Shiga History January–Dec 2023

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s major news headlines for January–December 2023. (Updated in Dec. 2023 to include the second half of the year.)

Originally posted on Twitter under Shiga Headlines until July 2023 by Philbert Ono. Twitter posts are limited to 280 English characters including spaces and links (shortened by Twitter). Dates are based on Japan time. From July 2023, entries have been added directly to this page.

From 2024, Twitter/X will no longer be used to post news headlines on Shiga Blog. They will instead be posted directly on blog posts here under the “Shiga News & History” category.

Updated: April 29, 2024

Hoppy New Ear!
Hoppy New Ear! Year of the Hare.

Jan 1, 2023: New Year’s greeting photo.

Jan 22, 2023: On Jan. 7, 2022, 9 customers who dined at Nigiri Chojiro’s Zeze Branch (にぎり長次郎膳所店) in Otsu suffered sushi food poisoning with fever & vomiting. Norovirus was detected. Restaurant was ordered to close for 2 days, and it issued an apology. All victims were recovering.

Jan 22, 2023: Shiga Labor Bureau found that 82% of 179 employers employing foreign technical intern trainees (外国人技能実習生) in Shiga are breaking labor laws for worker safety or excessive work hours (almost 100 hours overtime per month). As of Oct. 2021, Shiga has 4,000+ foreign trainees.

Jan 22, 2023: On Feb. 7, 2022, a two-car Ohmi Railways train derailed near Takamiya Station. No injuries. National Transportation Safety Board found that the width between the rails got too wide. Rail inspections and procedures were deemed inadequate. No comment yet from Ohmi Railways.

Shiga's very first escalator
Shiga’s very first escalator.

Jan 22, 2023: Shiga’s very first escalator was installed inside Heiwado’s Hikone Ginza Store on Oct. 1, 1963. Still here, but no longer used. Back then, kids came to see it on school trips. People thought they had to pay money to get on it. Made by defunct Masuda Kikai. Map:

Tsuji Bansho
Tsuji Bansho.

Jan 22, 2023: Ashigaru foot soldiers who guarded Hikone Castle lived near Yonbancho Square. Some ashigaru homes still remain & this one, Tsuji Bansho, is open to the public on weekends. Built to watch intersecting roads. #旧彦根藩足軽組屋敷
(旧磯島家住宅)・辻番所 Map:

Jan 22, 2023: Ukrainian evacuee living in Hikone operates a food truck serving Ukrainian cuisine, mostly in Shiga. See their food truck schedule and location and show your support:

Assist Archery in Konan.
Assist Archery in Konan.

Jan 22, 2023: In Konan near JR Ishibe Station, took an archery lesson at Assist Archery inside Heiwado (!) Great use of old retail space. Read more here:

Club Harie rabbit boxes of baumkuchen.
Club Harie rabbit boxes of baumkuchen.

Jan 22, 2023: Since Dec. 26, 2022, Club Harie has been selling a New Year’s set of 4 mini baumkuchen inside a box designed like a rabbit. Perfect New Year’s gift. (Limited quantity.) Company is known for its seasonal packaging.

Jan 22, 2023: “The Legend & Butterfly” movie starring Kimura Takuya as Nobunaga will hit theaters on Jan. 27. Some scenes were shot in Shiga such as Hikone Castle, Lake Biwa, & Daitsuji. His PR appearance in the Gifu Nobunaga Matsuri in Nov. drew massive crowds.

Jan 22, 2023: On Mt. Hiei, Enryakuji’s Konpon Chudo main hall is undergoing a massive 10-year renovation project. The public can view the intricate work in progress from a viewing platform. They are still reroofing the massive roofs. Rare look at traditional architecture. #延暦寺根本中堂大改修

Feb 7, 2023: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2022 survey of household finances in capital and major cities in Japan revealed that households (with two or more members) in Otsu spent the most on bread and coffee, more than any other capital city in Japan. In 2022, Otsu households spent an average of ¥39,992 on bread products, ahead of Kyoto households that spent an average of ¥38,688 on bread. Even in the past 10 years, Otsu households placed in the top five cities for the annual amount spent on bread. (Kobe attained the top average spent on bread in the past 10 years.)

Rather than normal loaves of bread, Otsu households spent more on pastries and other non-loave bread products. Many Otsu residents do have bread for breakfast and even lunch. During the pandemic, more people consumed bread especially for lunch among people who worked at home.

As for coffee consumption, Otsu households spent the most in Japan on coffee beans and ground coffee, an average of ¥9,845 in 2022, followed by Kyoto households spending ¥9,419. Even during the past 10 years, Otsu ranked second after Kyoto. For canned coffee and coffee consumption in coffee shops, Otsu ranked only 16th and 9th respectively. Most prefer making their own coffee at home. No one knows exactly why Otsu and Kyoto households spend so much on bread and coffee.

Besides bread and coffee, Otsu households in 2022 spent the most on men’s sweaters, men’s socks, men’s pajamas, women’s pajamas, women’s underwear, vacuum cleaners, and commuter train passes.

