Shiga History January–June 2021

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s major news headlines for January–June 2021.

Originally posted on Twitter under Shiga Headlines by Philbert Ono. Twitter posts are limited to 280 English characters including spaces and links (shortened by Twitter). Dates are based on Japan time.

Jan 7, 2021: Happy New, Snowy Year. Guess what people prayed for at shrines during New Year’s? Hope their prayers come true so we can travel and meet people freely again. Stay safe and healthy in 2021.

Jan 7, 2021: Tokyo 2020 Olympic/Paralympic torches on display at Shiga Prefectural Gov’t Office in Otsu until Jan. 8. Then they will travel & be displayed at the city/town halls in all 19 cities/towns in Shiga until May 26, the day before the torch relay in Shiga.

Jan 7, 2021: Coming-of-Age Ceremonies normally scheduled for Jan. 10 are being postponed in Nagahama and Kora due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. New dates TBD

Jan 7, 2021: Like most of Japan, Shiga is seeing a New Year’s surge in COVID-19 cases, reporting a record 50+ cases on both Jan. 6 and 7, 2021. Total 1,371 cases including 307 active cases.

Jan 7, 2021: Snow is forecast for Shiga from Jan. 7 to 10. More snow in the north and less in the south. Charge your phone and essential devices in case of a power outage. Get your flashlights ready. Let your water pipes drip to prevent freezing.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch.

Jan 24, 2021: Tokyo 2020 Olympic/Paralympic Torches (unlit) will travel to all of Shiga’s 19 cities/towns for public display until May 26, 2021. The exhibit started at the Prefectural Government Office in Otsu in early Jan. 2021. The torch relay will pass through Shiga on May 27–28, 2021.

Jan 24, 2021: The new Maibara City Hall under construction since Aug. 2019 will open in May 2021 next to Maibara Station’s east entrance. Finally, there will be something to breathe life into that side of the lonely, barren station. Hopefully, there will be more to come.

Jan 24, 2021: Museum of Modern Art, Shiga in Otsu, closed since April 1, 2017 for major renovations, will reopen in June 2021 as a modernized and expanded facility. Major exhibits will include outsider art (art brut) and Buddhist art.

Ginjo sake named "Biwako Shuko no Uta" (Lake Biwa Rowing Song)
Ginjo sake named “Biwako Shuko no Uta” (Lake Biwa Rowing Song)

Jan 24, 2021: Kawashima Shuzo sake brewery (川島酒造) in Takashima, using Harie’s fine spring water, has produced a Junmai Ginjo sake named “Biwako Shuko no Uta” (Lake Biwa Rowing Song).

Jan 24, 2021: Nagahama duo ~Lefa~ issued their second CD/album titled “Antique.” Now available in Shiga at SUNMUSIC and HYPERBOOKS stores and online at

Jan 24, 2021: Konan Mayor Ikuta Kunio (生田邦夫) has punished himself with a 10% pay cut for 2 months (¥152,000 total) for driving his car in Konan & hitting/injuring a jr. high school girl on her bicycle in Dec. 2020. The apologetic mayor admits it was his fault for not driving carefully.

Jan 24, 2021: On Jan. 18, a car driven by a drunk Koka woman, Matsumoto Haruyo (松本治代, 57), rammed her kei car into a Buddhist altar shop at AL Plaza Minakuchi in Koka, injuring a store worker and one customer. She was arrested.

Jan 24, 2021: Only 18.7% of Shiga drivers are stopping for pedestrians waiting to cross crosswalks with no traffic signals. This is below the national average of 21.3%. A boy on a crosswalk was killed by a truck in Ritto in May 2020. Over 100 crosswalk traffic accidents in Shiga in 2020!

Jan 24, 2021: In 2020, Shiga had 2,913 traffic accidents (average 8/day), 734 fewer than in 2019. Sadly, 49 traffic accident victims died in Shiga in 2020 (57 traffic deaths in 2019). Twenty-two of them were age 65 or older, eight of them were driving. Ten victims were age 16 to 24. 😢

Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon in 2018.

