Shiga Japan: The Home of Japan’s Famous Omi Beef

Shiga Japan Guide

History of Shiga Japan

The historical name of Shiga, in many ancient records, was the Omi Province. Since it is located quite near the main capital of Kyoto, there are many historical sites within the prefecture. In fact, there are multiple royal palaces within the area which have been founded by Emperor Tenji, Emperor Shomu, and more.

During the age of Feudal Japan, the entire province was ruled by the Sasaki clan at the beginning. The rule was then transferred to the Rokkaku clan, the Kyogoku clan, and the Azai clans. During the early 18th century, the entire Omi province was divided into a total of eight prefectures. Then in the late 18th century, all the eight prefectures have been combined to form what is now known as the Shiga Prefecture.

Shiga Japan Map

Shiga Prefecture is located on the map in the Kansai region of the western section of the main island of Honshu, its capital city is Otsu. It has a total land area of 4,000 square kilometers with a total population of about 1.4 Million.

One of the most important natural spots in the area would be the Lake Biwa, or Biwako, which is the largest freshwater body in Japan. The geography of the area shows that it is surrounded by mountains such as Mount Hiei, Ibuki Mountains, the Suzuka Mountains, and Mount Ibuki.

Shiga Japan Weather

What is interesting about Shiga is that there is no specific climate for the entire prefecture. The Southern part of Shiga experiences warmer temperatures and weather. It still experiences four different seasons but the temperatures are much warmer than that of the south. On the other hand, the north is typically cold. They experience high snowfall occurrences and have even experienced a record-breaking 5.6-meter deep snow in the late 1930s.

A lot of people enjoy going to Shiga to enjoy the summer and spring flowers. There are a number of festivals celebrated during the months of March and April in spring. There are also some flower festivals celebrated during the rainy months of July and August.

Getting around Shiga Japan

Shiga Japan Nearest Airport

The capital city of Otsu in Shiga Prefecture is about 116 kilometers from the Kansai International Airport and about 143 kilometers from the Chubu Centrair International Airport. Foreign travelers can choose between the two airports, there are bus lines and train stations that can take an individual from the airport to the capital city of Otsu.

For domestic flights, the nearest airport would be the Osaka International Aiport. There are still some international flights that have airline docks here, so it would be best to check before booking a flight. Another domestic airport near Otsu city would be Kobe Airport.

Must-Eats in Shiga Japan

Omi Beef

One of the main culinary contributions that Japan has been for would be the Wagyu beef. This is a special kind of cattle meat which has been made famous for its beautiful marbleization – a special characteristic of premium steak meat. Wagyu, contrary to what most people know, has three kinds – the Omi beef, the Kobe beef, and the Matsusaka beef. The Omi beef originates from the Shiga prefecture of Japan.

It is said that Omi beef has a distinct flavor because of the surroundings for which the cattle have been bred. The vegetation of the land added to the sweetness of the pristine waters of the region (mainly from Lake Biwa) made the Omi beef one-of-a-kind.

What is special about the Omi beef is that it is known to be one of the oldest beef brands in the country. One of their popular specialties would be the miso-marinated beef which was quite popular during the Edo period. The Omi beef was a symbol of hospitality in the region as it was presented as a gift to the famous feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Since then, the Omi beef was considered a luxurious meal which should only be served to lords. It has gained popularity to neighboring prefectures that it was exported to different parts of Japan.


Another popular delicacy which is local to the Shiga prefecture of Japan would be the Funazushi – a whole new take to traditional fermentation. Funazushi is a kind of fermented fish which was cured not just days or weeks, but years at a time. This is tagged as an “ancestral sushi” which is believed to be the ancient ways of creating sushi.

The fish which is fermented is the nigoro-buna which are caught in Lake Biwa which is well known for its flavor and aroma. The fermented fish has a bitter cheesy flavor that is one of a kind. A lot of people enjoy the bitterness of the fish which matches pretty well with the taste of sake. A small box of this usually costs about 3,200 yen and a large box usually costs about 7,800 yen.

Gourmet Ramen

What is interesting about this place is that Shiga is popular for both the Omi beef and the Funazushi. However, one of their hidden culinary gems would be their gourmet ramen. A popular local favorite would be the thin noodle served with Maroyaka soup base. This has a delicious blend of pork, chicken, and fish. It is a thick soup full of flavor from the meats, and a delicious thickness from the collagen. A normal serving of this would have bamboo shoots, roasted pork, egg, nori, and onion.

Shiga Japan Points of Interest

Makino Pic-land: Shiga Japan Trees

This place is one of the most picturesque places in all of the Shiga prefecture and it is known to be one of the top Japan roadside views. This 2.5-kilometer road is lined with about 500 Metasequoia trees or redwoods which is believed to have originated from China. What is great about these trees is the fact that they change color with the season. It is usually fresh green during the springtime, dark green during the summertime, red and orange during the fall, and interestingly bare during the winter time.

