Biwako Biennale is an art festival held every two years in Shiga. Established in 2001, 2020 is the ninth edition of the festival, and this year, it’s being held in two cities at the heart of Ōmi –Hikone and Ōmihachiman from Oct. 10th to Nov. 23rd.
The exhibition is being presented at more than eighteen venues, most of which are buildings from the Edo period. These include major historic sites such as Hikone Castle, but also vernacular spots such as the home of an ashigaru, a humble foot soldier in Hikone, and merchants’ houses in Ōmihachiman. Other venues include a recently abandoned bath house, and a place of entertainment in Hikone’s former red-light district.
The purpose of the Biwako Biennale is to help preserve the attractive built environment of the historic towns in the region. Today many beautiful traditional buildings stand empty and in danger of gradual deterioration. For the Biennale, the buildings selected as venues have been cleaned and repaired, ensuring that they survive at least for a while longer.
The exhibits in each city are within walking distance, and you can enjoy a scenic walk through the traditional parts of Ōmihachiman and Hikone, dropping into the many quirky and evocative art projects on the theme “Cosmic Dance”. About seventy artists and groups from Japan and all over the world are taking part, highlighting the beauty and transience of autumn, for a period of one and half months.
Biwako Biennale is a good opportunity to visit two lakeside cities of Ōmi when the trees are changing colour and the delicious food and sake of autumn are appearing on the menu. The biennial collaboration between contemporary artists and Edo period builders and craftsmen is not to be missed.