Shiga History January-March 2015 of Shiga Prefecture’s most important and interesting news headlines for January-March 2015 (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).


2015/1/3 12:09 National news: Yogo, Nagahama got 1.3 meter of snow.
2015/1/13 12:33 Shiga’s 15,294 new adults turning 20 from last April 2 to April 1, 2015 are 586 more than last year, but way below the 21,926 peak in 1995.
2015/1/20 14:34 While commenting on her 3 years in office on Jan. 19, Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi stated that she hasn’t decided on running for a 2nd term.
2015/1/20 14:40 Nagahama City Hall worker Saito Atsushi (齊藤淳) has been arrested for leaking road construction bid info to a bidding contractor last Sept.
2015/1/20 14:53 A 27-year-old man and two teenage females arrested for making a worker apologize on her hands and knees at a bowling alley in Omi-Hachiman.
2015/1/23 22:23 Near Hikone’s Mt. Sawayama (Matsubara Naiko), they found remains of a cutout ridge 堀切 and hillside moat 竪堀 likely built by Oda Nobunaga.
2015/1/24 8:09 The flu hit elderly care home Poplar in Kusatsu from the 11th, sickening 13 patients & staff. An 90-year-old woman patient died on the 23rd.
2015/1/26 10:34 Otsu started issuing localized moped license plates today. The design has a scroll of Seta Karahashi Bridge at sunset, an Omi Hakkei view.
2015/1/26 22:41 Tourist boats will ply on the Lake Biwa Canal between Otsu and Kyoto on weekends/holidays during Mar. 28-May 6 on a trial basis. #琵琶湖疏水観光
2015/2/5 11:09 Named Niji (Rainbow), a Japanese-language school in Kusatsu for foreign kids closed on Jan. 30 due to a lack of funds. How sad.
2015/2/5 11:14 Wakasagi fishing season has started at Lake Yogo. You can catch hundreds of these little edible fish until late March. #余呉湖のワカサギ釣り
2015/2/5 11:20 Hiko-nyan got more nengajo New Year’s postcards (13,315 as of Feb. 2) than Kumamon (7,344 as of Jan. 27) this year in 2015.
2015/2/5 11:24 Plum blossoms have started blooming at Ishiyama-dera in Otsu. Their hillside plum grove is quite large.
2015/2/6 16:41 Kyoto Univ. researchers have found that hama-daikon radish growing along Lake Biwa can well absorb cesium from top soil. Good for Fukushima.
2015/2/9 22:40 My video introducing some of the best things and people of Konan, Shiga: #滋賀県湖南市
2015/2/12 21:18 Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui is closer to a restart by this summer as Shiga struggles to formulate emergency evacuation plans.
2015/2/17 19:43 Koka City Hall (Minakuchi) workers in tourism PR are dressed as ninja to promote Feb. 22 as Ninja Day with Iga, Mie.
2015/2/22 19:25 Dinner in 1st class on domestic JAL flights next month will include Omi beef, red konnyaku, & Biwako fish. Only for 1 month. #JAL機内食で滋賀の魅力発信
2015/2/27 00:43 Needles found in packaged pastries at Al Plaza Minakuchi & Heiwado Shigaraki supermarkets in Koka earlier this month. No injuries reported.
2015/2/27 00:58 Kurokabe Square in Nagahama is showing and selling Hina Matsuri Girl’s Day dolls made of glass, until March 22.
2015/3/1 14:56 Kenyan Samuel Ndungu won the rainy 70th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon today in 2:09:08, Kazuhiro Maeda #前田和浩 was 4th at 2:11:46. #びわ湖毎日マラソン
2015/3/2 13:17 Foreigners living in Shiga are decreasing, but foreign permanent residents have been increasing from 2,000 in 2003 to 8,300 in 2013.
2015/3/2 13:24 Fire at 4:55 am today at Hamakogetsu ryokan #浜湖月 in Nagahama. All 20 people evacuated safely. 13 fire trucks put out the fire after 3 hours.
2015/3/2 23:55 University of Shiga Prefecture male professor padded a student assistant’s wages and had the student hand over the extra cash totaling ¥180,000 in 10 months.
2015/3/3 21:36 “Art Brut in Shiga” outsider art exhibition of 70 works at The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga until March 15, 2015.
2015/3/9 4:26 Governors and mayors from Mie, Shiga and Kanagawa prefectures forming Ninja Council to promote tourism.
2015/3/12 13:04 As of Feb. 25, 2015, 225 evacuees (90 families) from Tohoku still live in Shiga. About half the peak of 428 evacuees in Sept. 2011.
2015/3/17 19:14 KEPCO will scrap 2 nuclear reactors in Mihama and 1 in Tsuruga. They are 40+ years old with a relatively low output.
2015/3/20 00:29 Four free Wi-Fi hot spots in Hikone from today at Hikone Castle and tourist info centers. Look for this sign:
2015/3/20 19:10 Might be difficult to secure a 5000-seat arena in Shiga for the Lakestars to qualify for the top division of the new basketball league.
2015/3/21 16:29 Cherry blossoms in Hikone should start blooming around March 31, full bloom around April 6, a few days earlier than usual.
2015/3/23 21:01 Weeping cherry tree planted in Otsu by Helen Keller in 1937 withered 17 years ago, but a grafted branch set to bloom was replanted today.
2015/3/24 19:13 Ohmi High School beat Kyushu High School 2-0 today, their 1st game at the Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2015/3/25 20:59 Shiga Police has found about 250 juvenile delinquent groups with 1,400 members in Shiga. They are working to disband or reform the groups.
2015/3/26 8:48 Yasu Jr. High School teacher Aoki Yoshitaka (青木良隆, 51) arrested yesterday for DUI and hitting/injuring a female bicyclist in Yasu.
2015/3/28 16:30 Shiga BOE male member (50) sent 100s of emails over 16 mo. to female school worker who finally met w/him only to be groped in his car. #セクハラ
2015/3/28 16:42 Tourist boats will start service on Lake Biwa Canal today from Otsu to Keage (8 km in 1 hr) on weekends until May 6. All rides fully booked.
2015/3/28 12:15 Ohmi High School lost to Gifu Shogyo 0-3 today, their 2nd game at the Senbatsu Spring Koshien national high school baseball tournament.
2015/3/30 20:34 The infamous bullying-suicide case that occurred in Otsu in Oct. 2011 has ended this month with a ¥13 million settlement to the victim’s family.
2015/3/30 22:44 Hikone-native sprinter Kiryu Yoshihide (19) won the 100m at the Texas Relays in a wind-assisted, non-record 9.87 sec.