Next to the row of beautiful redwood trees is a large agricultural garden that has a greenhouse for a variety of fruits. Fruit picking is a popular activity in the garden throughout the year. The fresh fruits vary depending on the season, there is also a farmer’s market inside for those who wish to purchase fresh fruits instead of picking them. There are also souvenir items available in this spacious park. Usually, cherries are a popular pick during the months of May and June. While during the months of August, September, October, and November apples and sweet potatoes are crowd favorites.

The place is open between 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day but are closed every Wednesdays. Reservations are required for fruit picking and are only accessible when the fruits are ready for harvest. The Makino Pic-land can be accessed via bus from the Makino station from the JR Kosei Line.

Hikone Castle

The Hikone Castle, built in the early 1600s, is one of the very few ancient feudal residences in Japan which are well-kept and preserved. It has its original keep whose entire structure is well-maintained as seen from every painted detail of the walls and the roofs. Because of its current condition, the Hikone Castle is considered as one of the only five castles in Japan which are given a ‘National Treasure’ title.

This castle is a famous Sakura blossom viewing spot during the months of March and April, particularly at the Genkyuen Garden. The beauty of the castle added to the pink blossoms of sakura creates an exciting historical feel to the cherry blossom viewing experience. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the flowers while resting calmly in the zen garden complete with a manmade pond and landscaped shrubbery.

Biwako Valley

A famed winter destination, the Biwako Valley in the Otsu City of the Shiga Prefecture is a favorite go-to spot during the months of December and January. It is the only ski hill located nearest Central Kyoto which has been operating since the mid-1960s. The hill has a total of eight courses where the longest is about 1400 meters and the steepest is at 30 degrees. There is a ski school and a snowboard school available for beginners.

There is a ‘Snow Land’ intended for young children who cannot be on the slopes yet. For those who just wish to enjoy the sights, there is a ropeway and a gondola available in the facility. The Biwako valley is opened from Mid-December until the last weeks of March. They operate from 8:30 AM until 5:00 PM on a daily basis. Night skiing is not allowed here, on the other hand. It can be accessed via bus from the Shiga Station on the Kosei Railway line.

Nagahama Castle

This is another castle located in Shiga prefecture of Japan. It was established in the late 1500s. However, unlike the Hikone Castle, the majority of the original castle is now in ruins. This is the “one province, one castle” regulation was established in the early 1600s. It is believed that the materials removed from the Nagahama Castle were transported to construct what is now known as the Hikone castle.

In 1983, a massive reconstruction has been done to recreate the main keep of the castle. However, this makes the size of the Nagahama castle much smaller than the Hikone castle. The Nagahama Castle is accessible from the JR Nagahama station of the JR Biwako Line. The castle and the museum are open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily and the admission fee is about 400 yen.

Lake Biwa

This particular lake is known to be the largest freshwater body in all of Japan. Biwako, or Biwa-ko, played an important role in the history and culture of the Japanese. This lake is popular in the sense that it has been repeatedly mentioned in ancient Japanese literature and poetry. There are also historical accounts of battles, explorations, and even trade where Lake Biwa was the setting.

Today, activities such as boating, kayaking, sports fishing, camping and the like are popular activities in Lake Biwa. Also, a popular tourist spot in the area would be the Mangetsu-ji temple which is located just beside Lake Biwa in Otsu. This is known as a floating temple as the main hall is located n the water.

Kiyomiso Inn

Located on the western side of Lake Biwa, this is an old-school homestay which is popular for foreign tourists in the area. The rooms are all traditional styled with tatami mats, sliding paper doors, and sliding windows.

Shiga Japan Pink Trees: Cherry Blossom Spots in Shiga Japan

Ho Park

This park, also known as Hou Park, is located in the Nagahama Castle and it is the best cherry blossom viewing spot in all of Shiga. There are about 600 cherry trees around the garden which is in full bloom during the month of April. According to legends, the garden has been named appropriately as Hou Park because of the word ‘ho’ in Japanese means ‘abundance’.

What makes the park even more popular and special is the fact that there are also plum blossoms, Japanese wisteria blooms that peak during the months of May. This makes Hou Park a popular flowers and bloom destination all year round.

Miidera temple

What makes the place so scenic is the fact that when the temple is viewed from the top, it looks as if it is floating on cotton candy. Its surroundings is in full Sakura bloom looking like fluffy pink cotton from above. There are about 1,000 trees in the temple grounds and this place is considered as one of the best places to see the cherry blossoms during springtime.

Biwako Canal

The Lake Biwa canal is an ancient waterway which was constructed during the Meiji period of Japan. Some parts of the Biwako canal is lined with hundreds of Cherry trees which are great for viewing Sakura blooms. During the earlier times, the Biwako canal was a popular means of transport that will take people to different parts of the prefecture.