Feb. 2023: In Tsuchiyama, Koka, the former Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin (lodging used for daimyo and VIPs) is designated as a National Registered Tangible Cultural Property (登録有形文化財).

Mar 9, 2023: According to Shiga’s fisheries agency, the population of bluegill in Lake Biwa has fallen dramatically to 223 tons by 2021, one-seventh of the 1,689 tons estimated 16 years before in 2007. Reasons for the decline include the continuing eradication measures taken by fishermen and the decline of aquatic grasses which makes it easier for the bluegill to be eaten by black bass. Black bass, another invasive species, has also declined by half to 178 tons since 2007. However, the population has since remained steady with no further decline. Let’s hope native fish species will start to increase as a result.

Mar 25, 2023: Tashima Shigeru (69 田嶋茂) arrested on Feb. 25, 2023 for needlessly calling Otsu Police Station 3,900 times between Oct. 2022 and Feb. 2023. He was also arrested in March 2023 for making 36,000 unnecessary calls to Otsu police over 19 months, speaking incoherently.

Mar 25, 2023: Age 63 male hiker Yamamoto Keigo (山本圭吾) from Suita, Osaka was found dead in the Hira mountains on March 21, 2023. He apparently got lost and fell off the cliff. Never hike alone.

Mar 25, 2023: The Legend & Butterfly movie starring Kimura Takuya as Oda Nobunaga and Ayase Haruka as wife Nohime was pretty good. A few scenes were shot in Shiga: Hikone Castle, Daitsuji Temple in Nagahama, Iwao Pond in Koka. Nice CG of Azuchi Castle too.

Mar 25, 2023: Survey in 2021 found a major decrease in Lake Biwa’s shellfish population compared to 20 years ago. Only 2,569 tons of shellfish (70 species) or 29% of the shellfish population in 2003 remain. Shijimi basket clams were down to 44% of 2003. Due to less nutrients & past herbicides.

Mar 25, 2023: In mid-March 2023, 3 foreign & Japanese World Heritage experts were invited to tour Hikone Castle for 3 days to give advice on becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Korean & Finnish experts, visiting Hikone for the 1st time, had a favorable impression. It’s long shot though.

Omi beef
Omi beef.

Mar 25, 2023: In Omi-Hachiman, Biwako Food started public tours of their Omi beef factory on March 21, 2023. See them cut up the dressed carcass into 16 beefy parts. You can also cut a 500g block of beef into a steak or sukiyaki meat & pack it to take home. Fee: ¥4,500.

Mar 25, 2023: With the decline of COVID-19, mass vaccination centers in Otsu & Hikone were closed on March 20, 2023. Letter of thanks was given to the medical staff. The centers opened in July 2021 & vaxed total 100,000 people. Vaccinations will now be done at conventional medical facilities.

Uminoko Floating School
Uminoko Floating School

Mar 25, 2023: For the first time in 4 years, Uminoko Floating School will restart overnight lake cruises for 5th graders again from April 2023. Due to the pandemic, it was day-trip cruises only. Now they can learn and experience more on the lake. #学習船うみのこ

Lake Biwa Giant Catfish water tank
Lake Biwa Giant Catfish water tank before shattering.

Mar 25, 2023: Shocking accident at Lake Biwa Museum on Feb. 10, 2023 when the Lake Biwa Giant Catfish water tank shattered & spilled 100 tons of water to flood the entire aquarium. Fortunately, the museum was closed, no injuries. Catfish found safe inside the tank. Aquarium section closed for repairs. Admission reduced.

Mar 25, 2023: Hikone Weather Bureau announced on March 23, 2023 that cherry blossoms in Hikone has started blooming. This is 8 days earlier than last year, and the second earliest date on record. Full bloom in Hikone expected around March 30.

Mar 25, 2023: Taking over from Biwako Mainichi Marathon which ended in 2021, the first Biwako Marathon (42.195 km) was held on March 12, 2023 with over 6,300 runners from all over Japan. Started at Ojiyama Sports Park in Otsu & ended in Karasuma Peninsula, Kusatsu near Lake Biwa Museum.

Mar 25, 2023: Masks became optional in Japan from March 13, 2023. Trains, supermarkets, etc., in Shiga will no longer ask people to wear a mask. Sports arenas & hospitals will still require masks. In Feb., NHK survey in Shiga found that 50% of residents plan to keep wearing a mask as usual.

Kaizu-Osaki cherry blossoms.
Kaizu-Osaki cherry blossoms.

Mar 25, 2023: Major update of my list of Shiga’s best cherry blossom spots. They should start peaking in late March to early April.

honmoroko gudgeon ホンモロコ

Apr 4, 2023: Hon-moroko (honmoroko) gudgeon (ホンモロコ) is one of Lake Biwa’s endangered endemic fish. It’s a small and tasty fish. The good news is that the number of honmoroko fish eggs has been increasing dramatically over the last four years in Lake Biwa’s South Basin. The fish seriously declined from the latter 1990s due to invasive species eating honmoroko eggs and fewer egg-laying spots. As countermeasures, honmoroko fish fry were released every year, invasive species have been reduced, and the natural environment has been improved.

