Blue Impulse + Hikone Castle

Japan’s aerobatic team called Blue Impulse performed today over the city of Hikone to celebrate Hikone Castle’s 410th anniversary. Based at Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi Prefecture, Blue Impulse performs all over Japan from April to Dec. But this is the first time for them to perform over Shiga Prefecture.  They herded the crowd to Konki Park near the castle and the main venue where they had a stage and food booths. Lines for food were ridiculously long. Dusty too. Great that the park still had a view of the castle (toward the right). There were six planes. They flew

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Hikone Castle 410th anniversary 2017

Updated: July 16, 2017 Ten years after the grand 400th anniversary of Hikone Castle in 2007, Hikone is at it again, albeit on a smaller scale. This time, it’s for the castle’s 410th anniversary (彦根城築城410年祭). The celebration is from March 18 to December 10, 2017. It marks the anniversary of the completion of the castle’s main tower (tenshukaku or tenshu) in 1607. (The castle itself was completed much later in 1622.) I went to see it a few days after it started. It’s basically a series of special exhibitions held in three castle buildings. Compared to 10 years ago, they have a lot more

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Visiting University of Shiga Prefecture

I finally visited the University of Shiga Prefecture (USP or Shiga Kenritsu Daigaku 滋賀県立大学) for the first time in Jan. 2016. It’s a 15-min. bus ride from JR Minami-Hikone Station. The largely flat, rectangular campus is quite near the shore of Lake Biwa in a rural fishing neighborhood called Hassaka (八坂町) in Hikone. Established by the prefecture, USP is not to be confused with Shiga University (Shiga Daigaku 滋賀大学) which is a national university with a campus adjacent to Hikone Castle. Founded in 1995, USP has an enrollment of about 2,400 undergraduate and 270 graduate students. They have the School of Environmental Science

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Buddhist altars made in Shiga Prefecture

Updated: May 7, 2017 Shiga Prefecture has three handicrafts officially designated as a “Traditional Craft” by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (経済産業大臣指定伝統的工芸品). “Traditional crafts” as defined by the Japanese government are handicrafts used in everyday life that are largely handmade using traditional techniques and traditional materials. And they are made in a specific area. Shiga’s three designated traditional crafts are Omi jofu hemp cloth (近江上布), Shigaraki pottery (信楽焼), and Hikone butsudan (彦根仏壇) or household Buddhist altars made in Hikone. Japan has over thirty cities and areas that produce household Buddhist altars (“butsudan” in Japanese). Fifteen of them are officially designated as a “Traditional Craft Production Area” (伝統的工芸品産地指定) by the Minister of Economy, Trade and

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Autumn festivals and foliage November 2014 in Shiga Prefecture

Recommended festivals, events, exhibitions, and autumn leaves in Shiga Prefecture in November 2014. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.) Compiled by Philbert Ono. Updated: Nov. 5, 2014 Video link: http://youtu.be/ve0KVtx_u74 November 3, 2014 ♦ Omi Jingu Shrine Yabusame Horseback Archery, Otsu, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm One of Shiga’s largest shrines, Omi Jingu will hold horseback archery on this national holiday known as Culture Day. The festival starts with a ceremony at 12:30 pm in the Haiden worship hall and the archery begins at 1 pm along the main path to the shrine serving as the horse track. Expert archers

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Shiga Prefecture at Tourism Expo Japan 2014

Updated: Sept. 30, 2014 Great fun and entertainment at the huge Tourism Expo Japan trade show held on September 27-28, 2014 for the public at Tokyo Big Sight. The expo had tourist booths from all 47 prefectures and 150 countries. A great place to pick up travel information, ask travel/sightseeing questions, see traditional Japanese crafts, and enjoy dances and entertainment from around Japan and the world. For the first time this year, they combined the domestic travel fair and the international travel showcase to create this new trade show. So it’s now one of the world’s largest travel/tourism trade shows. About 150,000 attended the expo (admission

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Pharrell Williams HAPPY – From Lake Biwa

Video link: http://youtu.be/FKchoOLG2TY 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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Top 20 train stations in Shiga Prefecture

Yokaichi Station

Updated: Oct. 11, 2018 滋賀県の一番美しい駅舎 〜心に残る駅舎〜 The train station is a gateway to the local area. First-time visitors may get their first impressions of a city or town from the train station. It’s like the genkan (foyer) of your house where you might keep a vase of flowers or a painting to impress visitors. Although I don’t judge a place by its train station, I do take note of how nice the train station is. After seeing most of Shiga’s train stations (totaling about 120), I’ve picked and ranked Shiga’s Top 20 train stations. My selections and ranking are based on architectural and aesthetic design, incorporation of

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