Biwa-ichi Cycling Around Lake Biwa and Shiga Prefecture

Comprehensive guide to cycling around Lake Biwa and Shiga Prefecture.By Philbert Ono, updated: Feb. 1, 2021 Bicycling around Lake Biwa has become so popular that there’s a buzzword for it: “Biwa-ichi” (ビワイチ). It’s short for Biwako isshu (びわ湖一周), meaning “going around Lake Biwa.” Technically, we can go around Lake Biwa (Biwako) by car, train, boat, or on foot, but “Biwa-ichi” (also spelled BIWAICHI) is mainly associated with cycling around Lake Biwa. No one seems to know who coined “Biwa-ichi” and when it came to the fore, but a local cycling association official says that it was found on the Internet as

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Sakura cruises to Kaizu-Osaki


Kaizu-Osaki is deservedly one of Japan’s 100 Famous Cherry Blossom Spots (さくら名所100選 according to the Japan Cherry Blossom Association). During the first half of April, four kilometers of cherry blossoms bloom along this lakeshore in northern Lake Biwa in Takashima. During the peak bloom period in mid-April, the traffic along the lakeshore road is horrendous. Renting a bicycle at Makino Station and cycling to Kaizu-Osaki is recommended. Walking is also possible for people who don’t mind walking at least 40 min. from Makino Station. On sunny days, it’s quite spectacular with the cherry blossoms against the blue lake and blue sky

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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 竹生島ができたお話 by Philbert Ono,

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Pharrell Williams HAPPY – From Lake Biwa

Video link: Pharrell Williams scored a huge hit with his song Happy last autumn. It has since become a worldwide phenomenon with people in cities around the world making street dance videos with the song. Pretty amazing. The videos show a good bit of the respective locality along with some great dancers. The vids were inspired by Pharrell’s own music video which is the world’s first 24-hour music video with Happy played repeatedly for 24 hours. Fortunately, we can pause and resume the video at will. I’m not one who usually gets on a faddish bandwagon, but I immediately recognized Happy’s PR potential for local destinations. So I

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Movie review: Idai Naru, Shurarabon


Lake Biwa and Hikone are getting a PR boost from this movie called, Idai Naru, Shurarabon (偉大なる、しゅららぼん The Great Shu Ra Ra Boom) currently playing in theaters. (Movie trailer in English at the bottom of this article.) The movie title is making everyone ask, “What the heck is Shurarabon??” It’s not a normal Japanese word, but knowing that the movie was filmed almost entirely in Shiga Prefecture was enough for me to see the movie (and read the manga) to find out. Overall, I thought the movie was good and worth seeing especially if you know Shiga. The story, casting, special effects,

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Lake Biwa Museum video

My video about Lake Biwa Museum in Kusatsu and Lake Biwa. My longest video yet at 1 hr. 6 min. I try to make my videos as short as possible, but I had to make an exception when it came to this museum and Shiga’s most prominent natural feature. But it’s a video so you can pause and resume playback at your convenience. Video link: (Also see links to specific segments below.) For this video, I visited the museum three times last year. A short bus ride from JR Kusatsu Station. Open 9:30 am – 5 pm, closed Mon. and the

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Cherry blossoms in Shiga

Shiga Prefecture has many great spots for cherry blossoms, including two of Japan’s 100 Famous Cherry Blossom Spots at Kaizu-Osaki and Nagahama Castle’s Hokoen Park. To see the current blooming condition, see the Weather News Sakura page for Shiga. The markers’ warmer colors until red (full bloom) indicate how far the flowers have bloomed. Note that they bloom later in northern Shiga (Takashima and Nagahama) than in southern Shiga (Otsu). Here are my photos of some of Shiga’s best sakura spots. Click on the photo to see more photos of the respective sakura spot. Also see “Shiga’s Top Five Cherry

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Lake Biwa article in Daily Yomiuri

A short article about Lake Biwa titled, Japan’s blue pearl / Views of Lake Biwa is in today’s The Daily Yomiuri English newspaper (Jan. 15, 2012 issue). It was written by Christal Whelan in her monthly column called KANSAI CULTURESCAPES. She is a cultural anthropologist (Ph.D) living in Kyoto. She writes mainly about Biwa pearls which are ironically obscure now, but quite famous outside Shiga among pearl fans. During New Year’s, I met with Christal when she visited Nagahama and Chikubushima for the first time. She visited Shiga a few times to research this article and has seen many more places (such as Harie in Takashima)

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