In 2022 in Shimogasa, Kusatsu, 7.16 million honmoroko eggs were counted, 3.6 times more than in 2018. In Akanoi, Moriyama, 13.75 million eggs were found, eleven times more than in 2018. Not only that, in 2022, over 90 percent of the honmoroko caught were bred and grown naturally rather than those bred artificially. Compared to 2016 when over 60 percent caught were originally bred artificially. Experts believe the honmoroko is making a natural recovery and hope to maintain this recovery.

Apr 5, 2023: JAPAN SWIM 2023 1st day at the reopened Tokyo Aquatics Centre sees Ohashi Yui slightly shocked in 2nd place in 200m Individual Medley. Enough to qualify for World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka in July. Also see her on the 5th & 6th. NHK TV 5pm. #ジャパンスイム2023 #大橋悠依

Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri with all 13 floats.
Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri in 2023 will have all 13 floats.

Apr 8, 2023: Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri #長浜曳山祭 in 2023 will see the rare & special appearance of all 13 floats on April 15 to mark Nagahama’s 450th anniversary. Usually we see only 5 floats. Pray for good weather. Updated festival schedule in English:

Apr 13, 2023: In Maibara, the Samegai-Kami-nyu area now has almost 20,000 tulips in bloom. This year is the 20th anniversary since local residents started planting tulips originally from Holland. The seeds were planted in Nov.

Apr 14, 2023: JR’s old 113-series trains have been retired from Shiga train tracks on March 31, 2023. In the Kansai Region, Shiga was the final place where this train model had operated. JR Kosei Line and JR Kusatsu Line in Shiga were the last train lines to see the 113-series train. The 113 series first operated in Shiga when the JR Kosei Line began service in 1974. It was also used on the JR Tokaido Line (in orange and green or “pumpkin” train) and JR Kusatsu Line. On the Kusatsu Line, the 113-series train was painted matcha green. A longtime familiar sight (or shape) to many Shiga residents, now gone. It was the last train model developed and produced by the Japan National Railways (JNR) before it was broken up and privatized into multiple JR companies.

Nagahama Castle History Museum's 40th anniversary
Nagahama Castle History Museum’s 40th anniversary in 2023.

Apr 24, 2023: Congrats to Nagahama Castle History Museum’s 40th anniversary. The museum and the reconstructed Nagahama Castle opened on April 5, 1983. The building still looks good inside and out. Too bad it still doesn’t have an English website.

Hikone Byobu folding screen
Hikone Byobu folding screen, National Treasure.

Apr 24, 2023: Hikone Castle Museum is now exhibiting the Hikone Byobu folding screen (彦根屏風), a National Treasure, from April 20 to May 16, 2023. Details:

Apr 24, 2023: Most Golden Week festivals in Shiga will be held again for the first time since 2019. Updated festival schedule here:

Apr 24, 2023: Tried using ChatGPT to get travel advice about Shiga. Also asked for a 3-day itinerary to cycle around Lake Biwa. The AI results were not reliable, still too many errors. AI-generated images are fun though. Read about it here:

Apr 24, 2023: Famous enka singer Yoshi Ikuzo (吉 幾三 b. 1952) has been appointed as a tourism PR ambassador for Koka. He wore a ninja costume for his appointment ceremony in Koka today. Although he is a native of Goshogawara, Aomori, he has visited Shiga a number of times through his fan club and expressed his interest in pottery. He hopes to perform in Shiga once a year and use YouTube to promote Koka. (よし、甲賀いくぞー!)

May 23, 2023: Shiga Vice Governor Osugi visited the Vatican on May 23, 2023 to request a search for the “Azuchi-yama Byobu” folding screen which depicts Azuchi Castle. It was gifted by Oda Nobunaga to the pope in the late 16th century and has not been found. It was once exhibited in the Vatican for several years. The Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church, José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, promised to conduct a search within the Vatican and its embassies around the world.

May 2023: Used car dealer Big Motor is in hot water over its killing and removal of roadside trees fronting their used car lots. The Kusatsu branch in Shiga also used weedkiller to kill and cut down roadside camphor trees on the prefectural highway in front of its used car lot in May 2023. Investigation by Shiga revealed that the fallen trees contained weedkiller. On Dec. 1, 2023, Big Motor was ordered by Shiga to pay ¥8.8 million to restore the four roadside camphor trees. The Kusatsu dealer complied on Dec. 15, 2023 and work to restore the trees will start.

Iryna and her daughter Kateryna at The Faina restaurant.
Iryna Yavorska and her daughter Kateryna at The Faina restaurant in Hikone.

May 27, 2023: Ukrainian evacuee Iryna Yavorska (52) and her family opened “The Faina” (ザ・ファイナ) Ukrainian restaurant on May 27, 2023 on Yume-Kyobashi Road (夢京橋キャッスルロード) near Hikone Castle. “Faina” means “nice” or “fine” in Ukrainian. Restaurant and food review here:

June 5, 2023: Kusatsu native and Ritsumeikan University junior student Yamamoto Ami (山本亜美) won the 2023 Japan National Championships in the women’s 400-meter hurdles for her third time in a row. Winning time was 56.06 sec., her best ever. The meet was held at Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka during June 1st–4th, 2023. She hopes to compete internationally someday.