Jan 24, 2021: Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon on Feb. 28, 2021 will be the last one before it is discontinued from 2022. Open only to elite runners, it has been held annually in Otsu since 1962 and has seen many marathon stars like Abebe Bikila in 1965. It will merge with Osaka Marathon from 2022.

Jan 24, 2021: Major hotels in Otsu such as Otsu Prince Hotel, Biwako Grand Hotel, and Ayaha Lakeside Hotel have closed temporarily until at least early Feb. during the State of Emergency in neighboring prefectures and the suspension of Japan’s Go To Travel discount program.

Jan 24, 2021: In Nagahama, the annual Bonsai Plum Tree Exhibition (Bonbaiten) now showing until March 10 at Keiunkan near Nagahama Station’s west exit. Social distancing in effect at the venue.

Jan 24, 2021: Shiga has been seeing double-digit COVID-19 cases since New Year’s. As of Jan. 23, 2021, total 1,936 cases and 26 deaths. Shiga is not in a state of emergency like in Osaka, Kyoto, Gifu, and Aichi from Jan. 14 until at least Feb. 7, 2021.

Jan 24, 2021: It was found that 34% of the 201 COVID-19 cases in Shiga during the week up to Jan. 17, 2021 were caused by family members at home. Also, 38% had unknown causes, 7% were from friends, 6% were from co-workers. Infection also possible while riding in a car. Wear masks, wash hands.

Jan 24, 2021: Assuming the coronavirus vaccine is approved in Japan, Nagahama is planning to vaccinate residents starting with medical workers in late Feb., then age 65+ residents, and the rest of its population from June 2021. Other cities/towns are making similar vaccination plans.

Jan 24, 2021: Shiga & all cities/towns are busy preparing for the COVID-19 vaccination of its residents to start in late Feb. with medical workers. Getting enough medical staff to vaccinate people is one major problem, especially in the smaller towns where there’s no large hospital.

Snow on Mt. Ibuki in Jan. 2021.
Snow on Mt. Ibuki in Jan. 2021.

Jan 24, 2021: Whenever there’s snow on Ibuki on a sunny day like this, there will be photographers on the rice paddies taking pictures. I was one of them earlier this month.

Feb 2, 2021: Giant tanuki at Shigaraki Station on the Shigaraki Kogen Railway Line now dressed as a snowman wearing a bucket hat, red scarf, & mask until late Feb.

Sasaki Shrine in Azuchi, Omi-Hachiman to see and smell the wintersweet (robai) flowers.
Sasaki Shrine in Azuchi, Omi-Hachiman with wintersweet (robai) flowers.

Feb 2, 2021: Visited Sasaki Shrine in Azuchi, Omi-Hachiman to see and smell the wintersweet (robai) flowers. Very pleasant fragrance. #沙沙貴神社 #ロウバイ

Setsubun bean throwing at Taga Taisha Shrine.

Feb 2, 2021: Due to a calendar time adjustment, for the first time in 124 years (1897), Setsubun was celebrated in 2021 on Feb. 2, not Feb. 3. Virus OUT, good health IN!! was what I was wishing here today at Taga Taisha Shrine as the priests threw beans to drive away the ogres (from Shimane).

Feb 5, 2021: Former Kora Town Hall worker Shiraki Muneyuki (39, 白木至孝) in the water works dept. was fired for falsifying a work invoice for the town to pay ¥1.21M to a contractor that never did the work in March 2020. Money was returned to Kora. Shiraki’s supervisor also got a 10% pay cut.

Feb 5, 2021: Kitagawa Koji (60,北川貢次), General Affairs Section Chief at Toyosato Town Hall, arrested for groping the chest & bum of a young woman at a Toyosato parking lot on Jan. 28, 2021. He admits that he touched her chest, but didn’t mean to. The Mayor apologized. He must be fired.

Feb 5, 2021: Plans to use self-driving local buses in Otsu this fiscal year have been scrapped by Keihan Bus due to accidents during test runs in summer 2020. Another setback for resolving the bus driver shortage.

