Lake Biwa will take your breath away. Over four million years old, it is one of the world’s oldest lakes, and Japan’s largest. It’s not just for viewing. You can enjoy a wide variety of water sports including swimming, canoeing, kayaking, bass fishing, smelt fishing, cruising, camping and glamping on the shores of Lake Biwa, and bird watching throughout the year. Cycling around Lake Biwa is also popular.
Ōmi’s Mt. Shizugatake is famous as an old battlefield. One of Japan’s most decisive battles, Shizugatake was fought in 1583 between the late Oda Nobunaga’s generals Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie in a succession dispute. A series of Toyotomi held fortifications on and around Mt. Shizugatake came under attack by the Shibata led forces, the violent action resulted in the deaths of thousands of samurai. While the summit can be reached by ropeway, many people also take the routes used by the samurai and trek the mountain. The view of Lake Biwa and Lake Yogo from the top of Shizugatake is simply stunning.
There are popular ski resorts in the mountains around Ōmi’s northern districts at Nagahama and Maibara’s Mt. Ibuki which once made the Guinness Book of World Records for the most snowfall in 24 hours.
The old and picturesque castle town of Higashiomi holds its lively Oshidate Festival every February to welcome in good luck and banish ill fortune.
The Nagahama Hikiyama Festival staged every April is designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage event. One of the Three Great Float Festivals of Japan began in the late 1570’s when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Lord of Nagahama Castle’s first son was born. He gave gold dust to the townspeople in celebration, and this gold was used to build twelve floats to celebrate at Nagahama Hachiman Shrine. Kabuki performances, featuring local children aged 5 to 12, are staged on the huge Hikiyama floats. Also in April, Aisho Town’s Karuno Shrine hosts the Spring Grand Festival featuring nine traditional floats. The following month a dramatic tower of bamboo is burned sending a 15-meter-high pillar of fire into the sky amidst the sounds of drums and bells at Aisho Town’s Misaki Shrine Fire Festival. This fire festival for the ancestors has been held since the Edo period.
Shrines - Taga Taisha Shrine
Taga Taisha Shrine is revered as a deity of childbirth, vocational aid, fire extinguishing and longevity. The gardens of the inner sanctum dating to around 450 years ago are a Nationally Designated Place of Scenic Beauty, while the Edo period (1603-1867) shrine pavilion is a Shiga Prefectural Important Cultural Property. Mentioned in the ancient chronicles, the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki compiled around 712 AD, the venerated The Taga Taisha shrine’s actual date of foundation is unknown. The shrine relates to the semi-legendary Prince Yamato Takeru who was a son of the 12th Emperor of Japan. Taga Taisha has been patronized and preserved by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Shoguns Tokugawa Hidetada and Iemitsu and Ii Naotaka, Lord of Hikone. Many of the shrine’s buildings are Registered Tangible Cultural Properties of Taga Town.
Temples - Saimyo-ji & Kongorin-ji Temples
One of the three Koto Sanzan Temples of the Tendai Sect, Saimyo-ji Temple was constructed in the early Kamakura period (1192-1333) and is a pure Japanese-style construction said to have been built without a single nail. The exceptionally well-preserved Hondo main hall and three-story pagoda are fine examples of Kamakura period architecture, and are designated National Treasures. The Saimyo-ji Temple is worth visiting in every season, particularly for the rich greens of summer, and the stunning reds and yellows of autumn. Sister temple Kongorin-ji Temple is another of the three Tendai Sect Koto Sanzan temples’ Hondo main hall is also designated a National Treasure and is representative of Kamakura period architecture, while the 450 year old gardens are designated a Place of Scenic Beauty.