10 Wonderful Ways to Enjoy the Views of Mother Lake
When receiving puzzled faces telling people you live in Shiga, throwing in a ‘Lake Biwa’ reference usually sets things straight. Lake Biwa is synonymous with Shiga, and we are incredibly lucky to have her body of water right in the midst of our Prefecture.
To celebrate this year’s ‘Lake Biwa Day’ on July 1st, I thought I’d give you a whirl round the best 10 spots on her shores to soak up her glory.
1. Let’s start in Otsu. Here you’ll find a set of 4 funky café/restaurants lined attractively along the grassed shore. Named ‘Nagisa No Terrace’, it’s the perfect place to grab a light lunch or refreshing drink while you people watch, breathe in the fresh sunshine-kissed air, or plan your next Biwa stop. Check out the eatery choices here on the Nagisa No Terrace website: http://nagisanoterrace.jp/ and find a few more photos here at ShigaToco.
2. Lake Biwa belongs to a select group of worldwide lakes based on its ‘ancient’ status. Around 1 million years old, there’s a lot of history to be found and the Lake Biwa Museum in Kusatsu is the place to find it! Holding a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ from the Trip Advisor travel site, this museum is a must! Why not time your visit with this coming exhibition excitingly titled ‘The Seven Mysteries of Lake Biwa’s Formation’:
3. It’s not often I dine in fine hotels but I once went to the Laforet hotel restaurant in Moriyama (website, access map) and enjoyed a good taste of the lake ‘fancy’ style – and it wasn’t that expensive! Lunch menus start from just under 2000 yen, so anyone can wine, dine and lake-watch with the best of them!
4. If I could build a home on Biwa beach, I’d ask the designer to copy and paste ‘Chalet’ café in lakeside Omihachiman. The amazing balcony is the perfect spot to watch a Biwa sunset before you head down to the private beach to dip your feet. The homey-style food and drinks are reasonably priced and the log cabin feel is quaint too. The many blog posts about this place (link, link) attest to its lure.
5. One of the coolest lake neighbourhoods in Shiga would have to be Shingaihama (新海浜) in Notogawa (beach photos and access map). Its unique mix of European inspired cottage beach houses is surprising, but the best cottage is just up the road in Inae. Called ‘Vokko’ (Vokko website), this grass-roofed cottage houses a café and stylish interior shop with Lake Biwa right out back! Never has chic coffee sipping been this chilled.
6. I appreciate good parks and Nagahama Hokoen Park (city website, more info) is certainly worthy of appreciation. It has a replica castle, play areas, BBQ spaces, open fields, cherry blossoms galore in spring, and a bath house! That you can access the park easily from the station on one side while it scenically borders the lake on the other, is also a big bonus. I often come here for friendly get togethers, book reading or for some downtime after shopping the nearby Kurokabe square. The park’s multi-functional set up means you’ll meet a nice cross section of co-park users too.
7. The north of Lake Biwa offers stunning ‘natural’ views of the lake and surroundings. Camping along the peninsula of Nishi Azai is one of my most memorable outdoor stays yet. My friends who have cycled these parts also highly recommend it.
8. Getting to the island of Chikubushima (visitor info) in the middle of northern Lake Biwa is half the fun. Reachable only by ferry or boat (typically from Nagahama), it’s a full day of adventure. On the island, explore the famous temple and shrine complexes tucked into the trees while enjoying the lake views. On my visit a few years ago, there was also a small ceramic dish throwing ritual you could take part in.
9. The west side of the lake hosts a lone torii gate sitting tranquilly offshore near Takashima City. It belongs to Shirahige Shrine (visitor info) whose main hall is designated as a national important cultural property. The perfect serene stopover on your trip round the lake.
10. Completing our course round the lake is R café (website) in Hira. My visit here was the only time in my life I have eaten Hawaiian food beachside while it was snowing. It left a great memory, and I long for my next ‘summer version’ chance. This café is right on the beach with great open space and is dog friendly – so bring your own or pet another’s! More photos here.
Lastly, here’s a little map with all 10 spots numbered at their respective locations around the lake. Click to enlarge, then right-click > save image if you want to download for your future adventures: