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:

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.

The Birth of Chikubushima

Although Shiga has many local legends and folktales, only a few are nationally famous. And fewer still are in English. So I’ve started writing English versions of some of Shiga Prefecture’s legends and folktales.

One problem is that these stories usually have different sources, versions, interpretations, and adaptations in Japanese. Instead of trying to decide which is the original or better version and translating it, I’ve created my own adaptation in English based on the basic storyline.

My first Shiga folktale in English I’m putting online perhaps matches the current rainy season. Enjoy!

The Birth of Chikubushima

by Philbert Ono, based on an old folktale.


Once upon a time in northern Omi, the great Mount Ibuki-yama stood high and proud. He was the god Tatamihiko (多々美比古命).

Every day, Ibuki-yama would boast, “Ha! Look at me, I am the highest mountain in all of Omi! Whichever way I look, all the other mountains are below me!”

While the other mountains were often covered with clouds and rain and beaten by the wind, Ibuki-yama stood high and clear above the clouds.

But one summer, the clouds were so thick and high that they also covered Ibuki-yama. All the mountains were hidden by dark clouds and rain.

With nothing to do, Ibuki-yama decided to sleep. He went into a deep slumber for days. “Zzzzz…”

After many long days of clouds and rain, the big, blue sky appeared once again. Ibuki-yama awoke and exclaimed, “Wonderful! It’s sunny today!”

He started to look in all directions with a big smile on his face, seeing all the mountains lower than him. In the south, there was Ryozen, a big but lower mountain. Even when he looked west, far across the lake at the Hira mountains, none were higher.

But when he looked north, “Whoa, what is that??!!” It was an unbelievable sight.

He rubbed his eyes to make sure he was seeing correctly. But he still couldn’t believe it. There was a mountain higher than Ibuki-yama!!

He angrily called out, “Hey you there! Aren’t you Azai-dake?!!”

“Yes uncle, it’s me, Azai-dake.” Mount Azai-dake was the goddess Azai-hime (浅井比売命). Azai-dake was actually related to Ibuki-yama because they belonged to the same mountain range.

“How dare you grow taller than me while I was asleep! You must return to your original height at once!”

“What?? Are you kidding me? I can become taller if I want to!!” Azai-dake was defiant like a rebellious teenager.

No matter how Ibuki-yama looked at Azai-dake, she still looked taller than him. He kept bellowing, “Lower yourself!” or “Become shorter!” But Azai-dake only ignored him and didn’t even bother to answer.

Finally, Ibuki-yama could not stand it anymore. He drew out a large sword and yelled, “Ei OHHH!!!”

Azai-dake shrieked, “Hii-EEE!!!” Ibuki-yama swung the sword in one quick stroke and cleanly cut off Azai-dake’s head.

Her head tumbled down the west side of the mountain. All the neighboring mountains were shocked to see the rolling head, especially nearby Odani-yama and Yamamoto-yama when the head passed by. “Oh my GOD, what happened to you??!!” The Azai-dake peak kept rolling, GORO-GORO-GORO!!!

Meanwhile in Lake Biwa, all the fish were also frightened by the big rumbling sound becoming louder and louder. The King of Lake Biwa, Biwako O-namazu (ビワコオオナマズ), ordered, “Hurry everyone! Swim away toward Takashima as quickly as you can!” Takashima was on the opposite shore of the lake.

Some moments later, BA-SHAAAAN!!! ZA-BUUUN!!! Azai-dake’s head splashed into Lake Biwa. It rolled through the lake and left a muddy, brown trail in the blue water. At the same time, monster waves rippled across the entire lake and even sloshed against the white sands of Omi-Maiko. The green pine trees on the white beach almost drowned.

Azai-dake’s head finally stopped in the middle of northern Lake Biwa. The top part of the head stuck out from the water and became a small island.

Since Azai-dake’s head made bubbly sounds like Tsubu-tsubu-zubu when it went through the water, the island was named “Tsububushima” (都布夫島).

After the water became calm and clear again, King Biwako O-namazu, who was a Lake Biwa Giant Catfish, inspected Tsububushima underwater. “This is a great place for fish to live! This steep and rocky underwater habitat is perfect.” Many happy fish like funa carp, catfish, and eels then started living around Tsububushima. Bamboo also started growing on the island, making it green. The island was then renamed “Chikubushima” (竹生島), meaning “Bamboo Birth Island.” Although Azai-dake died, she brought forth new life and new habitats.

Ancient people living around Lake Biwa thousands of years ago made dugout canoes and rowed from Nagahama to Chikubushima. Even then, they must have felt something sacred and divine about the island. From the 5th century, they started to build shrines and temples on the island to worship the goddess Azai-hime and other gods. After all, the island was once Azai-dake. And Mount Ibuki lived happily ever after, knowing that he was Omi’s highest mountain without question. THE END

Chikubushima (Click on image to see more photos.)

Chikubushima and Mt. Ibuki

Chikubushima and Mt. Ibuki as seen from Imazu, Takashima.

Mt. Kanakuso and Mt. Ibuki

Mt. Kanakuso-dake and Mt. Ibuki as seen from the Hokuriku Line in winter.

Mt. Ibuki (伊吹山) is Shiga’s highest mountain in Maibara at 1,377 meters. Azai-dake is Mt. Kanakuso-dake (金糞岳) in Nagahama, northwest of Mt. Ibuki. It is Shiga’s second highest mountain at 1,317 meters and part of the Ibuki mountain range.

Chikubushima has a circumference of 2 km. If we add Chikubushima’s 197-meter height to Kanakuso-dake’s height, Kanakuso-dake would indeed be higher than Mt. Ibuki.

Chikubushima is home to Hogonji Temple first built in 724 as ordered by the emperor to worship Benzaiten, the goddess of everything that flows: Water, rivers, music, etc. Belonging to the Shingon Buddhist Sect (Buzan School), Hogonji is one of Japan’s three major spots worshipping Benzaiten (other two being Itsukushima Shrine and Enoshima Shrine). Tsukubushima Shrine also worships Benzaiten as well as the Dragon God and Azai-hime.

Many famous samurai, such as Oda Nobunaga and the Azai Clan, worshipped at Chikubushima since they believed Benzaiten had the power to destroy their enemies.

Chikubushima is easily accessible by boat operating daily from Nagahama Port, Hikone Port, and Imazu Port. Boat schedule for Nagahama and Imazu Ports here and for Hikone Port here (in Japanese).

* This English story is my adaptation of the original Japanese folktale, not an exact translation. This means certain parts of this story are figments of my own imagination. The original folktale appears in the Omi-no-Kuni Fudoki (近江国風土記) ancient chronicles of Omi Province (Shiga Prefecture).
* The drawing above was created by a close, young relative of mine.
* I welcome submissions of artwork depicting scenes from this folktale. The best ones will be posted on this page and credited to the artist.
* Major reference: 「近江の昔ものがたり」瀬川欣一、サンライズ出版1999年


Summer 2014 fireworks in Shiga Prefecture

Nagahama fireworks

Nagahama fireworks on Aug. 5, 2014.

Here’s the 2014 summer fireworks (hanabi) schedule for Shiga Prefecture (Shiga-ken hanabi) listed by date. Also see the schedule for 2014 summer festivals (matsuri) here.

Updated: Aug. 8, 2014

Essential vocabulary
Hanabi (花火) – fireworks
Hanabi Taikai (花火大会) – fireworks (sometimes a contest)
Natsu Matsuri (夏まつり) – Summer festival
Noryo (納涼) – Enjoying the cool of a summer evening (at a river, park, etc.)

Compiled by Philbert Ono

July 12, 2014
♦ Takamiya Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Takamiya, Hikone, 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Near the Inugami River Muchinbashi Bridge. 10-min. walk from Ohmi Railways Takamiya Station. If rained out, to be postponed to July 14.
More info: 高宮商工繁栄会 TEL:0749-22-2075

July 19, 2014
♦ Echigawa Gion Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Aisho, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
At two locations along the Echigawa River bank near Miyukibashi Bridge. 15-min. walk from Ohmi Railways Echigawa Station. If rained out, to be postponed to July 21. About 40,000 people are expected.
More info: 愛荘町秦荘観光協会/愛荘町愛知川観光協会 TEL:0749-37-8051

♦ Yasu River Hanabi Taikai in Ritto, 7:45 pm – 8:25 pm
Along the Yasu River. 20-min. walk from JR Moriyama Station. A variety of activities (hot air balloon rides, flea market, and more) will held in the afternoon. If rained out, to be postponed to July 21.
More info: 栗東市観光物産協会 TEL:077-551-0126

