Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Shiga was known as Omi Province before the prefectural system was established.
Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, occupies one-sixth the total area of Shiga. The prefecture is enclosed by mountain ranges with the Hira mountains in the east and the Ibuki and Suzuka mountain ranges in the west. Northern Shiga is substantially colder with higher snowfall than in southern Shiga which is usually warmer.
Nicknames for different areas of the prefecture include Kohoku (north of lake), Kosei (west of lake), Koto (east of lake), and Konan (south of lake).
- Higashiomi (Formed on Feb. 11, 2005)
- Maibara (Formed on Feb. 14, 2005)
- Otsu (capital)
- Takashima (Formed on Jan. 1, 2005)
- Yokaichi (Dissolved on Feb. 10, 2005)
Mergers & Dissolutions
On January 1, 2005, all five towns and one village in the former Takashima District comprising Adogawa, Imazu, Shinasahi, Makino, and Takashima towns and Kutsuki village merged to form Takashima city. Takashima District was thereby dissolved.
On February 11, 2005, Yokaichi city and the towns of Eigenji, Gokasho, Aito, and Koto merged to form Higashiomi city. Yokaichi and the four towns were thereby dissolved. The adjacent lakeside town of Notogawa and Ryuou town are slated to merge with Higashiomi on Jan. 1, 2006.
A number of major companies have factories in Shiga such as IBM Japan, Canon, Yanmar Diesel, and Toray. Trading house C.Itoh was founded in Shiga among the well-known Omi merchants.
The population is concentrated along the southern shore of Lake Biwa in Otsu city (adjacent to Kyoto) and along the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. Cities on the eastern shore like Kusatsu and Moriyama are within commuting distance to Kyoto. In recent years, many Brazilians have settled in Shiga due to factory jobs. The lake's western shores are more rural and resort-oriented with white sand swimming beaches.
Nagahama Hikiyama Festival Omi Hachiman Sagicho Festival Kunitomo gunsmiths Ishiyama Temple Omi Hakkei
Many foreign tourists and even long-time foreign residents in Japan (except those in Kyoto) have never heard of Shiga. It might be considered a backwater prefecture overshadowed by its much more famous neighbor Kyoto. This is unfortunate since Shiga has so many things to offer tourists. The main gateways to Shiga is Maibara Station (bullet train station) in northern Shiga and Otsu, adjacent to Kyoto, down south. Before being incorporated as a prefecture in the modern era, Shiga's old fief name was Omi.
There are temples, castles, festivals, historical persons, and natural beauty that rank among those of national importance. Shiga's most prominent feature is Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. It looks like Japan's belly button on a map of Japan. The lake can be visited either by car (you can drive completely around it in one day) or by boat. The northern part of the lake is especially scenic. The western shore has white-sand swimming beaches, popular among Kyotoites during the summer. It is less developed than the eastern shore where there are cities such as Nagahama, Hikone, and Omi-Hachiman.
Boat cruises such as the well-known Michigan paddlewheeler and cruises to scenic Chikubushima island are worthy excursions. Many lakeside towns in Shiga also offer rental bicycles where you can hop on the bicycle at one train station and ride to another train station to return it. Cycling is a great way to see Shiga and the lake shore roads are very scenic. In spring, don't miss riding (or driving) through a stretch of road in Kaizu Osaki on the northern shore lined with cherry trees. It is one of Japan's most famous places for cherry blossoms.
Beautiful views of the lake can also be had from mountain roads like the Oku Biwako Parkway road up north and the Hiei-san Driveway and Oku Hiei Driveway overlooking the southwestern shore. In the capital city of Otsu, the Otsu Prince Hotel's Top of Otsu restaurant provides a superb high, panoramic view of the lake and city.
Like most prefectures, festivals abound in Shiga. Unique festivals include the Hikiyama Festival held in Nagahama in April. See ornate floats having with a miniature stage where highly-trained young boys (playing both male and female roles) act in kabuki plays. Meanwhile, Higashi Omi (formerly Yokaichi) city holds a Giant Kite Festival every May along a riverbank. The public is welcome to pull the rope to put the kite aloft (it doesn't fly very long if there's no wind).
Shiga's most famous building is Hikone Castle, a national treasure. The castle tower is well preserved and it gives you a good glimpse into how a real castle looked like during Japan's feudal period. It also has many cherry trees. The castle is associated with Ii Naosuke who was the Tokugawa shogunate's Great Elder (Tairo). He favored and concluded commercial treaties with the Western powers and thus broke Japan's isolation from the world in the 19th century. Foreigners were then allowed to trade with Japan and take up residence in cities like Yokohama and Hakodate. Unfortunately, Ii was later assassinated in 1860 by people who sought to oust the foreign "barbarians."
We also have Omi Hakkei or Eight Views of Omi made famous by Hiroshige's picturesque woodblock prints. Unfortunately, most of the original eight views are now almost gone or totally different from what they were centuries ago. One of them was set in Katata, home of the Ukimido, another famous building in Shiga. It is a small temple building built on stilts (now concrete pillars) on the lake near the shore, accessible by a short bridge.
Shiga has so many things that it would take a few weeks or more to see everything. The above is only the tip of the iceberg.
Lord Ii Naosuke from Hikone Castle served as a Tairo (Great Elder) in the Tokugawa government and played a key role in helping to open Japan to foreigners. He favored and concluded commercial treaties with the Western powers and thus broke Japan's isolation from the world. Foreigners were then allowed to trade with Japan and take up residence in cities like Yokohama and Hakodate. Ii was later assassinated in 1860 outside Edo Castle by people who sought to oust the foreign "barbarians."
Shiga also produced a prime minister in Sosuke Uno from Moriyama. Unfortunatelty, he was also one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in history, being forced to resign after only three months (June-August 1989) in office. His extramarital affair with a Kagurazaka geisha turned into a widely-reported sex scandal, leaving him no choice but to resign in total disgrace.
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