Shiga Prefecture is located to the North West of Kyoto. The capital of Shiga Prefecture is Otsu, but the prefecture is dominated by Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.
Much of the history of Shiga Prefecture revolves around Kyoto, particularly when it was the capital of Japan. Shiga Prefecture attractions include Hikone Castle (one of the four best preserved Japanese Castle), Enyakuji Temple complex (World Heritage Site), Chikubushima Island, the town of Nagahama and Lake Biwa.
SHIGA PREFECTURE MAP
SHIGA PREFECTURE ATTRACTIONS
Shiga Prefecture is to the North West of Kyoto in the Kansai region. The capital of Shiga Prefecture is Otsu, but the prefecture is dominated by Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Much of the history of Shiga Prefecture revolves around Kyoto, particularly when it was the capital of Japan. Shiga Prefecture attractions include Hikone Castle (one of the four best preserved Japanese Castle), Enyakuji Temple complex (World Heritage Site), Chikubushima Island, the town of Nagahama and Lake Biwa.
SHIGA PREFECTURE CAPITAL
Otsu is the capital of Shiga Prefecture and is on next to Lake Biwa and close to Kyoto. Otsu was the capital of Japan (667AD) before it was largely destroyed in the Jinshin War and the capital was moved to Kyoto (794AD).
Biwako refers to the area around Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, in Shiga Prefecture. The main city around Lake Biwa and the capital of Shiga Prefecture is Otsu, which is close to Kyoto city and in many respects acts as a suburb of Kyoto city.
SHIGA MAIN CITIES and TOWNS
Hikone is a historically significant castle city to the North West of Kyoto, but in Shiga Prefecture. Hikone is on the edge of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Much of the history of Hikone revolves around Kyoto, particularly when it was the capital of Japan. Hikone attractions include Hikone Castle (one of the four best preserved Japanese Castle) and Lake Biwa.
Nagahama is a charming castle town, next to Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture and close to Kyoto. Shiga features many historical attractions including the reconstructed Nagahama Castle, the former Nagahama Station which is the oldest train station in Japan and the famous Keiunkan Guest House. Nagahama also features Ho Koen which is considered one of Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.
Azuchi Castle is a hill top style Japanese Castle, almost directly above Lake Sainoko and close to the shore of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture not far from Kyoto. Oda Nobunaga order the construction of Azuchi Castle in 1576 and it was completed in 1579. Azuchi Castle was specifically positioned to provide protection for Kyoto, yet far enough away that it would not be damaged by fire if it broke out in the city. The donjon or tower of Azuchi Castle was an unusual seven stories high, but functioned more as a palace with lavish rooms, than the focus of defence of the castle. In 1582 after Nobunaga's death, Azuchi Castle was destroyed by fire while under attack by Akechi Mitsuhide. Today only ruins remain of the donjon, however there are many stone walls still remaining, an associated three story pagoda and an entrance gate. Today you can still experience the views of Lake Biwa, which allows you to really appreciate why Azuchi Castle was located on the hill top. There is a full scale recreation of the donjon at Azuchi Momoyama Bunka Mura theme park in Ise.
Hikone Castle is a hilltop style Japanese Castle in Hikone Shiga Prefecture near Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Hikone Castle is one of the oldest intact Japanese castles and is classified as an Important National Cultural Asset. Construction of Hikone Castle was ordered of Shogun Ii Naokatsu in 1603 and was completed in 1622. The three-story Tenshu (main keep) was built in 1575 as a part of Otsu Castle and moved to Hikone Castle when it was built. Other parts of the castle were moved from Nagahama Castle.
Kannonji Castle was a hilltop style Japanese Castle on the peak of Mt Kinugasa in Azuchi Shiga Prefecture, not far from Kyoto and close to the location of Azuchi Castle. The name for Kannonji Castle comes from the Buddhist temple, Kannonshoji, nearby. Kannonji Castle was completed in 1468, but with the title Sasaki Castle which was the family name of the Rokkaku clan placed in charge of the area by Ashikaga shogunate from Kyoto. In 1582 Kannonji Castle and Azuchi Castle were destroyed. Today only ruins remain.
Minakuchi Castle, also known as Hekisui Castle, is a plain style Japanese Castle in Koka Shiga Prefecture. Tokugawa Iemitsu ordered the construction of Minakuchi Castle, which was completed in 1634. Minakuchi Castle provided Tokugawa Iemitsu with a well protected way station on his journeys along the Tokaido Road between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). Minakuchi Castle featured a design similar to Nijo Castle. As part of the Meiji Restoration most of the castle was demolished. In 1991 some walls, two gates and a turret were reconstructed.
Nagahama Castle, in Nagahama Shiga Prefecture, is a 1983 concrete reconstruction of the castle built in 1576. This castle was demolished in 1615 with parts and materials used in the construction of Hikone Castle.
Odani Castle was a hilltop style Japanese Castle on Mt Odani in Kohoku Shiga Prefecture. Odani Castle was built by the Azai clan, but fell to Oda Noburnaga in a siege. Odani Castle is considered to have been one of Japan's Five Greatest Mountain Castles. Today little remains of Odani Castle with only some earthworks visible.
Omi Hachiman Castle was a hilltop style Japanese Castle on Mt Hachiman in Omi Hachiman Shiga Prefecture. Omi Hachiman Castle commanded a great view of the plain below including a large part of Lake Biwa. Omi Hachiman Castle was constructed by Hashiba Hidetsugu in 1585, only to be abandoned by 1595. Today a temple is on the site of Omi Hachiman Castle, however the some stone walls still remain.