June 14, 2023: Woman pro volleyball player Kurogo Ai sadly left the Toray Arrows in Otsu on May 24, 2023 and will be joining the Saitama Ageo Medics team. She’s very popular and was the captain of Japan’s national team at Tokyo 2020 Olympics. After the shocking losses at the Olympics, she took a one-year leave before returning to the court. It was nice to see her magic smile again. We’ll miss her in Shiga.

June 27, 2023: While assigned to security duty at the Hiroshima G7 Summit on May 21, 2023, a Shiga policeman in his 20s forgot his loaded handgun and handcuffs on a toilet stall shelf in a public restroom. Another policeman who used the same toilet stall 5 min. later and found the gun which was unused. The apologetic Shiga policeman was reprimanded on June 27, 2023.

Jul 15, 2023: Shiga police breaking the law. In April 2023, age 25 policeman hit & injured a child on a bicycle while driving in Otsu and drove away. After a 90% salary reduction for 1 month, he quit the force. No names, no arrests.

Jul 15, 2023: On June 1, 2023, two Shiga policemen were fired for theft. Age 24 policeman stole wallets & bags 6 times from his police station & public employee dorms in Otsu since June 2022. Age 30 police sergeant stole credit cards from his fellow police officers & racked up a bill of ¥640K.

Jul 15, 2023: In May 2023, five Peruvians age 24 to 71 in Ritto were arrested for making cocaine for sale. They include Berru Cortijo Johan Joe (48) & Rodriguez Shimokawa Jorge Antonio (44). Police found cocaine implements & 847g of cocaine worth ¥20 million in Rodriguez’s Ritto apt. in Oct.

Jul 15, 2023: On June 1, 2023 soon after 1 am, a trading card shop in Otsu had over 300 trading cards stolen from showcases cracked open. The cards were worth ¥1.5 million. The most expensive one was ¥400,000. Culprits took less than a minute and were caught on camera.

Jul 15, 2023: A new track and field stadium named Heiwado Hato Stadium in Hikone Sports Park opened on April 1, 2023. The running track is blue, for Biwako. The stadium will be used for the National Sports Festival to be held in Shiga in 2025.

Jul 15, 2023: Koka City Hall is reviewing the treatment age 30s worker in the fire dept. received in April 2021 for refusing COVID vaccination due to his bad reaction to flu vaccines. He had to work away from co-workers, was banned from the locker room & meeting people. After 4 months, he quit

Jul 15, 2023: The number of foreigners living in Shiga reached a record 36,158 as of Dec. 31, 2022 following the post-pandemic reopening of Japan. Brazilians accounted for the most with 9,281, followed by 8,088 Vietnamese (25% increase over 2021), and 4,533 Chinese. Many are technical trainees at factories. Otsu has the most foreigners with 4,910 and Higashi-Omi with 4,424, and Koka 4,142. Many are technical trainees at factories.

Jul 15, 2023: Shiga is preparing to mark the 450th anniversary of Azuchi Castle in 2026. It wants to digitally reproduce & eventually reconstruct the castle as accurately as possible. But there are very few visual records of the castle since it was destroyed after only 3 years.

Jul 15, 2023: On May 13, 2023, age 81 woman hiker from Maibara lost her balance and fell from the hiking path on the Kamaha Castle site in Banba, Maibara. She died in the hospital. She was with a group. In March, an age 87 Nagoya man fell and died on the same hiking path.

Jul 15, 2023: April 2022 to March 2023 saw 86 alpine rescues in Shiga involving 109 hikers, the most in the past 10 years. Four hikers died, 38 injured. 37 cases were lost hikers, and 31 cases of hikers falling. Hikers still lack detailed information & warnings from Shiga authorities.

Jul 15, 2023: Lake Biwa Museum’s aquarium reopened on May 9, 2023 after a 3-month closure due to the shattering of the giant catfish tank in Feb. However, 11 fish tanks remain empty, including the water tunnel due to the possibility of shattering. Still investigating the cause of the fracture.

Jul 15, 2023: From April 1, 2023, everyone on bicycles in Japan are strongly encouraged to wear a helmet. Rental bicycle shops in Shiga would provide helmets. Wear a helmet.

Jul 15, 2023: Elementary school in Moriyama fired a male teacher in June 2023 for stealing the underwear of a woman teacher in a changing room in June 2022. School principal told the woman not to report it to the police because of the “trouble” it would cause the school. He denies any cover-up.

July 15, 2023: Hayama Junior High School teacher Yamauchi Sachiya (27) (山内幸矢) in Ritto was arrested on July 14, 2023 for having an underage girl send lewd videos to his smartphone in June 2023. Ritto BOE publicly apologized on July 15, 2023 for Yamauchi breaking child porn laws. He was employed as a teacher at the school since last school year. The school also just held a teacher’s training session on sexual violence which Yamauchi attended.

