YUtour, tour guide extraordinaire in Shiga Prefecture

by Philbert Ono, photos courtesy of Seita Mori and selected by Philbert Ono It’s about time I introduce YUtour (悠ツアー), a licensed tour guide service for foreign tourists in Shiga Prefecture run by my friend MORI Seita (森 聖太) in Otsu. YUtour is a one-man operation with Seita-san as YUtour’s one and only English-speaking guide. All indicators (such as TripAdvisor comments) show that he is doing an outstanding job. And after having a long lunch with him the other day in Otsu, I believe it. YUtour’s guided tours in English focus on the rural areas, ecotourism and nature, and traditional

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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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Otsu-e paintings then and now

Anyone who visits Otsu will sooner or later see an Otsu-e painting (大津絵). It can be a picture of an ogre (oni), wisteria maiden (Fuji-musume), Buddhist figure, or other surreal or whimsical human, god, or animal. Otsu-e paintings originated as a folk art around 1624-44 and were made and sold by roadside stands in Oiwake near Otsu-juku, the last post town on the Tokaido and Nakasendo Roads before people arrived in Kyoto from Tokyo (Edo). The earliest Otsu-e pictures during 1624-44 depicted mainly Buddhist images. People worshipped these images as an affordable alternative for expensive Buddha statues. Otsu-e paintings were unsigned by anonymous artists and

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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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Yahei hot chili peppers in Konan

Updated: June 1, 2018 Meet Yukiyo Mitaka and Yuzu Sasaki (三峰 教代・佐々木 由珠), a young and peppy pair of hot chili pepper farmers in Konan, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Under their company name and brand of fm craic (not a radio station), they grow a unique and local variety of super-hot chili peppers called yahei togarashi (弥平とうがらし). They plant, grow, harvest, process, package, and sell the yahei hot chili peppers as blended spices, sauces, and confections. They do everything by themselves. Just the two of them. They’ve also become media darlings, appearing in numerous Japanese print media and even on TV. And they now appear here at

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Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada’s reelection prospects 2014

Updated May 7, 2014 Update: Gov. Yukiko Kada announced on May 7, 2014 that she will not run for a third term as governor of Shiga Prefecture. She will instead support Mikazuki Taizo (三日月 大造) who plans to run. There’s now only a 50-50 chance that Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada will seek reelection to a third term on July 13, 2014, election day. Despite her massive popularity among voters, it’s no longer a no-brainer decision for her to run. We will have to wait until May 7, 2014 when she will announce whether or not she will run. On April 29, 2014, the Yomiuri and

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Skiing in Shiga Prefecture

Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 For information about current snow conditions at Shiga Prefecture’s ski slopes, see Snow Japan’s useful Shiga Prefecture ski resort page in English. Shiga is hardly a place I would recommend or brag about for skiing, but I understand that Shiga’s slopes are convenient for many people in Osaka/Kyoto coming to Shiga to ski. It’s better than nothing, and good for kids and beginners who don’t mind slushy snow. But there is actually something to brag about skiing in Shiga. It so happens that Mt. Ibuki in Maibara is one of the first places where skiing started in the Kansai region.

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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: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8 (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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