To Shiga History April-June 2015

Yahei hot chili peppers in Konan


Meet Yukiyo Mitaka and Yuzu Sasaki (三峰 教代・佐々木 由珠), a young and peppy pair of hot chili pepper farmers in Konan, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Under their company name and brand of fm craic (not a radio station), they grow a unique and local variety of super-hot chili peppers called yahei togarashi (弥平とうがらし).

They plant, grow, harvest, process, package, and sell the yahei hot chili peppers as blended spices, sauces, and confections. They do everything by themselves. Just the two of them. They’ve also become media darlings, appearing in numerous Japanese print media and even on TV. And they now appear here at, in English. They also appear in my new video introducing the city of Konan:

Video link:

On a sunny November day in 2014, they gave me an exclusive tour of Konan and their chili pepper field near the Shimoda area where the yahei chili peppers were originally grown. It looked like the size of a football field or bigger. They grow about 1,000 yahei chili pepper plants.


fm craic’s yahei hot chili pepper field in Konan.


Yahei chili peppers are orange.

Yahei chili peppers are bright orange.

The harvest season (summer to early fall) was already over, but they still had yahei togarashi plants with bright orange peppers. Most were shriveled and not marketable. All the plants were going to be uprooted and disposed of since they were single-season only. They plant new seedlings every March and harvest in the heat of summer which is tough work.

I couldn’t believe that only the two of them did all the work on this huge field. No help from family members or friends either. They grow and plant the seedlings, till and fertilize the soil, grow the plants, harvest the peppers by hand in summer, process them, and use spoons to carefully fill little spice bottles. Totally homegrown and handmade product. A lot of work, but they can take it easy during the off-season winter months.

