It’s time for ‘Japan by Prefecture‘ again! This is the series that aims to provide the highlights of each prefecture of Japan, along with my personal favourites and suggestions from readers. This week, we’re looking at Shiga (滋賀県).
Shiga Prefecture is part of the Kansai Region (関西地方) and the capital is Otsu (大津市). A big thank you to Zooming Japan, Sengoku Sophie, and Japan Australia for contributing ideas to this week’s post. To be honest, Shiga is one of those prefectures that I would have struggled to place on a map and to find anything to say about, but there is a little bit to say. I have to be honest though – I’m finding Shiga Prefecture to be one of the less inspiring prefectures.
The defining feature of Shiga Prefecture has to be Lake Biwa (琵琶湖), which is Japan’s largest freshwater lake.
On the shores of Lake Biwa is a small city called Hikone (彦根), which is mostly famous for its castle. Hikone Castle, one of Japan’s few original castles, was completed in 1622. Leading up to the castle is Yume Kyobashi Castle Road (夢京橋キャッスルロード), which is a modern shopping street in the design of an Edo Period (1603 – 1868) castle town street.
In the grounds of Hikone Castle is Genkyuen Garden (玄宮園), a Japanese landscape garden originally built in 1677.
Apparently Shiga Prefecture has more temples and shrines than Kyoto Prefecture, and one of the most important temples is Enryakuji (延暦寺) on Mount Hieizan (比叡山). Mount Hieizan lies on the border of Kyoto Prefecture and Shiga Prefecture, so I was hesitant to write about it today, but as far as I can see Enryakuji’s address is Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, so here it is!
(Image source – “Enryakuji Konponchudo02s5s3200” by 663highland – 663highland. Licensed under CC 表示 2.5 via ウィキメディア・コモンズ)
Enryakuji is one of the most important monasteries in Japanese history, and the headquarters of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. The temple was founded in 788, but mostly destroyed in 1571 by Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長), one of Japan’s most powerful samurai warlords. Enryakuji was rebuilt during the Edo Period.
Finally, the other area of note in Shiga Prefecture is Koka (甲賀), which is considered to be the homeland of the ninja along with neighbouring Iga which we looked at last week in Mie Prefecture. In Koka there is the Koka Ninja Village (甲賀の里忍術村) and the Koka Ninja Mansion (忍術屋敷). According to Japan Guide the “village is remote, rural and has a somewhat rundown compound housing a collection of old dwellings in a forest” and there is also a shuriken (throwing star) range there alongside an obstacle course. The mansion is a 300 year old building in which ninja apparently used to reside. I have to say, it doesn’t appeal to me that much.
So, Shiga may not be the most exciting of prefectures, but it has a few sights worth seeing. Of those mentioned above I think Enryakuji appeals to me the most, but it’s still not high on my list of places to visit.
The Omiyage Section
There aren’t that many famous souvenirs (or ‘omiyage’ / おみやげ) from Shiga Prefecture, but apparently German Baumkuchen (which is popular all over Japan) is very good in Shiga. I honestly can’t come up with anything else that Shiga Prefecture is known for!
Next week I will be at HYPER JAPAN and having a week off from writing Japan by Prefecture. Join me the following week when I will be writing about Kyoto (京都府). Have you been there? What’s good to eat there and what omiyage should I buy? What are the best sightseeing spots or hidden gems? Please do share your thoughts below, and join me next week for Japan by Prefecture!