Otsu Castle was a flatland style Japanese Castle in the city of Otsu in Shiga Prefecture and near Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan and the former capital of Japan, Kyoto. Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the construction of Otsu Castle, which was completed in 1586. In 1600 Otsu Castle was closed and the donjon (tower) was transferred to near by Hikone Castle. Today there are almost no visible signs that Otsu Castle existed and Hama-O-tsu Station is now inside the former castle grounds.
Sakamoto Castle was a flatland style Japanese Castle on the shoreline of Lake Biwa in Sakamoto Shiga Prefecture. Sakamoto Castle was the home base for Akechi Mitsuhide, an aid to Nobunaga, who had his primary castle, Azuchi Castle, on the other side of Lake Biwa. Today little remains of Sakamoto Castle, where only the stone foundations of the honmaru (inner bailey) can be seen.
Sawayama Castle was a hilltop style Japanese Castle on Mt Sawa in Hikone Shiga Prefecture. Sawayama Castle was built by the Azai clan, but control transferred to Ishida Mitsunari after the defeat of the Azai clan. fell to Oda Noburnaga in a siege. Sawayama Castle was awarded to Ii Naomasa after the Battle of Sekigahara. Sawayama Castle by this time was in poor condition and Ii Naomasa found the location to be inconvenient, so he planned to build a better castle, Hikone Castle. The Ii clan destroyed Sawayama Castle, although, more likely many materials were used in the construction of Hikone Castle. Today little remains of Sawayama Castle with only some earthworks visible.
Omatsuzaki is one of the eight most scenic spots around Lake Biwa. The White Beach of Omatsuzaki is where the depth of the water suddenly changes, and the water - so clear it's as if one could catch a fish by hand - stretches far out. The view of white sand and green pines, spreading for 3km with the Hira mountain range as its backdrop, is just magnificent.
Enryakuji Temple is a Buddhist temple, which was established in 788 on Mt Hiei, where it looks over Kyoto. Enryakuji Temple expanded over the years to become a large temple complex and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and forms part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)" listing.
Gansan Daishi-do (Shikikodo) Enryakuji Temple is the old site of the house of Gansan Daishi (Jie Daishi). Later it became to be called Shikikodo (Four Seasons Lecture Hall) as lectures of Hokke-Kyo were given here during each of the four seasons. Gansan Daishi (Jie Daishi) is enshrined in this building. Gansan Daishi-do is part of the massive Enyakuji Temple complex which is a World Heritage Site.
Hogonji Temple is a Buddhist temple on Chikubushima Island in Lake Biwa Shiga Prefecture, near Kyoto. Hogonji Temple features the National Tresure, a Karamon Gate which was for Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi's mausoleum and was transferred from Kyoto.
Mii-dera Temple is a Buddhist temple, that is the head temple for the Tendai Jimon Buddhist sect one of the four largest temple complexes in Japan. Mii-dera Temple is at the base of Mt Hiei in the city of Otsu in Shiga Prefecture (near Kyoto). Mii-dera Temple was established in 672AD, however the oldest building is the Kannon-do which was built in 1072. Mii-dera Temple is the fourteenth temple in the Pilgrimage of 33 Temples devoted to Kannon in the Kansai area.
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine is a Shinto Shrine in Otsu (Shiga Prefecture) near Kyoto. Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine was established around the 8th century, however the original building were destroyed by Oda Nobunga in 1571 at the time he was destroying nearby Enryakuji Temple. The current buildings were built in the years following their destruction.
Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine is famous for its festival which is held annually around the 13-16th of April. The festival features brightly decorated floats and kabuki theater performed by boys under 12 years old. Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine is in the city of Nagahama in Shiga Prefecture (close to Kyoto).
Tenson Shrine is a Shinto Shrine in the city of Otsu, near Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture (close to Kyoto). Tenson Shrine was established in 782AD and later purified by Emperor Heizei in 806AD is most famous for its part in the Otsu Festival which is annually held around October 10th.
Tuskubusuma Shrine is a Shinto Shrine on Chikubushima Island in Lake Biwa Shiga Prefecture, near Kyoto. The Honden (Main Hall) was a special guesthouse in Fushimi Castle to invite the Emperor and was transferred to here in the 16th century. You can see the Azuchi-Momoyama Culture in this building and it is designated as a National Treasure.
SHIGA MUSEUMS and ART GALLERIES
Hikone Castle Museum is within the inner moat of Hikone Castle Hikone Shiga Prefecture). Hikone Castle Museum features many artistic handicrafts from the Hikone Clan are displayed here, including Hikone Folding Screens and armor for samurai warriors.
Nagahama Railway Square is a railway museum which exhibits old Nagahama Station and the history of Nagahama Railway. Old Nagahama Station was built in 1882, which is the oldest existing railway station in Japan. Nagahama Railway Square is in Nagahama Shiga Prefecture.
SHIGA GARDENS and PARKS
Genkyuen Garden is in the grounds of the famous Hikone Castle. Genkyuen Garden is modelled on a detached palace of Emperor Genso of the Tang dynasty in ancient China, this Chisen-kaiyu style garden (landscaped around a large pond) was constructed in 1677.
Kaizu-Osaki is a famous view with its pink cherry trees in full bloom against the dark blue waters of Lake Biwa, the rocks sticking out prominently from the water, and lush green mountains with snow-covered peaks. Kaizu Osaki is considered one of Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.
SHIGA LAKES and BAYS
Lake Biwa is a picturesque lake Shiga Prefecture near Kyoto and is the largest lake in Japan. Lake Biwa is famous for its scenery and fishing, however its size, location and proximity to Kyoto made it a very stratigic location in the past. Lake Biwa is surrounded by several Japanese Castles and ruins of former castles including Hikone Castle which is one of the best preserved Japanese Castles. The largest city next to Lake Biwa is Otsu.
SHIGA PORTS and FERRY TERMINALS