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Shiga 滋賀

Shiga is a prefecture located to the East of Kyōto. Kyōto and Shiga, whose historical name is Ōmi (近江), have historically been deeply interwoven. The two major postal routes from Edo (present-day Tōkyō) to Kyōto passed through Shiga.

The central characteristic of Shiga Prefecture is without doubt Lake Biwa (琵琶湖), Japan's largest lake. If one looks at a map, you may get fooled into believing that most of Shiga Prefecture consists of Lake Biwa, and not much else. But, if you look closely, that's not the case.

Shiga largely devides into an area east, and an area west of the lake. On the eastern shore, one finds the historic old town of Ōmi Hachiman (近江八幡) or Hikone with its famous castle (彦根城). Temples and gardens of interest on this side of the lake include Eigen-ji (永源寺), Kongōrin-ji (金剛輪寺) or Kyōrin-bō (教林坊).

To the west, at the foot of Mt. Hiei (比叡山), lies Sakamoto, where several temples and Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉大社), an important Shintō shrine connected historically to Mt. Hiei (just as Sekizan Zen-in and Saginomori

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A slightly different temple experience: Mangetsu-ji's Floating Hall.

Shrine on the other side) is located, as well as several temples belonging to the Tendai school of Buddhism, among them open for the public: Shiga-in (滋賀院門跡), Chikurin-in (竹林院) and Saikyō-ji (西教寺). Every year in spring, the Sannō Festival (山王祭) of Hiyoshi Shrine brings livelihood into this historically, but touristically often neglected neighbourhood.

To the southwestern part of Lake Biwa, directly after Kyōto, lies Shiga's capital city of Ōtsu (大津). In Ōtsu, Mii-dera (三井寺), Ōmi Shrine (近江神宮), and in particular Ishiyama-dera (石山寺) are worth a visit, as is the "floating hall" (ukimi-dō ) of Mangetsu-ji () a few kilometres to the north.

With the lake as its central characteristic, strolling around the lakeside is worth it pretty much anywhere in Shiga. One place to enjoy the summer, for example, are the beaches of Ōmi Maiko (近江舞子) along the western shore. and, if you have a car, makes for pretty sunrises and sunsets, esp. at Mangetsu-ji and Shirahige Shrine.

Areas and places I have not been able to visit so far include Shirahige Shrine,Daichi-ji, or Mangetsu-ji during sunrise.

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