July 26, 2014
♦ Otsu Shiga Hanabi Taikai fireworks, 7:45 pm – 8:30 pm
Watch the fireworks over the lake from the famous Omi-Maiko beach. Near JR Omi-Maiko Station (Kosei Line) in western Otsu. If rained out, to be postponed to July 28.
More info: 大津志賀花火大会実行委員会 TEL:077-592-0378\

♦ Koka Natsu Matsuri fireworks in Minakuchi, Koka, 7:45 pm – 8:30 pm
Koka’s biggest fireworks display held along Yasu River. Part of a local festival of stage entertainment, games, and food stalls. Near Ohmi Railways Minakuchi Jonan Station.
More info: 甲賀市観光協会 TEL:0748-60-2690

Nagahama Port during fireworks.

Nagahama Port during fireworks.

Aug. 1, 2014
♦ Hikone Dai-Hanabi Taikai at Matsubara Beach, Hikone, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
35-min. walk from Hikone Station. Shuttle buses provided from Hikone Station to a sports ground from which it’s a 15-min. walk to the beach. If rained out, to be postponed to Aug. 2.
More info: (社)彦根観光協会 Phone: 0749-23-0001

♦ Ogoto Onsen Noryo Hanabi Taikai in Ogoto Port, Otsu, 8 pm – 8:30 pm
20-min. walk from Ogoto Onsen Station. Fireworks can be seen from most onsen (hot spring) ryokan and outdoor baths in Ogoto. If rained out, to be postponed to Aug. 2.
More info: おごと温泉観光協会 Phone: 077-578-1650

♦ Omi-Imazu Furusato Natsu Matsuri, Takashima, 9:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Climax of Imazu’s summer festival starting from 1 pm.
近江今津ふるさと夏祭り やっさ!今津!!2014
More info: 近江今津ふるさと夏まつり実行委員会事務局 Phone: 0740-22-2108

Aug. 2, 2014
♦ Makino Summer Carnival at Makino Sunny Beach, Takashima
More info: 四季遊園マキノ交流促進協議会事務局 Phone: 0740-28-8002

♦ Ujisato Matsuri Summer Gathering in Hino, 8:45 pm – 9 pm
Fireworks is the climax of this summer festival (bon dance, etc.) held in the northern parking lot of Hino Town Hall starting in mid-afternoon.
More info: 日野町イベント実行委員会 Phone: 0748-52-6562

♦ Kotonarie Summer Festa in Higashi-Omi’s Hibari Park
Part of an illumination and music festival. 20-min. by bus from Yokaichi Station. If rained out, to be postponed to Aug. 6.
More info: 東近江市湖東商工会 Phone: 0749-45-2571

♦ Konan Natsu Matsuri in Konan, 8:35 pm
Fireworks is the climax of this summer festival (Goshu Ondo bon dance, stage entertainment, etc.) held at the Yasugawa River Shinzui Koen park (野洲川親水公園).
More info: 湖南市観光協会 Phone: 0748-71-2157

Aug. 3, 2014
♦ Hachiman Tenbin Matsuri in Omi-Hachman, 7:30 pm
Includes bon dancing. At Kitanoshosawa area. Shuttle buses provided from Omi-Hachiman Station.
More info: 八幡てんびんまつり事務局 Phone: 0748-32-6654

Aug. 5, 2014
♦ Nagahama Kita-Biwako Hanabi Taikai at Nagahama Port, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
10-min. walk from Nagahama Station. Very crowded so go early to save a spot or pay for special seating for 1,500 yen or 2,500 yen. If rained out, to be postponed to Aug. 6.
More info: 長浜市観光振興課 Phone: 0749-65-6521

Aug. 8, 2014
♦ Biwako Dai-Hanabi Taikai at Hama-Otsu and Nagisa Park, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
This is the big one, but a steep admission (around 4,300 yen, even for children above age 3) is charged in prime viewing areas along Hama-Otsu. Hama-Otsu Port will be totally walled off so you cannot see the fireworks from the street. Farther away is the free area along Nagisa Park which is terribly crowded with people reserving viewing spots from noon. Spectacular show, but have fun trying to get home via the tiny nearby train stations or gridlocked roads afterward. Foul weather will postpone it to Aug. 11. (If the weather is questionable, call 0180-99-3339 to find out if the fireworks will be held or not.)
More info: びわ湖大花火大会実行委員会 TEL:077-511-1530

Aug. 9, 2014
CANCELLED due to oncoming typhoon ♦ Ishiyama-dera Sennichikai and Setagawa River fireworks, 8:15 pm – 8:45 pm
Fireworks along the Seta River near Ishiyama-dera temple. 10-min. walk from Ishiyama-dera Station on the Keihan Line. Rough weather will cancel the fireworks.
More info: (社)石山観光協会 Phone: 077-537-1105

Aug. 16, 2014
♦ Somagawa Natsu Matsuri near Kibukawa Station, Koka
Fireworks are part of the summer festival with taiko drummers and lantern floating on the river.
More info: 甲賀市観光協会 Phone: 0748-65-0708

Aug. 17, 2014
♦ Setagawa River Hanabi Taikai at Seta River in Otsu, 8:00 pm – 9 pm
Near Seta-no-Karahashi Bridge. Short walk from Karahashi-mae Station on the Keihan Line. Fireworks will climax the waterborne Takebe Taisha Senkosai festival on boats.
More info: 瀬田川流域観光協会 Phone: 077-537-1105

Aug. 25, 2014
♦ Kinomoto Jizo Dai-ennichi fireworks near JR Kinomoto Station
Climax of a local festival with food stalls and games held during Aug. 22-25.
木之本地蔵大縁日 8月22日(日)~25日(水)(花火は25日のみ)
More info: ふるさと夏まつり実行委員会 Phone: 0749-82-5900

Also see the schedule for 2014 summer festivals (matsuri) here.

Summer 2014 festivals in Shiga Prefecture

Video link:

Compiled by Philbert Ono, Updated on July 11, 2014

Here are some of the many events and festivals in Shiga in summer 2014, from July to early September. (Web sites are in Japanese). Also see the 2014 fireworks schedule here.

Jan. 19 – Dec. 28, 2014, 9 am-5 pm – Kuroda Kanbe’e Expo 黒田官兵衛博覧会
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


Sengoku Taiga Kinomoto-kan

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 the Hikiyama Matsuri floats. Map

July 4 – Aug. 31, 2014, 9 am-5 pm – Biwako Hakodate-yama Lily Garden, Imazu, Takashima びわこ箱館山ゆり園
Lilies galore high up on Mt. Hakodate with views of Lake Biwa in Imazu, Takashima. From JR Omi-Imazu Station (Kosei Line), take a bus to the Hakodate-yama gondola station (15 min.). In winter, the place is a ski ground. The 1,850 yen fare includes the gondola (round trip) fare and admission to the lily garden. Kids fare 930 yen. Map

July 19, 2014 (Sat.), 5 pm – 8:30 pm, Nagahama Yukata Matsuri, Nagahama 長浜ゆかたまつり
People wearing yukata (light cotton kimono) will adorn the streets in central Nagahama’s shopping arcade. There will be a evening market, choir concerts, and yukata contest at the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum. Map

July 20, 2014 (Sun.), 10 am-4 pm – 40th Anniversary Event for JR Kosei Line, Omi-Imazu Station, Takashima JR湖西線開通40周年記念イベント
The JR Kosei Line started operating 40 years ago on July 20, 1974. To celebrate, a major event will be held around and near JR Omi-Imazu Station. There will be vendors selling local products and lots of entertainment for kids like mini steam locomotive rides. At the nearby Takashima Shimin Kaikan hall (高島市民会館), they will be an opening ceremony at 1:30 pm followed by a free concert by the Ground Self-Defense Force band. The main highlight will be the arrival of a DD51 diesel locomotive at 11:50 pm and departing at 1:05 pm. It will arrive again at 3:07 pm from Tsuruga and leave at 3:42 pm for Kyoto. Tickets are already sold out.

July 20, 2014 (Sun.), 8 am-5 pm – Higashi-Omi Dragon Canoe Race 東近江市ドラゴンカヌー大会
Held at Higashi-Omi’s Notogawa Waterwheel and Canoe Land waterfront park (能登川水車とカヌーランド), over 80 dragon boat teams (including women teams) will race on a 300-meter course. If it’s rained out, it will be postponed to July 27. Be sure to also check out the giant waterwheel, symbol of Notogawa. Map

July 25-27, 2014, evening – Tamura Shrine Mantosai Lantern Festival, Koka 田村神社万灯祭
Some 9,000 donated lanterns will festoon this shrine in Tsuchiyama. On the 26th are festival ceremonies and stage entertainment from 5 pm. From Ohmi Railways Kibukawa Station north exit, take the Aikuru bus and get off at Tamura Shrine (about 40-min. ride). Map