Feb 5, 2021: Survey by the Japan Ryokan & Hotel Association found 55% of responding ryokans in Shiga have either closed or will close during the current State of Emergency in urban prefectures until early March 7, 2021.

Feb 5, 2021: In Otsu on Jan. 22, 2021, four people who tested positive for COVID-19 were mistakenly informed that they were negative. The error was found the following day and the people affected were informed of the error. Since they had stayed home, it’s unlikely that they became spreaders.

Feb 5, 2021: On Feb. 1, 2021, Kusatsu Daiichi Hotel with 143 rooms has become Shiga’s third hotel taking in non-serious COVID-19 patients. Shiga now has a total of 414 hotel rooms for minor-symptom patients to alleviate the shortage of hospital beds.

Feb 5, 2021: BOE survey of Shiga’s public school teachers got 8,087 respondents or a 58% response rate. Shocking that 1,337 of them suffered power (1,195 cases) or sexual harassment (258 cases) at work. Investigations are underway. Bad apples must be fired and sex offender names disclosed.

Feb 5, 2021: In Ritto, remains of what looks to be the ancient Tokaido Road were found at the Takano Iseki (高野遺跡). Two parallel road gutters about 1 meter wide & 15 meters long going east-west. Judging from the pottery found along the gutters, they likely date from the Nara-Heian Periods.

Feb 5, 2021: For the first time in 3 years, a complete mixing of shallow & deep water in monomictic Lake Biwa occurred this winter. The oxygen-rich top layer of water intermixed with the lake bottom water to produce a uniform water temps & oxygenation (全層循環). Essential for the ecosystem.

Uminoko curry bento
Uminoko curry bento and Uminoko Floating School.

Feb 5, 2021: Uminoko curry bento available at all 7-11 in Shiga until Feb. 16. Named after the Uminoko (Children of the Lake) Floating School ship (bottom photo), the curry is the same one served to Shiga’s 5th graders who go on the cruise to learn about Lake Biwa. Only ¥510. #うみのこカレー

Lake Biwa snow cruise.
Lake Biwa snow cruise.

Feb 5, 2021: Cruising from Nagahama to Chikubushima amid snowscapes in northern Lake Biwa after a snowfall. My lunch on the boat was Uminoko curry and Ibuki milk. Large slice of pork with mild and sweet curry on rice. 雪見クルーズ

Mar 6, 2021: Toyosato Town Assemblyman Kitagawa Kazutoshi (65 北川和利) arrested on Feb. 25 for obscenity. In a coffee shop in Ama, Aichi, he stuck his hand in his trousers & played with his genitals in front of a woman customer (69). He confessed that he was stimulated by a girlie magazine.

Mar 6, 2021: As of Dec. 31, 2020, Shiga’s foreign population is a record 33,076 from 108 countries/regions. The most is 9,039 Brazilians, followed by 5,903 Vietnamese, 5,241 Chinese, 4,322 Koreans, 2,658 Filipinos, 1,515 Peruvians, & 1,107 Indonesians. Remaining 3,292 are other nationalities.

Mar 6, 2021: The final Biwako Mainichi Marathon was held on Feb. 28, 2021 with Suzuki Kengo (25, 鈴木健吾) winning it in 2:04:56, a new Japanese marathon record. But there’s no ¥100mil prize money for him since the offer ended last year and Tokyo 2020 slots all filled. Kengo aims for Paris.

Mar 6, 2021: Since the elite Biwako Mainichi Marathon is no more, Shiga hopes to start a new annual marathon from 2023 for 10,000 amateur runners. The new marathon’s name and course are to be determined.

Mar 6, 2021: OMG, at Shiga Station (JR Kosei Line) on Feb. 25, 2021, male station staff helping a mother carry her stroller down the stairs from the platform had the baby fall out, resulting in a fractured skull & cerebral hemorrhage. Forgot to take out the baby before carrying the stroller.

cafe inside Hino Station
Cafe inside Hino Station.

