Location and significance
Ōmi is the region that occupies the space between the major cities of Kyōto and Nagoya. A large part of Ōmi is water – the huge Lake Biwa, Japan’s biggest lake, which is easily mistaken for the sea. From the eastern shore of Lake Biwa extends a broad plain, ideal for growing rice and raising livestock. At the centre of Ōmi sits Hikone, a highly strategic castle town. One of Japan’s main highways from ancient times, the Nakasendō, passes through the region, with a waystation at Maibara. Many places of Shintō worship existed here from the nation’s earliest recorded history, and it later became a centre of Buddhist culture. Today, in addition to its traditional agriculture and fisheries, Ōmi is home to global high-tech businesses. Hikone is one of the few places in Japan where you can still experience the atmosphere of a regional castle town with its various quarters and traditional businesses, making it a mecca for anyone who really wants to understand Japan.