Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival Schedule


Updated: Click here for the 2018 Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival Schedule. The Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri is a major float festival held in mid-April in Nagahama in northern Shiga Prefecture. The highlight is child kabuki actors performing on four ornate floats. On Dec. 1, 2016 (JST), it was inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as one of 33 “Yama, Hoko, and Yatai float festivals in Japan.” The festival is held near JR Nagahama Station on the JR Hokuriku Line. Here is a schedule of major festival events in 2016 (times are approximate): April 13 6:00 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m.: April 13 evening

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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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Redevelopment of Nagahama Station area

Ever since the new Nagahama Station building was completed in Oct. 2006, the station and immediate area have undergone a remarkable redevelopment that is still ongoing. This dramatic transformation must be Shiga’s biggest urban construction project since the redevelopment of the Hama-Otsu area in the 1980s-90s. As I now see the old Nagahama Heiwado store (built in 1969) being torn down to make way for a new multi-purpose complex, I can’t help but to have mixed feelings. Although I look forward to what will be constructed in its place, I mourn the loss of yet another childhood icon. When I visited Shiga as

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Grave of Azai sister Go

Back in 2011, NHK TV broadcast its yearlong Taiga Drama called Go–Himetachi no Sengoku (江〜姫たちの戦国〜) which I translate as “Go–Noble Ladies of Feudal Japan.” This series made the main character nationally famous. She was Go (1573-1626), also called Ogo or Oeyo and Sugen’in in her final years. She was the youngest of three sisters born to Azai Nagamasa (1545-1573), Lord of Odani Castle in northern Shiga (present-day Nagahama) and wife Oichi (1547?-1583) who was the younger sister of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582). Born in Shiga’s Odani Castle, the three Azai sisters, called Azai sanshimai (浅井三姉妹), are perhaps Japan’s most famous or historical trio of sisters.

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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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October 2014 autumn festivals and events in Shiga Prefecture

Here are some recommended autumn/fall festivals (matsuri) and events in Shiga in October 2014. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.) Updated: Oct. 17, 2014 October 4-November 3, 2014 ♦ W.M. Vories 50th Memorial in Omi-Hachiman, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (enter by 4 pm) To mark the 50th anniversary of William Merrell Vories’ passing on May 7, 1964, a month-long event will be held in Omi-Hachiman where you can see and sometimes enter around ten of the buildings he designed in central Omi-Hachiman. Some of the buildings will include panel exhibitions, and some buildings cannot be entered. Born

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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

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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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