Jul 15, 2023: For the first time in Shiga history, fewer than 20% of adult males (age 20 and up) in Shiga smoke cigarettes. As of 2022, “only” 19.3% of adult males in Shiga smoked. 27.7% of males in their 40s smoked. Wow, this is still too high. So what about women smokers?? Best not to start.

Jul 15, 2023: On the famous road of 500 Metasequoia trees in Takashima on July 12, 2023, lightning apparently hit a Metasequoia tree and the tree fell and hit a passing car. Luckily no injuries.

Jul 15, 2023: In Otsu, the castle-shaped Biwako Bunkakan, closed for 15 years due to age, will be replaced by a new facility to be designed by Kuma Kengo. It will be next to Otsu Port & boat-shaped with four stories to preserve & exhibit Shiga’s cultural treasures. Slated to open in Dec. 2027.

Jul 15, 2023: Biwako Hanabi Fireworks will be held for the first time in 4 years on Aug. 8 at 7:30 pm in Otsu. Paid seating will cost ¥6,000 to ¥25,000. Due to the increased number of paid seating to 50,000, the free seating area will be reduced to make it even more crowded. No English info.

Jul 15, 2023: Sorry, since early July 2023, embedded tweets and collections are not displaying at all. It only shows “Nothing to see here – yet.” No one knows if it will be fixed or not. Tweets can only be viewed on Twitter for now. Let’s hope Elon will fix it.

Jul 15, 2023: Nagahama’s kimono/yukata campaign (Kimono de Nagahama きものde長浜) is from July 15 2023 to Mar. 31, 2024. Visitors in kimono/yukata can receive discounts at local shops like a 20% discount on boat fares to Chikubushima. Rental kimono at

Saikyoji Temple has 2,000 wind chimes
Saikyoji Temple wind chimes in Sakamoto, Otsu.

Jul 15, 2023: In Sakamoto, Otsu, Saikyoji Temple has 2,000 wind chimes tingling in the summer breeze until Sept. 18. Noted for Akechi Mitsuhide’s family graves, the impressive temple also offers a tour inside the temple. Well worth a visit.

Hiko-nyan in raincoat at Hikone Castle.

Jul 15, 2023: During the rainy season, Hiko-nyan at Hikone Castle might appear in a custom-made raincoat. See his show schedule here:

Jul 15, 2023: In Fukuoka at the FINA World Championships, Omi-Hachiman native Inui Yukiko wins the solo technical in artistic swimming.

Jul 16, 2023: Summer 2023 fireworks schedule in English for Shiga Prefecture. Hope you can see at least one fireworks show this summer.

Jul 25, 2023: Not too thrilled about the changes at Twitter (X). Not too thrilled about the alternatives either. Due to the fleeting nature of social media, I’ve learned not to invest heavily in it, so it wouldn’t be a problem for me to quit or move at anytime. Will continue to wait and see.

Jul 25, 2023: Weather bureau announced that the rainy season ended in the Kansai/Kinki Region on July 20, 2023, three days earlier than last year. Very hot summer is expected in Shiga.

Jul 25, 2023: Lake Biwa lakeside parks will start charging parking fees this autumn on a trial basis to help defray park maintenance costs. Park users lately have been ill-mannered by littering the park or trashing the restrooms. Let’s keep it clean.

Jul 25, 2023: Woodcarver Miyamoto Teiji (宮本貞治) in Otsu is now a “Living National Treasure,” one of 12 to be so designated by the Cultural Affairs Agency on July 21, 2023. Miyamoto is 69 & started woodcarving at age 20 in Kyoto. Later moved to Otsu. His technique is called fuku-uru (拭漆).

Jul 25, 2023: Had a delicious lunch at The Faina, the new Ukrainian restaurant near Hikone Castle opened by Ukrainian evacuees. Details here:

Jul 26, 2023: In Otsu on July 26, 2023, the Michigan paddlewheel boat saw its 9 millionth passenger since it started cruising in 1982. The lucky 9 millionth passenger was the Baba Hiroshi family (馬場裕史) from Osaka who received a gift from the Biwako Kisen cruise company president in a dockside ceremony. The boat’s passenger count has recovered to 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Jul 30, 2023: On Mt. Ibuki, a golden eagle had a nest of two chicks since they were born around mid-April. However, one chick died in late April. And on July 30, sadly the other chick was found dead in the nest. They probably died of inadequate food. Their parent birds could not find enough food, maybe due to the warming climate.

Jul 31, 2023: For the ninth consecutive year, the scholastic achievement test scores of Shiga’s 6th graders & 3rd-year jr high kids were below the national average. Total 24,000 students from 324 elementary and junior high schools were tested in Shiga in April. The good news is that the English test scores for jr. high schoolers was 0.4 point above the national average. #学力テスト

Aug 2, 2023: At the Manchester 2023 Para Swimming World Championships in the UK on Aug 1, Ritto native Kimura Keiichi won the silver medal in the men’s 100 meter butterfly. It was his second silver medal in this meet.