The main thing about yahei chili peppers is that compared to ordinary chili pepper spices sold in Japan (like shichimi), their yahei chili pepper spices are super hot. On the tip of a wet chopstick, I tasted a tiny dash of both. The regular, blended shichimi was not even hot. But just a little powder of yahei caused an immediate burning sensation on my tongue. Really hot stuff.

The spicy heat of chili peppers is measured by the Scoville scale. Yahei chili pepper is measured as having 100,000 Scoville heat units which is twice as hot as ordinary chili peppers in Japan. The girls also profess that it’s not only about the spicy hotness. Yahei chili peppers also have umami flavor and a mellow aroma.

The origin of Konan’s yahei hot chili peppers remains unclear. “Yahei” supposed to be the name of the man from Konan’s Shimoda area who brought over yahei hot chili peppers from overseas (probably Korea) over 100 years ago. “Yahei” was also a name given to succeeding generations, so it is unknown exactly which Yahei brought over the chili peppers. However, it is known that the local folks in Shimoda started growing yahei togarashi in their backyards for their own consumption. The peppers were pickled or heated as appetizers for sake rice wine.

fm craic was the first to go commercial with yahei togarashi, billed as Konan’s native vegetable. This has instilled some local pride and the girls have gotten a number of local food businesses to use their yahei chili pepper spices. It’s a good synergy and collaboration because they can then promote each other’s products and businesses. The girls are determined to improve and promote their local area and products. I cannot help but to root for their success.

Upper Secret, popular cafe in Konan.

Upper Secret, popular cafe in Konan.

One local business which uses yahei hot chili peppers is an American-style cafe called Upper Secret, a short walk from JR Kosei Station on the JR Kusatsu Line. We had lunch there and had the award-winning Indian chicken curry that used yahei chili peppers. Very good. The cafe opened only two years ago in September 2012 and it has become a local favorite. Manager Akane Kaikiri also speaks English because she studied in Oklahoma (of all places).

Besides curry, they had a good selection of yummy-looking, homemade desserts, pastries, cookies, etc. They also sell fm craic’s yahei chili pepper spices and sauces. It’s a nice cafe and a great place for lunch or coffee/tea. Open: 9 am–5:30 pm, closed Tue. Website


Upper Secret’s manager, Akane Kaikiri.


Inside Upper Secret.


Upper Secret’s Indian Chicken Curry using yahei chili peppers.

Yuzu and Yukiyo also manage Konan Marché (こなんマルシェ), a local gift shop selling local produce, food, crafts, and souvenirs. It’s like a Michi-no-eki (roadside rest area for drivers). Opened in autumn 2011 in a former convenience store, they sell a wide variety of local products. Besides yahei chili pepper spices, they have locally-grown vegetables like the unique Shimoda eggplant, rice, snacks and confections, local crafts like Shimoda-yaki pottery, and souvenirs designed with local mascots Ko-nyan (a cat) and Ishibe-don (a Tokaido Road traveler). “Ko-nyan” is a twist on “Konan” with “nyan” meaning “meow” in Japanese.

Konan Marché is open 10 am–7 pm, phone 0748-72-5275. (“Marché” is French for market.) The shop is in Mikumo, but will eventually move to a new location. Website

Konan Marché

Konan Marche


fm craic’s chili pepper products.

fm craic sells four different blends of yahei hot chili pepper spices in small bottles for ¥630 each. It includes an all-purpose blend and one for curry. They also have two chili sauces, one sweet and one hot. Their products are nicknamed “Piriri” which means spicy hotness on your tongue. At Konan Marché, I bought and tried a few of the confections and snacks that used yahei chili peppers. Interesting how the hot chili taste comes afterward, like after you swallow. I liked their white brownies with small pieces of white chocolate and a dash of yahei chili pepper. It’s sweet at first, but there’s hot-chili aftertaste.

If you don’t have a car, the easiest place to buy yahei hot chili spices would be at Upper Secret near JR Kosei Station. They also sell at the Yurara Onsen hot spring facility near Zensuiji Temple. Or if you can read Japanese, order from their fm craic online store for shipping within Japan.

