Where scenery is the order of the day
Shiga prefecture is so full of scenic views you’ll feel as though you’ve tripped and fallen into a postcard.
Forming a mountainous ring around the vast and majestic Lake Biwa, Shiga prefecture is all about enjoying beautiful scenery. Most of the prefecture’s attractions are centered around Biwa-ko, where you’ll find great hiking, water sports and the local’s favorite fermented fish. Temples, one of Japan’s most well-preserved feudal castles, a spectacular art museum, and a charming artisanal glassware industry aren’t far away. It’s an easy day trip from Kyoto prefecture though it’s worth staying longer to pay respect to the ‘mother lake’.
The capital of Shiga is Otsu which sits on the shores of Biwa-ko. From Otsu you can board an American paddle-wheel boat for a cruise around the lake in the daytime, or take a nighttime sightseeing boat to see the Biwa-ko fountains light-up. Cycling is also a popular way to enjoy Lake Biwa; you can make a loop of either a section or all of the lake, stopping off at the sights on the way. Most of the scenic spots from the Omi Hakkei, a dominant theme across Japanese art, are found in the city. Mii-dera and Ishiyama-dera temples are nearby. The latter has good views of the lake and claims to be the spot where Lady Murasaki wrote The Tale of Genji.
Cross to the other side of the lake to see the Miho museum, an architectural vision designed by I.M. Pei which displays art from the Shumei Family art collection. Heading north you’ll reach Hikone and its impressive castle. In summer, nearby Matsubara beach hosts the International Birdman Rally where participants compete to fly the furthest off a jetty in their homemade flying machines. Next door is Nagahama, known for its glass industry showcased throughout the town.
If you’re in Shiga for more than a day, hiking should definitely be on the menu. Choose from the Ibuki Mountains, the Hira Mountains, the Shigaraki Mountains and the Suzuka Mountains. After you can wash it down with a trip to the Kirin Beer Factory to taste their world famous Suntory brew.