July 26, 2014 (Sat.), 7 pm-8:20 pm – Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri, Higashi-Omi 八日市聖徳まつり
Goshu Ondo folk/bon dance festival on Ekimae-dori road perpendicular to Omi Railways Yokaichi Station. Hundreds of people will dance the Goshu Ondo (江州音頭) which is a bon dance and folk song native to Shiga. First there will be a show of local mascot characters like Gao at 7 pm, then a yokai goblin parade. The Goshu Ondo folk dancers will dance from 7:40 pm to 8:20 pm. Photos | VideoMap

July 26, 2014 (Sat.), 3 pm – Shigaraki Fire Festival, Koka しがらき火まつり
Impressive procession of 700 torches following a 2.2 km route from the Shigaraki Chiiki Shimin Center (甲賀市信楽地域市民センター) to the Atago area starting at 7:45 pm. The procession is 50 min. long. Followed by fireworks until 10 pm. Map

July 26, 2014 (Sat. 3:30 pm – 9 pm), Hikone Yukata Matsuri, Hikone 彦根ゆかたまつり
People wearing yukata (light cotton kimono) will adorn the street along Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road. There will be street performers, brass band (5 pm), children’s choir (6:30 pm), mascot characters (7:15 pm), and more. Map

July 26-27, 2014 (Sat. from 8 am, Sun. from 6 am), Japan International Birdman Rally, Hikone 鳥人間コンテスト
Held annually since 1977, contestants from all over Japan compete to see who can fly the furthest over Lake Biwa in their handmade and human-powered flying contraptions. On Sat., they will hold time trials for propeller planes and the glider contest. On Sun., human-powered propeller planes will compete for distance. The event is held on Matsubara Beach in Hikone, right near the Japan Center for Michigan Universities. Note that the event schedule/holding is subject to weather conditions. If it’s too windy (typhoon), it can be canceled or postponed. Sponsored by Yomiuri TV who will broadcast the contest on a later date. Map

Mizunomori lotus

Karasumasan lotus near Mizunomori.

July 26-27, 2014, Mizunomori Lotus Festival, Karasuma Peninsula, Kusatsu みずの森 ハス祭り
Karasuma Peninsula includes Lake Biwa Museum and a huge lotus field that blooms from mid-July to early Aug. The weekend festival from 7 am to 5 pm is scheduled to have lotus ikebana demonstration (10 am) and mascot character Tabimaru (9:40 am). Buses run from JR Kusatsu Station. PhotosMap

Tonda bunraku puppet show

Tonda bunraku puppet show

July 27, 2014, 1 pm, Tonda Bunraku Puppet Summer Performance, Nagahama 人形浄瑠璃「冨田人形」夏公演
The renown Tonda bunraku puppet troupe will hold its summer performance at Nagahama Bunka Geijutsu Kaikan (長浜文化芸術会館) near Nagahama Castle (12-min. walk from Nagahama Station). The Tonda puppet troupe receives trainees from overseas on a regular basis. They will perform four plays lasting about 2 hours. Each puppet weighing about 4 kg is manipulated by three people. Two of them are usually dressed as kurogo with their faces covered.

Doors open at 12:30 pm and the show starts at 1 pm. Advance tickets are 1,000 yen (1,200 yen at the door on July 27). Free admission for high school and younger kids. You can buy advance tickets by calling Nagahama Bunka Geijutsu Kaikan (0749-63-7400) and reserving a ticket. (Say “tori-oki” which means you will pay for and pick up the ticket at the door on July 27). Seats are all non-reserved. You can also buy a season ticket for both the summer and autumn performances for ¥1,500. Tickets are also available at Nagahama Bunka Geijutsu Kaikan, Lute Plaza, Nagahama Hikiyama Museum, and Heiwado Kinomoto Branch. (長浜文化芸術会館、長浜市民体育館、長浜サンパレス、浅井B&G海洋センター、リュートプラザ、曳山博物館、湖北文化ホール、平和堂木之本店) Map

Aug. 1, 2014 (Fri.), 4 pm – 9 pm – Biwako Otsu Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival), Otsu 琵琶湖大津夏まつり
Held between Hama-Otsu Station and Otsu Port, this is a large event with a lot of local vendors, evening stage entertainment, and climaxing with the Goshu Ondo bon dance (6:30 pm – 8 pm) and fireworks (8:50 pm – 9 pm). Map

