|Area (rank)||4,017.36 km² (38th)|
|- % water||14.0%|
|Population (April 1, 2000)|
|- Population||1,337,770 (31st)|
|- Density||332 /km²|
|- Flower||Rhododendron (Rhododendron metternichii var. hondoense)|
|- Tree||Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)|
|- Bird||Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)|
Symbol of Shiga Prefecture
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Shiga was known as Ōmi Province before the prefectural system was established.
Different areas of the prefecture include Kohoku (north of lake), Kosei (west of lake), Koto (east of lake), and Konan (south of lake).
Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, is located at the center of this prefecture. It occupies one-sixth the total area of Shiga. The prefecture is enclosed by mountain ranges with the Hira Mountains in the west, the Ibuki mountain range in the east, and the Suzuka Mountains in the southeast. Northern Shiga is substantially colder with higher snowfall than in southern Shiga, which is usually warmer.
Thirteen cities are located in Shiga Prefecture:
These are the towns in each district.
Since the Medieval Period, many Shiga people have been active in Japanese commercial fields and have been called Ōmi merchants (近江商人 Ōmi shōnin, Ōmi akindo ). For example, Nippon Life, Itochu, Marubeni, Takashimaya, Wacoal and Yanmar are founded by people from Shiga. Ōmi merchants were often called Ōmi thieves (近江泥棒 Ōmi dorobō ) by other jealous merchants.
Now, Shiga is an industry prefecture. A number of major companies have factories in Shiga such as IBM Japan, Canon, Yanmar Diesel, Mitsubishi, and Toray. According to Cabinet Office's stastics in 2006, Secondary sector of the economy accounted for 46.7 % of Gross Shiga Product, it is the highest proportion in Japan.
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 to work in nearby factories. The lake's western shores are more rural and resort-oriented with white-sand swimming beaches.
The Tonda Traditional Bunraku Puppet Troupe, a Japanese puppet theater in the form known as ningyō jōruri or Bunraku, is based in Biwa Town, on the shore of Lake Biwa in the northeastern part of Shiga Prefecture. Founded in the 1830s, the Tonda Puppet Troupe is one of the most active traditional puppet theaters in Japan outside the National Theater in Osaka. In Moriyama, there is also the Sagawa Art Museum.
The following sports teams are based in Shiga.
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. 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 Chikubu Island are worthy excursions. Many lakeside towns 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 "100 cherry blossoms sights in Japan".
Beautiful views of the lake can also be had from mountain roads like the Oku-Biwako Parkway road up north and the Hiei-zan Driveway and Oku-Hiei Driveway overlooking the southwestern shore. In Otsu, the Otsu Prince Hotel's Top of Otsu restaurant provides a superb high, panoramic view of the lake and city.
Like other prefectures, festivals abound in Shiga. Unique festivals include the Hikiyama Festival held each April in Nagahama. During this festival ornate floats are mounted with miniature stages on which highly-skilled boys (playing both male and female roles) act in kabuki plays. Meanwhile, Higashiomi (formerly Yokaichi) city holds a Giant Kite Festival every May along the riverbank. Ordinary people are invited to pull the rope that sends the kites aloft (unfortunately they don'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 provides a good glimpse into how a real castle looked 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 (Tairō). He favored and concluded commercial treaties with the Western powers and thus broke Japan's isolation from the world in the 19th century.
Shiga Prefecture is also famous for its Omi Hakkei or Eight Views of Omi, popularized 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 also produced the 75th prime minister, Sosuke Uno from Moriyama. He was one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in Japan, holding office for only three months (June–August 1989). Shiga was also the hometown of the famous pen spinner bonkura.
Miho Museum, . The Miho was the dream of Mihoko Koyama (after whom it is named), the heiress to the Toyobo textile business, and one of the richest women in Japan. In 1970 she founded the Shinji Shumeikai spiritual movement which is now said to have some 300,000 members worldwide, and in the 1990's she commissioned the museum to be designed by I M Pei and built close to the Shumei temple in the Shiga mountains. It houses Mihoko Koyama's private collection of Asian and Western antiques as well as US$300 million to US$1 billion (depending on your sources) worth of other pieces bought on the world market by Shumei in the years before the museum was opened in 1997. Over a thousand pieces in total, of which about 250 are displayed at any one time. I M Pei's design is a masterpiece, executed in a hilly and forested landscape that he came to call Shangri-La. About three quarters of the building is situated underground, carved out of a rocky mountaintop. The roof is an enormous glass and steel construction, while the exterior and interior walls and floor are made of a warm beige-coloured limestone from France – the same material used by Pei in the reception hall of the Louvre. Compared to marble, it creates a softer atmosphere and a more relaxed lightness. The colours of the stone, the silver space frame, the textured wooden louvers and the vegetation outside each counterbalance each other in wonderful harmony. Perhaps the most spectacular part of Pei's achievement, however, is the approach to the hilltop "paradise". When you arrive at the site, you first see a modest reception pavilion amid cedar trees, facing a circular courtyard, and you may be forgiven for thinking this is the museum. Opposite this building is a wide curved walkway lined with peach trees that leads to the mouth of a gleaming stainless-steel-lined tunnel cut into a ridge. As you walk into this silent, echoless, vast tunnel – it is at least three traffic lanes wide – it sweeps you in a single, 200-metre curve until sunlight suddenly appears, and – through the graceful cables of a half suspension bridge cantilevered 120 metres across a deep, narrow gorge – you finally see the Chinese-style moon-gate entrance to the museum pavilion. Allow at least two hours to browse the exhibits – each stunning piece was carefully selected as much for its artistic beauty as its historical significance, and the whole collection is brilliantly displayed and skilfully lit. Admission ¥1000, audio guide ¥500.
Open from 10 AM to 5 PM daily except Monday; note that the museum is normally closed from mid-December to mid-March, as well as parts of June/July and August/Sept, so check the calendar  first.
From Kyoto station, take a twenty-minute train ride with JR to Ishiyama on the east shore of Lake Biwa (¥230) and from there a very pleasant and scenic 40-minute cab ride or shuttle bus (from bus bay 3 at Ishiyama station, ¥800) through semi-rural areas with rice paddies to the museum's reception pavillion. Last returning bus to Ishiyama is 1715.
It may not have the name recognition of Kobe beef, but Omi beef is very famous among Japanese gourmets, and every local town will have an (expensive) speciality restaurant. If you want to try it at a reasonable price, you can buy Omi beef ekiben (box lunches sold at a station) at JR Maibara station.
Funazushi (鮒寿司) is a famous local sushi. Made from anaerobically fermented funa (鮒), a local freshwater carp, the recipe dates back thousands of years and is in fact the original form of sushi. It's famously stinky and an acquired taste even among the Japanese.
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