

During this period, convenient shuttle buses (Koto Sanzan Shuttle Bus) run every day between these three temples and a few train stations. The shuttle buses run most frequently from north to south, that is, from Saimyoji to Kongorinji and then to Hyakusaiji. If you start from the north, board the shuttle bus at Hikone Station. The bus will take you to Taga Town Hall from which you transfer to a bus bound for Saimyoji first.

From the south, board the bus at Ohmi Railways Yokaichi Station. The bus will stop at Hyakusaiji first. (A different bus also goes to Eigenji.) Check the bus stop for bus departure times. After touring Saimyoji (or Hyakusaiji), catch another shuttle bus to the next temple. Shuttle buses also run from Hyakusaiji to Eigenji (listed below), another temple famous for foliage. From Saimyoji, the last shuttle bus leaves at 5:23 pm for Taga Town Hall where you can catch a bus to Hikone Station (or walk to Taga Taisha-mae Station).

From Hyakusaiji and Eigenji, buses go to Ohmi Railways Yokaichi Station. From Hyakusaiji, the last shuttle bus leaves at 4:30 pm for Ohmi Railways Yokaichi Station arriving at 5 pm. Note that from this year, shuttle buses will not run from Amago Station and Kawase Station.

Bus fare is 200 yen per ride which is only 10-20 min. They also offer a day pass called Momiji kippu (Maple ticket) for 1,800 yen. This day pass includes passage on all Koto Sanzan shuttle buses and all Ohmi Railways trains. A good deal if you plan to ride on Ohmi Railways. Each temple also charges admission of 500 yen. Note that if you like to take your time, you might not be able to see all three temples in one day.
Saimyoji Map | Kongorinji Map | Hyakusaiji Map
Official sites: Saimyoji | Kongorinji | Hyakusaiji



November 8-29, 2014
Eigenji Temple Autumn Foliage and Light-up, Higashi-Omi, 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm for light-up
Although this temple is not one of the Koto Sanzan Temple Trio, it’s also famous for autumn leaves with 3,000 maple trees. Along with Saimyoji, Eigenji is also one of Japan’s 100 Grand Autumn Foliage Sites. Established in 1361, Eigenji belongs to the Zen Rinzai Buddhist Sect (Eigenji School). Since it’s a different sect, Eigenji is not a member of the Koto Sanzan trio of Tendai Sect temples. Impressive during the day, but also beautiful at night when the leaves are illuminated along with the walking paths. Admission 500 yen.

From Ohmi Railways Yokaichi Station, go to Bus stop 1 and take the bus going to Eigenji Shako (永源寺車庫) and get off at Eigenji-mae (永源寺前). Takes about 35 min. Bus schedule from Yokaichi Station on weekdays | Saturday | Sunday. Note that from Eigenji-mae, the last bus for Yokaichi Station leaves at 7:26 pm on Sat./Sun. and 8:27 pm on weekdays. Shuttle buses from Hyakusaiji also run to Eigenji during Nov. 16-Dec. 1. Map
永源寺 ライトアップ

Hyozu Taisha

Hyozu Taisha garden

November 14-30, 2014
Hyozu Taisha Shrine Garden Autumn Foliage Light-up, Yasu, 5:45 pm – 9:00 pm (enter by 8:30 pm)
Established in 717 (Nara Period), Hyozu Taisha Shrine has a noted Japanese garden with a pond ringed by small rolling hills and autumn leaves. The fall leaves certainly look colorful and impressive when illuminated in the evenings and reflected in the pond. Mini concerts will be held during the foliage illumination in the evenings.

A short bus ride from JR Yasu Station’s North Exit (Kita-guchi). Take the Yoshikawa Line (going to Nishi Kawahara 2-chome 西河原2丁目 or Ayame-hama あやめ浜) and get off at Hyozu Taisha 兵主大社. Buses are infrequent (schedule here). The last bus leaving Hyozu Taisha for Yasu Station leaves around 9:02 pm on weekdays and around 7:17 pm on Sat./Sun. Or take a taxi (costing about 2,000 yen from Yasu Station). Map


Genkyuen autumn foliage light-up.

November 14-December 7, 2014
Genkyuen Garden Autumn Foliage Light-up, Hikone, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm (enter by 8:30 pm)
Adjacent to Hikone Castle, Genkyuen was built as a castle garden in 1677 by Ii Naooki, the fourth lord of Hikone Castle. I would call this Shiga’s best place to view autumn foliage illumination. The pond’s reflection of the colorful autumn leaves at night doubles the impact. Hikone Castle in the background is also lit up for a perfect night scene. Reminds me of a master painter using a black canvas. Admission 500 yen. Short walk from JR Hikone Station. Map



November 15-30, 2014
♦ Konan Sanzan Temple Trio Autumn Tour, Konan, all day
Not to be confused with Koto Sanzan, Konan Sanzan is a trio of Tendai Buddhist temples in the city of Konan. A small city like Konan is lucky to have as many as four National-Treasure structures at the three Konan Sanzan temples. Like Koto Sanzan, Konan Sanzan temples are also noted for autumn leaves. During this period, a convenient shuttle bus plies between the temples and train stations.