Taga Taisha Lantern Festival

Taga Taisha Lantern Festival

Aug. 3-5, 2014 (Sun.-Tue.), 7 pm – 9:30 pm – Taga Taisha Mantosai Lantern Festival, Taga 多賀大社万燈祭
Held at Taga Taisha Shrine in Taga, the Mantosai or 10,000-Lantern Festival is a beautiful night festival when over 10,000 paper lanterns are lit within the shrine grounds from 7 pm to 9:30 pm. The donated lanterns are for the repose of ancestral spirits. Sarugaku dance by the Taga-za troupe will be performed on the evening of Aug. 5. Other entertainment is also held each day of the weekend festival. PhotosMap

Note: Shiga B-kyu Gourmet Battle in Otsu will not be held this year in summer 2014.

Aug. 3, 2014 (Sun.), 10 am-6 pm – Kannon Furusato Matsuri Festival, Takatsuki, Nagahama 観音の里ふるさとまつり
On this day, you can go on a free or 1,500 yen bus tour to see various Kannon statues at temples in Takatsuki, including the National Treasure 11-face Kannon statue at Doganji temple. You can see statues which normally require an appointment for viewing. If you like sculpture or Buddhist art, don’t miss seeing the National Treasure. The tour starts at Doganji temple, a 5-min. walk from JR Takatsuki Station. Map

Hikone Tanabata

Hikone Tanabata

Aug. 8, 2014 (Fri.), 5:30 pm-9:00 pm – Hikone Tanabata and Music and Dance Contest (Hikone-bayashi So-Odori Taikai) 彦根七夕・ばやし総おどり大会
Lively festival music and dance parade along Hikone’s main shopping streets centering in Ginza. The street will also be festooned with Tanabata streamers (during Aug. 4-8). Map


Hifuri Matsuri

Aug. 14-15, 2014 – Hifuri Torch Festival, Hino 火ふり祭
Held for two evenings during the obon season. Participants light their torches at Gosha Shrine and tap the torches on the road as they proceed to Hibarino park where the torches are thrown up to a large pine tree. The more torches get stuck on the tree, the better the next harvest will be. Near Hino Station (Ohmi Railways). PhotosMap

Aug. 16, 2014 (Sat.), 5:45 pm (boats depart), 7:50 pm-8:55 pm (fireworks) – Takebe Taisha Senko-sai Festival, Seta River, Otsu 船幸祭・瀬田川花火大会
One of Otsu’s Big Three Festivals, the Senko-sai is a portable shrine procession on boats going down Setagawa River from Seta-no-Karahashi Bridge to Nango sluice and back. Held annually by Takebe Taisha Shrine (worships legendary warrior Yamato Takeru) near the bridge. The festival starts at 4:50 pm when the portable shrines leave the shrine, and climaxes with fireworks on Seta River after the boats return at about 8:00 pm. The festival attracts few spectators (unlike the Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka), but large crowds start to gather in the evening for the riverside fireworks starting after the festival boats arrive back at 8 pm. Near JR Ishiyama Station and Karahashi-mae Station on the Keihan Line. PhotosMap

Aug. 17, 2014 (Sun.), 9:30 am – 2 pm – Imazu Regatta, Takashima 今津レガッタ
The Imazu Regatta was originally held annually during 1927-36 by the rowing club of the local high school in Imazu (the present Takashima High School). However, the war forced the annual regatta’s cancellation. In Aug. 2006, a local NPO called the Takashima-Imazu Rowing Club restarted the Imazu Regatta with the support of the rowing clubs from Imazu Junior High School and Takashima High School. They use a variety of rowing boats (including a replica of a fixed-seat boat from the early 20th century) to race on a 500-meter course. Anyone can sign up to race/row. Beach is near Omi-Imazu Station. Photos | Map

Aug. 23-24, 2014 (Sat.-Sun.), 10 am – 9 pm (till 5 pm on 24th) – Gyuniku Beef Summit 2014, Hama-Otsu 牛肉サミット2014
Omi beef from Shiga and beef from other parts of Japan will be sold by many vendors next to Otsu Port. It is a gourmet contest where you can vote for your favorite beef dish there. This event started in 2011 and seems to be the replacement event for the B-kyu Gourmet Battle held until 2013. Let’s hope they also have vegetables. Too much cholesterol is not good for you. You also need fiber for better digestion. The weekend event in 2014 attracted 130,000 people. Part of the proceeds will be donated for the recovery of the 2011 Tohoku disaster. Map