Mar 6, 2021: Congrats to Hino High School students who received a top award on Feb. 15 for their railway revitalization efforts by operating a cafe inside Hino Station once a month since 4 years ago. They serve coffee & their original pastries. See them next on March 19. #日野高カフェ

Mar 6, 2021: Due to COVID-19, many nurses have quit their jobs, so Shiga hospitals are facing a shortage of over 100 healthcare workers this April. They are trying to recruit qualified nurses, but there are not enough applicants.

Mar 6, 2021: Shiga has setup a call center to answer medical questions about COVID-19 vaccinations until March 31, 2021. Call 077-528-3588 from 9 am to 5 pm (in Japanese only). Ask about side effects, allergies, etc. For vaccination scheduling & locations, another call center will open later.

Mar 6, 2021: COVID-19 vaccination of Shiga’s healthcare workers started on March 5, 2021. About 5,000 doses were delivered to 5 hospitals this day. Another delivery of 5,000 doses expected next week. Total of 45,500 healthcare workers are scheduled to be vaccinated in Shiga.

Mar 6, 2021: Shiga is expecting to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine for the elderly in early April. More batches to follow by April 19 for a total of 21,000 doses for the elderly. This is enough for only 10,500 people, or only 3% of Shiga’s 370,000 elderly (age 65+) population.

Mar 6, 2021: About a year ago, little did we know how coronavirus would impact our lives. Don’t know anyone in Shiga who got infected. (Or perhaps they’re keeping it a secret.) Any matsuri held this year will likely take a very different form. Glad I already saw most of Shiga’s major matsuri.

Mar 6, 2021: Visited Chikubushima to see Karamon Gate (National Treasure) beautifully restored in March 2020. Before and after photos to see how it has changed. The adjacent Kannon-do hall has also been restored. Definitely worth a visit. #竹生島

Apr 6, 2021: Male teacher Ohashi Yuya (35, 大橋祐也) at Kusatsu Higashi High School fired for stealing ¥281,500 in school club money from the teacher’s room during New Year’s. He was going to use it at the boat races.

Apr 6, 2021: Kitagawa Koji (61,北川貢次), General Affairs Section Chief at Toyosato Town Hall, arrested for groping a young woman at a Toyosato parking lot on Jan. 28, 2021. Fined ¥300,000 and suspended from his job for 6 months from March 17. He resigned. No jail.

Apr 6, 2021: On March 25, male public high school teacher (50s) in Shiga sentenced to 2.5 years in jail for obscene acts with a female student from his school in a Shiga Internet cafe in 2020. Name & school undisclosed. April 22 for probation ruling. No excuses, straight to jail please.

Apr 6, 2021: Since the personal info of messaging app LINE’s 86 million users was made accessible to China, Koka has suspended its resident’s consultation service via LINE. Don’t share too much personal info on any messaging app or social media.

Apr 6, 2021: Hikone-based Sentaku-bin Cleaning & Laundry service announced that credit card info for 59,000 customers may have been leaked from April to Oct. 2020. Parent company Yoshihara Systems wants their customers to change their credit card numbers. #せんたく便

Apr 6, 2021: Survey in Aug–Sept. 2020 found significant number of microplastics downriver in Sofu River in Konan. Besides litter, disintegrating plastic bags, artificial turf, laundry clips, flower pots, & other polyethylene & polypropylene pieces have been found.

Apr 6, 2021: A consortium of 5 cities and 5 towns along Ohmi Railways have reached an agreement to bear the operating expenses of the red-ink railways from 2024. Shiga will bear 50%, Higashi-Omi 20%, Hikone 9%, Koka 6%, Omi-Hachiman 4%. Everyone wants the railway to continue operating.

Apr 6, 2021: The number of tourists visiting Shiga in 2020 was 36.43 million, 32% less than in 2019. Foreign tourists decreased from 549,000 in 2019 to only 121,000 in 2020, an 82% drop. The last time tourists to Shiga numbered below 40 million was in 1995.