Aug. 5, 2023: The annual Biwako Hanabi fireworks to be held for the first time in four years Aug 8, 2023. Some 350,000 spectators are expected. To ease the crowds. organizers are urging people without tickets to not come to see the fireworks along the lake shore. The free viewing area has been reduced to make 10,000 more paid seating for a total 50,000 paid seats. Some local residents have expressed their opposition to the visual barriers along the shore.

Aug 10, 2023: An external committee of six people investigating the shattered aquarium tank at Lake Biwa Museum completed a report on Aug 10 saying that the aquarium housing Lake Biwa Giant Catfish may have been caused by an ornamental rock inside the aquarium touching the acrylic glass, exerting a force enough to crack it along with the water pressure.

Aug 15, 2023: Typhoon No. 7’s strongest winds will be nearest to Shiga this afternoon on Aug. 15. Trains & most local buses not running. Keihan Line is running, but might stop soon. Landslide warnings in effect. Rains to continue till late tonight. Charge devices, stay away from glass windows.

Aug 16, 2023: Hikone Castle’s Tenbin Yagura turret suffered damage from Typhoon No. 7. A piece of white plaster about 1 meter x 1.8 meter had peeled off the exterior wall below a window. Repairs will be made. Other typhoon damage in Shiga included fallen trees, damaged riverbanks in Koka and Higashi-Omi, damaged soybean crops in Nagahama, and 1,000 pears blown off trees at a fruit farm in Moriyama (¥1.8 million loss and wind screen damage).

Aug 17, 2023: Mt. Ibuki’s mountain-climbing trail is closed due to July 12 heavy rains which caused landslides on the hiking trail from the 4th to 7th stations. Ibukiyama Driveway remains open to cars.

Aug 17, 2023: Damage from Typhoon No. 7 in Shiga is minimal. A few riverbanks damaged, trees fell, pears fell, power outage in Otsu and Koka. No fatalities. Piece of white plaster peeled off Hikone Castle’s Tenbin-yagura turret outer wall to be repaired later this year.

Aug 27, 2023: On Aug 26, 2023, a first grade boy, Tanaka Taisho (田中大翔), drowned while swimming with a children’s swimming club in a pool in Nose-cho, Nagahama. He was with a group of 50 kids and started swimming for 10 min. when he was found face down on a pool lane divider. Although there were four adults watching the kids, they did not notice the boy in distress until it was too late.

Sept. 24, 2023: As of Sept. 24, 2023, the number of COVID cases in Shiga has been decreasing. (Yes, it’s still out there.) During the week before Sept. 24, there were 590 COVID cases reported in Shiga with 87 cases hospitalized and no serious cases. The case count is 39 percent less than the previous week.

Sept. 27, 2023: Trial boat runs were held between Biwako Canal and Otsu Port on Sept 27, 2023. Canal boats normally operating on Biwako Sosui Canal from Otsu to Yamashina, Kyoto (7.8 km) are planning to extend their route by 1.5 km to Otsu Port. About 100 government and company officials had fun riding the boats to see how they could go on to Otsu Port. The only issue is that the water level of the canal and lake is different by about one meter. Therefore, the boats have to go through a canal lock to adjust to the different water levels. The canal lock used to be operated manually, but it has been automated to make it quick and easy for the boats.

Sept. 28, 2023: At Sawayama Elementary School in Hikone at midday on Sept. 28, 2023, thirty students in an outdoor sports meet came down with heat exhaustion. Many of them felt ill after running the 100 meters. Many were 6th graders. Fourteen had a medium-degree case and 16 had a mild case of heat illness. They ranged from 2nd to 6th graders. The sports meet was being held from morning on a hot morning with Hikone reaching 31.6˚C by 11 am. Although teachers told the students to drink water often, it didn’t work. School principal apologized and vowed not to let this happen again.

ibuki soba
Ibuki soba in Maibara.

Oct 2, 2023: Guide to Ibuki soba restaurants in Maibara. Ibuki soba has some unique qualities. 100% Ibuki soba is a great health food with no added wheat nor preservatives.

Oct 3, 2023: With wild deer decimating native and rare alpine plants on Mt. Ibuki since 10 years ago in Maibara, the city has placed three more deer traps (drop nets) on the summit and on the 5th station in Sept. 2023. The deer’s feeding on the flora has caused barren slopes, soil erosion, and landslides during heavy rain. By Sept. 29, 2023, the new deer traps caught 24 deer at the 5th station and none on the summit. Meanwhile, existing deer traps on the 1st to 3rd stations caught 44 deer from April to Sept. 29, 2023. The city has been catching an average of about 100 deer per year on Mt. Ibuki. It wants to increase this to 200 deer captured per year.

Oct 8, 2023: Otsu Matsuri is held for the first time in 4 years with all 13 floats centering on Oct. 8. One major change this year is that the floats did not toss chimaki good luck charms to spectators while they were moving. They tossed it only when they stopped like at the start of the procession or when they performed the karakuri puppet shows. This was to prevent overcrowding. About 170,000 saw the festival.

Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri
Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri at Yutani Shrine.

Oct 8, 2023: Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri highlighted by child kabuki was held for three days at Yutani Shrine and other neighborhoods for three days near JR Maibara Station.

Oct 15, 2023: In Tsuchiyama, Koka, the former Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin started major renovations from July 2023. As much as possible, they will retain the original parts and materials of the building. The home is not normally opened to the public, but it was open for tours of the ongoing renovations on Oct 15, 2023. Renovations should be completed by Feb. 2024.

Oct 17, 2023: Higashi-Omi Mayor Ogura Masakiyo (小椋 正清) got in hot water for his controversial remarks about alternative schooling (“free school“) for students during a Shiga mayors’ meeting in Aisho to discuss truancy countermeasures on Oct. 17, 2023. He said that he was very disappointed when the Japanese Ministry of Education approved of “free school” and that it would ruin the foundation of Japan. His remarks offended those who hosted or organized independent lessons for children and demanded an apology which he never really gave as he stood by his remarks.

Oct 18, 2023: On the morning of Oct. 18, 2023, multiple sightings of a wild adult boar central Nagahama were reported. It was first reported in Gion-cho, and it even ran in front of Nagahama Police Station eastward. After it collided with a vehicle in Kano-cho, it ran off northward. Driver was not injured. Based on reported sightings, the boar traveled at least 4 km in the city before disappearing. Police are cautioning residents to be on guard.

Oct 19, 2023: In Ritto, age 27 male junior high school teacher (name undisclosed) was fired for taking and keeping obscene videos of two underage girls (below 18) and committing obscene acts on them from April to July 2023. He was arrested and charged for violating the child pornography law. The Ritto DOE apologized at a press conference.

Oct 20, 2023: Modern art exhibition being held at Jogo-in temple in Azuchi, Omi-Hachiman (浄厳院) from Oct. 21, to Nov. 5, 2023. Among the 30 exhibiting artists, one is a painter from Ukraine, Mariia-Luiza Filatova, who has painted rural landscapes in Shiga. She once evacuated to Shiga from Ukraine and was in Shiga again after arriving in Japan for her second time in Aug. 2023.

Oct 20, 2023: In Otsu on Oct 20, 2023, an inflatable “Do not Enter” sign (冠水通行止) was tested at the entrance of an underpass. The three-meter long sign inflated across the underpass entrance in bright red. This would make it much faster for road crew to seal off underpasses vulnerable to flash flooding during heavy rains. Otsu will be the first in Shiga to install these useful signs at 11 underpasses in the city. With downward slopes on two sides or more, an underpass can quickly get flooded. Cars and pedestrians can get stuck in the deep water with fatal consequences like what happened in Azuchi in July 2022. Road crew often cannot put up “Do not Enter” signs in time. Shiga has about 150 underpasses.

Oct 27, 2023: Olympic artistic swimming two-time medalist Inui Yukiko from Omi-Hachiman announces her retirement from the sport after 26 years. She now plans to coach artistic swimmers.

Nov. 6, 2023: Since Osaka-based Hanshin Tigers pro baseball team won the Japan Series for the first time in 38 years, Hanshin fans have been visiting JR Torahime Station in Nagahama to give thanks at the Tigers makeshift shrine.

Nov 6, 2023: Age 43 Nakamura Taichi (中村太一), the owner of a popular beauty salon named Inishie no Tsukimiya (古の月宮) in Nagahama, is arrested for obscene acts committed in late Aug. 2023. In his beauty salon in Nagahama, while giving a woman in her 20s a hand massage, he groped her private parts. He offered her the massage for free, and she agreed. He covered her face with a cloth and massaged her for 90 min. before he did the despicable deed. His salon opened in 2017 in an old farmhouse that he renovated. The salon is currently closed.

Nov 7, 2023: At Otsu Ekimae Park along Chuo-dori road near JR Otsu Station, a new cafe called Coya Cafe opened on Nov. 7, 2023 to help revitalize the area. Made of wood with a roofed deck, the cafe seats 28 and serves drinks and a variety of sandwiches having Omi beef, bacon, shrimp, etc., and Otsu-grown vegetables. Good for takeout. Open from 10 am to 5 pm daily, closed during the year-end and New Year’s holidays.

Nov 10, 2023: In 2022, Shiga welcomed 45.47 million tourists, 8.46 million more than in 2021 (22.9% increase) and about 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Figures are based on the number of visitors at 735 tourist spots in Shiga. The most popular tourist spot was La Collina (Club Harie bakery) in Omi-Hachiman seeing 3.21 million visitors. Followed by Taga Taisha Shrine with 1.6 million, Kurokabe Square Glass Pavilion in Nagahama seeing 1.43 million, Mentai Park Biwako in Yasu attracting 1.13 million since opening in Dec. 2021.