Samegai Jizo-bon Matsuri

Aug. 23-24, 2014 (Sat.-Sun.), 6 pm – 8 pm – Samegai Jizo Matsuri Festival, Maibara 醒井地蔵まつり
This evening festival is a good excuse to wear a yukata and stroll along the crystal-clear river. The river is highlighted by a variety of handmade dolls or dioramas created by local school kids. Also see food booths and a local shrine to pray for the deceased. Samegai was a post town on the Nakasendo Road. Near JR Samegai Station in Maibara. During late July to early Aug., the tiny baikamo flowers (miniature plum blossoms) in the river will be lit up in the evening during 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm. PhotosMap

Aug. 23, 2014 (Sat.), 8:30 pm – Makino Highland Reed Torch Festival, Makino, Takashima マキノ高原ヨシたいまつ祭り
The festivities start at noon climaxing at 8:30 pm with the lighting of numerous reed torches dotting the grassy highland area and ending with fireworks.  The festival event schedule is yet to be determined as of this writing. From JR Makino Station (Kosei Line), take the “town bus” and get off at Makino Kogen Onsen Sarasa (マキノ高原温泉さらさ). Buses leave Makino Station once an hour until 6 pm (schedule here). Map

Also see the 2014 fireworks schedule here.

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

Stay cool y’all in Shiga.

Shiga History April-June 2014

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


Nagahama Kannon exhibition in Tokyo.