Apr 6, 2021: As of April 5, 2021, Shiga had total 2,857 COVID-19 cases, 58 deaths, 154 active cases, and 34 mutated cases.

Apr 6, 2021: Priest Watanabe Koshin (48, 渡部光臣) on April 1, 2021 completed the 12-year ascetic training on Mt. Hiei called Rozangyo (十二年籠山行). He lived in isolation in Saicho’s Jodo-in mausoleum spending every day 4 am–9 pm chanting sutras, offering food, etc.

Apr 6, 2021: Priest Watanabe Koshin had no TV, newspapers, etc., and never left Mt. Hiei since 2009. He is only the 7th person since 1945 to do it and one of 117 persons who did it since the 16th century. He will continue praying for world peace & the pandemic to end.

Kurokabe Square's Glass Pavilion
Kurokabe Square’s Glass Pavilion refurbished.

Apr 6, 2021: In Nagahama, after 3 months of major renovations, Kurokabe Square’s Glass Pavilion reopened on March 27, 2021. The former bank branch built in 1900 looks totally refreshed inside and out and more earthquake-resistant. #黒壁ガラス館

Apr 6, 2021: Although canceled in 2020, Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri will be held this year on April 15, 2021. However, it will be scaled back with only 3 floats instead of 4. Each float will perform only within their respective neighborhoods. No float processions & performances in the shrine.

Apr 6, 2021: Cherry blossoms bloomed 2 weeks earlier than usual in Shiga. In Takashima, the lakeshore Kaizu-Osaki sakura reaching full bloom in March hasn’t happened since 2014.

Apr 6, 2021: On April 5, Otsu started accepting phone reservations to vaccinate 2,700 elderly (age 85+) for its first batch of vaccine from April 12. Still a small percentage of the city’s 17,300 elderly. Hikone will start in late May.

Apr 6, 2021: Shiga will finally start its first round of vaccinations on April 12 with 11,000 elderly. This is only 3% of Shiga’s elderly population. Otsu will be the first with vaccine for 2,700 elderly. Kusatsu, Higashi-Omi & Nagahama will have enough for 1,000, & Toyosato & Kora 50 each.

Apr 6, 2021: Congrats to Hikone-native Ohashi Yui (25) winning an Olympic berth for her 1st time by winning the 400m individual medley (4:35:14) at the JAPAN SWIM Olympic qualifier in Tokyo on April 3. See her at Tokyo 2020! #大橋悠依

May 26, 2021: As of May 25, 2021, Shiga has a total 4,856 COVID-19 cases, 76 deaths, 434 active cases, and 668 mutated cases. Otsu has a total 1,584 cases.

May 26, 2021: Free rice and other food worth ¥7500 are being given to college students from Takashima living alone outside the city. They can apply by July 9. How nice.

May 26, 2021: Shiga has Japan’s 2nd highest number of “dangerous bus stops” according to Japan’s Ministry of Transport. 151 bus stops are deemed dangerous because the stopped bus partially occupies a crosswalk or intersection that can cause blind spots for you or other cars. Be careful.

May 26, 2021: Shiga Lakestars pro basketball team will have a new head coach in Luis Guil Torres from July 2021 to replace Shawn Dennis who led the team for 4 seasons. Dennis will head Nagoya Diamond Dolphins from next season.

May 26, 2021: Rainy season in Shiga and the Kinki Region officially started on May 16, the earliest since 1951 when weather records started to be taken. Three weeks earlier than usual. ☔

May 26, 2021: Koka has also canceled host town plans to welcome the Singaporean Paralympic team. Possible that more host towns may cancel, sadly.

May 26, 2021: Since Olympic athletes are being required to minimize their stay in Japan, many national teams are canceling plans to have training camps in host towns. Sadly, New Zealand’s field hockey team & host Maibara have agreed to cancel their host town plans for mid-July.

