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Shiga Prefecture

Shiga Prefecture

Shiga Prefecture is home to the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa, and Hikone Castle, one of the twelve original castles in Japan.

Shiga Prefecture is in the middle of Japan; Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, lies at its center. It is surrounded by Mt. Ibuki to the northeast, the Suzuka Mountain Range to the east, Mt. Hira-san and Mt. Hiei to the west, and the Shigaraki Mountains lie to the south. Shiga was known as Omi Province or Goshu before the prefectural system was established. Omi was a neighbor of Nara and Kyoto, at the junction of western and eastern Japan. During the period 667 to 672, Emperor Tenji founded a palace in Otsu. In 742, Emperor Shomu founded a palace in Shigaraki. In the early Heian Period, Saicho was born in the north of Otsu and founded Enryakuji, the center of Tendai and one a UNESCO World Heritage Site and monument of Ancient Kyoto now.

Biwako Quasi-National Park includes Lake Yogo, Mt. Ibuki, Mt. Hira and Mt. Hiei; it extends over one-sixth of the area of Shiga. Shiga has a number of scenic beauty spots, including Omi Hakkei, or eight scenic views of Omi, which resemble views of Lake Tungtinghu in Hunan, China. As it stands at a trading crossroads between western and eastern Japan, civilization has flourished in this area since the earliest times. There are a number of precious heritage sites, including Hiei-zan Enryakuji Temple, designated as World Cultural Heritage, Hikone Castle designated as a national treasure, and many famous Buddhist images. Shiga is one of the richest areas in Japan for national treasures and important cultural properties.

You can also enjoy Shigaraki ware pottery, noted for statuettes of raccoon dogs, Otsu-e pictures with their vivid colors, and other traditional arts and crafts. Delicious food treats include traditional sushi, with fermented freshwater fish called "Funa-zushi," which has been enjoyed since the 8th century; also try Omi beef to tempt your palate. Not to be missed is the Hikiyama-matsuri Festival where decorative floats parade through the city in spring.