2014/04/02 13:56 Cherry blossoms along Lake Biwa Canal (Biwako Sosui) in Otsu lit up daily from tonight until April 13 (6:30 pm-9:30 pm).
2014/04/02 14:00 Cherry blossoms have started to bloom in Hikone today, 3 days later than last year. Full bloom expected a week later.
2014/04/06 2:36 Article about Shigaraki in today’s The Japan News:
2014/04/07 12:57 Overseas exports of Omi beef have been increasing since 2010. Fiscal 2013 saw a record high of 304 heads of Omi cattle exported.
2014/04/09 5:43 Hikone Castle cherry blossoms now in full bloom.
2014/04/10 3:55 As support for Windows XP ceased on April 9, Shiga Prefectural Government still uses 363 PCs (out of 6,400) running XP. They are kept offline.
2014/04/11 14:21 Large crowds at “Life and Prayer, Kannon Sculptures from Nagahama” (観音の里の祈りとくらし展) exhibition, Tokyo University of the Arts till April 13.
2014/04/14 22:02 In March, a male H.S. student in Moriyama used a teacher’s password to download students’ test results and more from the school’s server.
2014/04/16 9:42 A giant balloon in the shape of Minakuchi-Okayama Castle will be atop Mt. Okayama in Koka for 4 days from Apr. 17.
2014/04/22 1:18 Okada Rana, halfpipe snowboard Olympian from Otsu placing 5th at Sochi, announced yesterday her retirement and March marriage.
2014/04/22 5:23 Hikone native sprinter Kiryu Yoshihide, now in college, is gunning for a new record in running 100 meters.
2014/04/24 16:33 USB flash drives storing private info of 540 students/teachers at Nagahama Special Needs School stolen from teachers’ unlocked desk drawers.
2014/04/25 15:04 From April 15, Cathay Pacific serves “Mizukagami” Omi rice on Japan-Hong Kong flights in first/business classes. The chef is from Nagahama.
2014/04/27 19:55 Governor Kada will announce on May 7, 2014 whether or not she will seek reelection for a third term in July.
2014/05/05 14:29 From May 1, 2014 on weekends and holidays, a ¥300 donation to enter Mt. Ibuki is being requested at the summit and foot of the mountain.
2014/05/07 9:11 Gov. Yukiko Kada announced this afternoon that she won’t run for a 3rd term. She will instead support Mikazuki Taizo (三日月 大造 ).
2014/05/08 10:40 A new ship will start construction in 2017 to replace the 30-year-old Uminoko “floating school” for 5th graders learning about the lake.
2014/05/12 13:13 Seeking to stamp out seemingly rampant corruption at Otsu City Hall, Mayor Naomi Koshi will set up a committee to enact countermeasures.
2014/05/12 13:20 Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi stated today that she will very much miss Gov. Kada and currently has no plans to support a gubernatorial candidate.
2014/05/15 15:29 New edition of Japan Post’s die-cut postcards are out. Shiga’s latest one shows Ishiyama-dera and Murasaki Shikibu.
2014/05/16 7:54 Japanese manga about William Merrell Vories titled W・メレル・ヴォーリズ伝 now in bookstores for ¥800.
2014/05/20 10:53 Shiga’s foreigner population has decreased from 32,292 in 2008 to 23,823 in 2013. Brazilians saw the biggest drop (-50%) to 7,535 in 2013.
2014/05/20 11:28 Japan Policy Council forecasts the population of young women in Kora, Taga, & Ryuo to decrease by over 50% by 2040 at the current rate.
2014/05/21 22:06 Fukui District Court ruled yesterday that KEPCO is not to restart the No. 3 and 4 reactors at its Oi nuclear plant, citing safety concerns.
2014/05/22 14:00 A 55-year-old Shiga policeman was fired today for drunken motorcycle driving in Otsu. Got hurt hitting a guardrail, but he didn’t call the police.
2014/05/22 14:12 Otsu City Hall personnel advisor Genda Michihiro (46) 源田学弘 fired today after a conviction by Otsu District Court for groping a woman worker.
2014/05/24 23:38 Jr. high school headteacher (56) in Otsu was fired on May 23 for embezzling a total of ¥643,000 over 2 years from the PTA membership fund.
2014/05/25 21:22 English guide book for Shiga museums titled, “Discover the Museums in Shiga” available for free at museums/colleges.
2014/05/26 14:19 May 22-26, 2014 saw 75 car break-ins in eastern Shiga and Otsu. Car windows smashed and stuff stolen. Don’t leave things in your car.
2014/05/27 19:59 Chinese resident of Hikone, Son Yushu 孫 ゆう周 (31) arrested for selling counterfeit luxury brand goods online. He has admitted to the charges.
2014/05/27 20:08 Three Brazilians and one Peruvian arrested for a car break-in in Ritto. Suspects for the rash of recent car break-ins. One Brazilian was from Aichi.
2014/05/27 20:20 For the 1st time in 35 years, 19 Shinto priests from Shiga gave prayers in loincloths in Chikubushima waters for lake safety this summer.
2014/05/29 20:58 Repair work on the Shigaraki Kogen Railway’s collapsed bridge has started. Steel pillars are being placed in the river. They hope to reopen the railway within this year.
2014/05/29 21:08 NHK Otsu & Ritsumeikan Univ. will start joint research with an underwater robotic camera to photograph & study Lake Biwa’s underwater life.
2014/05/29 21:11 Otsu, Kyoto, & Nara hotels can now use telephone interpreting service in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese for foreigners.
2014/05/30 22:32 Yellow-sand haze observed in Hikone on May 30, 2014 for the first time this year. Particulate level is minor, but avoid hanging laundry outside.
2014/06/04 12:25 Rainy season in the Kinki Region (includes Shiga) started today, three days earlier than usual.
2014/06/10 8:11 Hikone-native Yoshihide Kiryu won the men’s 100 meters at the Japan Championships in Fukushima on June 8.
2014/06/16 3:15 Uploaded a Pharrell Williams HAPPY video for Shiga Prefecture: #happyday
2014/06/17 16:16 For the past 7 years, Takashima city has been concealing excessive dioxin levels in their incinerated refuse taken to a Kobe garbage dump.
2014/06/22 3:39 Nakanishi Makoto (39), assistant chief at Shiga Prefectural Board of Education, arrested for shooting upskirt video of a college coed at Seta Station. He was caught by a passerby who witnessed the crime.
2014/06/22 3:51 Yokozuna Hakuho and Miyagino Stable are lodging in Nagahama for 4 days from June 21. Their sumo practice at 滋賀近交運輸倉庫 is open to the public.
2014/06/22 4:08 Scenic lakeside Sugaura in northern Nagahama is to be designated as an Important Cultural Landscape 重要文化的景観.
2014/06/28 11:53 Alien waterweed rampant in Lake Biwa – The Japan News
2014/06/29 12:10 Gov. Kada apologized to Kansai governors for Takashima’s 7-year coverup of excessive dioxin levels in incinerated waste taken to Kobe.
2014/06/29 12:15 Shiga Prefecture is considering criminal prosecution of Takashima for the coverup of excessive dioxin levels in their incinerated refuse.

Click here for Shiga History July-Sept. 2014.