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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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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Nagahama Kannon exhibition in Tokyo

A rare and magnificent exhibition of eighteen Kannon statues from Nagahama is being held at The University Art Museum (東京藝術大学美術館), Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) from March 21 to April 13, 2014 near Ueno Station in Tokyo. Kannon is called the Goddess of Mercy. The show is titled, Life and Prayer, Kannon Sculptures from Nagahama (観音の里の祈りとくらし展-びわ湖・長浜のホトケたち). Organized by the Tokyo University of the Arts and the city of Nagahama. Although the National Treasure 11-face Kannon statue from Doganji (Kogenji) in Takatsuki is not in the show, three of the eighteen Kannon statues are Important Cultural Properties. Most of the statues

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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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Winter festivals Jan.-Feb. 2014 in Shiga

Updated: Feb. 27, 2014 After Japan’s biggest celebration called New Year’s, it’s back to work. But there’s still some fun left during this cold or freezing season. Here are some recommended winter festivals (matsuri) and events in Shiga Prefecture during January to February 2014. (Most Web sites are in Japanese only.) This page will be updated with new events as the winter weeks go by. January 9-11, 2014 ♦ Hokoku Shrine Toka Ebisu, Nagahama Dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, worshipped for succeeding in life and for business prosperity. It holds the Toka Ebisu festival for three days centering on Jan. 10th. Ebisu

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Sugatani Onsen hot spring in Nagahama

To temporarily escape this winter cold, I went to Sugatani Onsen Spa (須賀谷温泉) in Nagahama. Although I haven’t been to all of Shiga’s hot springs, I can say that this one would be a personal favorite. It’s off the beaten path in a quiet area at the foot of low mountains near Mt. Odani. It’s not touristy like Ogoto Onsen Spa in Otsu and not crowded (at least on weekdays). Perfect place to warm up, relax, and think about new projects for this new year. For only 1,000 yen (500 yen for kids), I could bathe in natural hot spring

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Tundra Swans on Lake Biwa

On the third day of this new year, I drove up to northern Nagahama’s Kohoku-cho shore along the lakeside road. I went looking for migratory Tundra Swans (kohakucho コハクチョウ) on the lake since I had never photographed them on the lake. Every autumn around late October, we always hear about the first arrival of Tundra Swans from Siberia. It’s a harbinger of winter for Shiga and those birds are beloved in Shiga. I’m not really a birdwatcher nor a wildlife photographer, but I decided that I’d better get some swan shots. Fortunately, I spotted a few of them (top photo).

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Autumn festivals and foliage November 2013 in Shiga Prefecture

Recommended festivals, events, exhibitions, and autumn leaves in Shiga Prefecture in November 2013. (Most official Web sites are in Japanese only.) Compiled by Philbert Ono. Oct. 26 – November 24, 2013 ♦ Kunimasu Trout Special Exhibit, Lake Biwa Museum, Kusatsu, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm A special and rare exhibit (the first in western Japan) of live kunimasu trout (Oncorhynchus kawamurae or black kokanee), previously thought to have gone extinct in the 1940s. Kunimasu was an endemic fish found only in Lake Tazawa in Akita Prefecture, but became extinct (along with most other fish species in the lake) in the 1940s when

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