Things to know before visiting Shiga Prefecture

1. Shiga Prefecture is easy to find on a map of Japan. Just look for the large blue lake near the center of Honshu island. It is next to Kyoto. From Tokyo, Shiga is on the way to Kyoto. 2. Shiga Prefecture’s claim to fame is Lake Biwa (Biwako), Japan’s largest lake and water supply for 14 million people in the Kyoto-Osaka area. Lake Biwa is one of the world’s oldest lakes dating back 4 million years, home to over 70 endemic species found nowhere else in the world. 3. Shiga’s most famous tourist sights include Enryakuji Temple (World Heritage

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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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Introducing Shiga Headlines on Twitter

Happy to announce that I’ve finally opened a Twitter account for It’s called Shiga Headlines and anybody can read my tweets (Twitter posts) without joining Twitter. Shiga Headlines is my microblog for quick and short posts (140 characters or less) about Shiga Prefecture (news from mainstream media), updates (What’s New), and my Shiga activities. I will be tweeting (posting) things of interest that are too short for Shiga News and things I want to post right away. It will be mainly in English, and sometimes Japanese. (I can say a lot more in Japanese since it uses fewer

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“We love Shiga” banners

I’ve created “We love (heart) Shiga” banners (horizontal and square) for anyone to download and use. Feel free to use them on your Web site, blog, Facebook, business cards, letterheads, etc. You can opt to link the banner to any Web site about Shiga. (It doesn’t have to be Or just tack it on your home page for decoration or self-expression. I also provide large sizes for printing on A4- or A3-size paper. Make a poster for your dormitory wall or create T-shirt iron-on transfers and bumper stickers. Free for non-commercial use. Let’s spread the word that not just you

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Hikone Castle video

Video link: Another video hosted by English-speaking kids. Since two of them were from Hikone, I decided to make a video of Hikone Castle, which I call one of Shiga’s Top Three tourist sights. (The other two being Lake Biwa and Enryakuji temple.) I tried to make the video as short as possible, but even so, it turned out to be 34 min. Goes to show how much there is to see at Hikone Castle. There’s quite a bit of English text which, if you read, will give you a good primer on what the castle and Hikone lords are

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Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival 2013


Video link: Here’s my video of the Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival (東近江大凧まつり Higashi-Omi Odako Matsuri) held on Sunday, May 26, 2013 in Higashi-Omi. Another one of my ongoing video series with local kids introducing the sights in English. We took three Japanese kids from Higashi-Omi who had never seen the kite festival (neither did their parents). The video also has a few cameo appearances by other local folks. It was a nice day, somewhat hot under the sun, but cool in the shade with good winds. There were all kinds of kites in the air, many of them quite

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