The temples are Jorakuji 常楽寺, Chojuji 長寿寺, and Zensuiji 善水時. Jorakuji has not one, but two buildings that are National Treasures: the Hondo main hall and three-story pagoda. Chojuji means, “Long Life Temple,” and its small, but distinctive Hondo hall is a National Treasure. Zensuiji has the largest and most impressive Hondo hall (National Treasure) bearing elegant roof lines. Not to be missed by architectural buffs. The three temples are all in quiet, rural neighborhoods.

One thing you have to understand is that two of the temples (Jorakuji and Chojuji) are on one side of the train tracks and the third temple (Zensuiji) is farther away on the other side of the tracks. So there are two separate bus routes going to the three temples and there’s a train ride between Jorakuji/Chojuji and Zensuiji.

The Konan Community bus called Meguri-kun runs from JR Ishibe Station (JR Kusatsu Line) to Jorakuji and Chojuji once an hour from 8:24 am to 3:45 pm. From Jorakuji, you can take the bus to Chojuji. From Chojuji, take the bus back to JR Ishibe Station and catch the train to JR Kosei Station one stop away. From JR Kosei Station, take the bus to Zensuiji. The last bus leaves Zensuiji at 5:17 pm for JR Kosei Station. You can also tour the temples in reverse order, starting with Zensuiji. In the morning, buses leave JR Kosei Station (north exit kita-guchi) for Zensuiji at 8:28 am, 9:20 am, 9:30 am, 10:15 am, and 11:25 am. Bus schedule here. Map

November 15-December 7, 2014
♦ Kyorinbo Garden Autumn Foliage Light-up, Azuchi, Omi-Hachiman, 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm (enter by 7:30 pm)
Beautiful Japanese garden designed by Kobori Enshu. Part of a temple at the foot of Mt. Kinugasa. Autumn foliage at night is reputed to be most beautiful. Of course, you can also go during the day. Tripods/monopods not allowed. The garden is usually open only on weekends and holidays, but it will be open every day during Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Admission 500 yen. From JR Azuchi Station, take a taxi for 10-min. ride. Google Map
石の寺 教林坊 紅葉ライトアップ

November 29-30, 2014
♦ Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Biwa, Takashima, early morning
Dramatic sight of hot-air balloons crossing Lake Biwa. They start off very early in the morning so you would have stay near the launching beach in Takashima. Note that weather conditions can cancel the event.

November 30, 2013
♦ Tonda Ningyo Puppet Show, Lute Plaza, Nagahama, 1:30 pm
The famous Tonda puppet troupe will perform three acts. Admission 1,200 yen at the door.
At JR Nagahama Station, go to Bus stop 1 and take the bus at 12:27 pm going to Nagahama Shiyakusho Azai-shisho-mae (長浜市役所浅井支所前) and get off at Biwa Shisho-mae (びわ支所前). Takes about 20 min. Only three buses go there on Sunday. Or take a taxi if you’re rich or going with friends. Google Map



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

December 1, 2014
♦ Tarobogu Shrine Fire Festival, Higashi-Omi, Noon – 4:00 pm
Held annually on the first Sunday of December, the Tarobo Shrine Fire Festival burns a big pile of 100,000 wooden prayer tablets called goma (護摩) collected from believers all over Japan. The tablet is written with the believer’s name, address, and prayer wish. The fire burns as a prayer for family health and safety. After the fire settles down, barefoot priests walk over the hot ashes. Very dramatic festival (photo here).
Short walk from Ohmi Railways Tarobogu-mae Station. Map

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.

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.

The Japan Post Office is also marking the anniversary by selling a set of five die-cut postcards. One of the cards show a 300-series Shinkansen speeding past Mt. Ibuki. The set costs ¥1,100.

Tokaido Shinkansen postcard set

Tokaido Shinkansen postcard set

Upper right card shows Mt. Ibuki.

Upper right card shows Mt. Ibuki.

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):

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).

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
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.
2014/7/13 13:07 Shiga’s gubernatorial election results so far is showing a very close race between Taizo Mikazuki and Takashi Koyari.
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.
2014/7/15 10:44 A new Heiwado store is rising right next to Nagahama Station. Supposed to open later this year.
2014/7/16 23:04 Today’s the 1st anniversary of Shiga Headlines. After 203 tweets, I find Twitter quite useful. Thanks for reading!
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.
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.
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。
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:
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
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:
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:
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! #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.

To Shiga history October-December 2014

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