May 26, 2021: Tokyo 2020 Olympic merchandise includes products from all 47 prefectures. From Shiga, B5-size pouch made of Omi-jofu hemp fabric. Comes in two colors. Available only in Japan. Photo:

May 26, 2021: Otsu City Museum of History has an exhibition on the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay in Otsu. Photos, torch used, runner’s uniform, & home movie displayed till June 30. The torch relay uniform’s material was made by a factory in Otsu. Free admission.

May 26, 2021: You can watch the Olympic Torch Relay in Shiga livestream or video online. Torch Relay starting and ending ceremonies by invitation only. No spectators allowed in Takashima (Metasequoia tree road). Heavy rain on the 27th till early afternoon.

May 26, 2021: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay will be held in Shiga on public roads as planned on May 27th–28th. Total 179 runners will go through all 19 cities and towns. Exact route at link below. Exact schedule in “Day book” PDF files.

Olympic Torch Relay in Shiga.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay in Maibara and Hikone, Shiga.

May 29, 2021: Typical comment by Olympic Torch Relay runners: “I had some anxiety about the pandemic, but after actually running with the torch, I feel really happy I did it! Extremely rare experience and lifetime memory!!” よかったね!! #Tokyo2020 #OlympicTorchRelay #聖火リレー #滋賀県 #米原

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay in Kusatsu, Shiga.

May 29, 2021: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay in Shiga on the 1st day saw rain that stopped in the afternoon. Cycling with the torch on Biwako Ohashi looked so cool. In Kusatsu, I saw good crowds without overcrowding. #Tokyo2020
#OlympicTorchRelay #聖火リレー #滋賀県 #草津市

Olympic Torch Relay at Hikone Castle.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay at Hikone Castle.

May 29, 2021: In Hikone, Olympic Torch Relay was great fun. Freebies from sponsors: towels, sports drinks, and folding fans. Huge & gaudy sponsor trucks, amusing & not noisy. More people around world have now heard of Shiga. #Tokyo2020
#OlympicTorchRelay #聖火リレー #滋賀県 #彦根城

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay at Nagahama Castle.

May 29, 2021: Very happy & proud to see Shiga hold the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay on public roads. Means a lot to the runners & what they represent, besides their families, relatives, & friends. Memory of a lifetime. 皆さんお疲れ様! #Tokyo2020
#OlympicTorchRelay #聖火リレー #滋賀県 #長浜

Jun 3, 2021: By the end of June 2021, Shiga Prefecture will receive enough Covid vaccine to inoculate all its age 65+ elderly residents with two doses by the end of July 2021.

Jun 3, 2021: In Kinomoto, bakery Tsuruya that makes the famous Salad Roll (サラダパン) has this pink tanuki outside. I was told they make hundreds (not thousands) of the retro-style Salad Roll every day. The number varies, sometimes 500. They also make other pastries.

Jun 3, 2021: Spanking new Maibara City Hall opened next to Maibara Station (east exit) on May 6, 2021. The 4th floor has this nice rooftop terrace with great views of the station. 3rd floor has tourist info counter & activity room open to the public to hang out, study, etc. Very nice. #米原市役所

Terrible English for the Shizugatake chair lift.
Terrible English for the Shizugatake chair lift.

Jun 3, 2021: English sign for the Shizugatake chair lift is terrible! 長浜市の観光英語は、相変わらずひどい!意味がわからん。 #賤ヶ岳リフト

View of Lake Biwa from Mt. Shizugatake.
View of Lake Biwa from Mt. Shizugatake.

Jun 3, 2021: Mt. Shizugatake also looked beautiful during a rainy season break. Only 6 min. by chair lift. Infrequent buses run from JR Kinomoto Station. #賤ヶ岳

Lake Yogo in June.
Lake Yogo in June.

Jun 3, 2021: At Lake Yogo, nothing but blue and green (and a touch of white) during a sunny break in this rainy season. Always a pleasant, relaxing place to visit. #余呉湖

Shiga History Sept–Dec 2020 | Chronological History of Shiga | Shiga History July–Dec. 2021

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