Nov 13, 2023: Mt. Ibuki and the Hira mountains got their first dusting of snow this season on Nov. 13, 2023, the coldest day this season so far with temps well below 10˚C in most cities in Shiga. Ibukiyama’s first snow was 19 days earlier than in 2022, and Hira’s snow was 18 days earlier than last year.

Tonde Saitama ~Biwako Yori Ai o Komete~ trailer.

Nov 23, 2023: Hit movie Tonde Saitama ~Biwako Yori Ai o Komete~ (or Fly Me to the Saitama II) opens at theaters in Japan. The story seems to play up Saitama being in the shadow of Tokyo and Shiga being in the shadow of Kyoto. Another thing in common is the old Nakasendo Road which goes through both prefectures. Both are also landlocked. Movie has many major starts like GACKT, Nikaido Fumi, An, and Tendo Yoshimi. Sequel to Fly Me to Saitama released in 2019.

Nov 24, 2023: Hikone native and Olympic medalist Kiryu Yoshihide held a running lessons for 300 elementary school kids (selected by drawing lots) in Hikone’s athletic stadium on Nov 23, 2023. He taught the kids how to train, how to start a race, and ended with a 50-meter race against the kids to show his incredible running speed.

Nov 24, 2023: In Kinomoto, Nagahama, the Kohoku Public Library (江北図書館) will be designated as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property. The Western-style, two-story wooden building was originally built in 1937 as a local agricultural cooperative office in Ika. The second floor has a large tatami mat room and latticed ceiling. Shiga will now have 501 Registered Tangible Cultural Properties.

Dec 5, 2023: Former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko has joined a new political party formed by Maehara Seiji who has left the Democratic Party for the People. His new party is named”Free Education for All Party” (Kyoiku Mushoka wo Jitsugen suru Kai 教育無償化を実現する会). The new party starts with five members who want education to be free of charge and to forgive student loan debts. Kada, currently a House of Councilors National Diet member from Shiga, was a college professor in Kyoto before entering politics.

Dec 5, 2023: By early Dec. 2023, Lake Biwa’s water level has gone way below the average level due to a lack of rain since summer. As of Dec. 5, the water level was minus 69 cm, more than 30 cm below the average water level. At the Sakamoto Castle site in Otsu, original castle foundation rocks normally underwater are now visible. Fishermen may also have problems with their boat propellers touching the lake bottom. Tourist boats might also have boarding problems at the dock.

Dec 22, 2023: Last school year in Shiga in 2022, a record 171 public school teachers took sick leave for a month or longer. According to the Japanese Education Ministry, Shiga had 62 public school teachers taking leave for 180 days or longer, and 109 teachers taking sick leave for one month or longer due to mental/emotional health issues. This is 11 more than in 2021. Age wise, 59 sick teachers were in their 20s, 49 in their 30s, and 34 in their 50s. They suffered by the stress of truancy, bullying, and inadequate guidance by busy senior teachers for the younger ones. Also, 127 teachers were fired last year, exceeding 100 for two years a row. Three were fired for sex crimes, five fired for corporal punishment of students, and 109 were fired for traffic violations or causing an accident.

Dec 22, 2023: Pioneering potter Koyama Kiyoko (神山清子) in Koka passed away at age 87. Originally from Sasebo, Nagasaki, Koyama movies to Koka at age 17 and started learning Shigaraki pottery. Using traditional firing methods from the Kamakura Period, she created exquisite pottery pieces. She was also the role model for the NHK TV series “Scarlet” that aired in 2019.

Dec 27, 2023: Three Ritto City Hall employees are punished for repeated slacking off the job by napping at work or using the work computer to view websites unrelated to work, risking the leak of private information. One is a woman in her 50s working as an assistant section chief, her supervisor and section chief in his 50s, and an accountant in his 70s. The three were given major pay cuts for a few months. Names undisclosed. The Ritto mayor apologized.

Dec 27, 2023: Automaker Daihatsu has admitted that it had tampered with safety test results for its vehicles as far back as 1989. The vehicles include those sold under the Toyota brand since Daihatsu is a Toyota subsidiary. Daihatsu has temporarily suspended operations at all four of its factories in Japan including two in Ryuo, Shiga. All domestic and international vehicle shipments have also stopped. The stoppage will last until at least the end of January. This is affecting the many subcontractors and their employees in Shiga as well. Daihatsu has announced that it will compensate its 5,000+ subcontractors for the stoppage. Their factory tours in Ryuo must be closed too. People driving Daihatsu vehicles are now wondering if their cars are safe.

Club Harie's New Year's set of mini baumkuchen inside a box designed like a dragon
Club Harie’s New Year’s set of mini baumkuchen inside a box designed like a dragon for 2024.

Dec. 26, 2023: Club Harie has started selling a New Year’s set of 4 mini baumkuchen inside a box designed like a dragon complete with pop-up ears. Perfect New Year’s gift. (Limited quantity.) Company is known for its seasonal packaging.

Sources: NHK Otsu news, Kyoto Shimbun, and other local Shiga news outlets.

Shiga History July–Dec. 2022 | Chronological History of Shiga | Shiga History Jan–Dec. 2024

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