Upper Secret's booth at the 1st Geki-kara summit in Oct. 2014.

Upper Secret, winner of the 1st Geki-kara Summit.

Another impressive project was the “Yahei Gekikara (Super Spicy Hot) Summit” (弥平激辛サミット 2014) held for the first time on October 18, 2014. It was held together with the Ishibe-juku Matsuri Festival at the Ameyama Cultural Sports Park (Shukuba no Sato). They had food booths selling food using yahei hot chili peppers. It was a contest for the best spicy-hot food selected by popular vote and by a panel of food experts. The winner was Upper Secret’s Indian chicken curry dish. They received a cash prize and a free, year-long PR by the city of Konan. It has apparently replaced the previously held B-class gourmet event. I hope it becomes an annual event.

Shiga Governor Mikazuki at the fm craic booth at Shiga-Biwako Brand Fair at Osaka Station on Nov. 8-9, 2014.

Isn’t it amazing to see how far they’ve gone with some local chili peppers? Not strawberries, not grapes, but chili peppers of all things. Can you imagine?

Even their company name “fm craic” is intriguing for an agricultural company. “fm” refers to “farm” (as well as FM radio station) and “craic” is Irish meaning “fun and interesting.” So I guess they are “broadcasting” the “fun of farming.”

More young people (especially from the cities) are indeed getting interested in farming. If not as an occupation, at least as a temporary experience of getting down and dirty to plant rice, etc.

There’s a label for young farmers like Yuzu and Yukiyo. They call themselves “Noka Girls” (農家ガールズ) or Farm Gals which made me laugh. Shiga has a group of Noka Girls who keep in touch with other. They are all young women farmers. Definitely not the traditional image of old women farmers with bent-over backs.

Their background stories certainly is one reason for the media attention. A pair of young ladies quitting their unfulfilling jobs in the city, returning to their hometowns, and starting a business together. Something that all too many depopulating areas wish would happen more often.

Yuzu hails from Kusatsu. After graduating from a university in Kyoto, she studied the tea ceremony and Chinese language in Tianjin, China. She then worked for a travel agency in Osaka before moving back to Shiga.

Yukiyo is a native of Konan and studied in Boston, Massachusetts as an exchange student and also studied interpreting in the UK. So she speaks English well. She was working for a software firm in Tokyo before moving back to Shiga.

Both had a yearning to work in the food/farming business so they took a course in agriculture held by the Shiga Prefectural government. That’s where they met each other. Two inexperienced girls getting into the hard work of farming. They now have a lot to show for their hard work. It’s an interesting story for anybody. When they were starting out, veteran farmers in Konan were understandably skeptical of them. Like, “You gotta be kidding me.” But look at them now. They’ve come a long way in a few short years.

When you have the passion and the willingness to commit yourself, the wheels start to turn and things tend to fall into place. Shiga needs more people like them. Ambitious and determined folks out to improve their community. Konan is very lucky to have these two girls and it was a pleasure meeting them.

More about Konan | Map of Konan | Photos of Konan

*About the Konan video embedded above, it was my very first video introducing a city rather than just a single event or attraction. You can’t introduce everything about a city in a short video like this (about 10.5 min). So my strategy was to present some key words and images of Konan that people can remember.

The video also shows the indigo dyeing shop Konki Senshoku. The indigo dyeing master, Uenishi Tsuneo, helped us tie-dye a handkerchief when we visited in June 2011. I had an interesting talk with him and part of it is in the video. He speaks with a very rural and heavy Shiga dialect/accent. Since he talked like my late grandmother in Shiga, I could understand him. But he is rare one, I call him a “Living Treasure of Shiga.”

The video also shows a photo of Konan City Hall people showing drawings made by school kids in St. Johns, Michigan. Konan has friendship city relations with St. Johns. Every year since 20 years ago, artwork by elementary school kids in St. Johns are exhibited in Konan’s public library. And vice versa with artwork from Konan kids being displayed at Briggs Public Library in St. Johns. Website

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.

1 2 3 4 74