A Deeper Dive into Biwako at the Lake Biwa Museum
I think this exhibit may have been newly added since my previous visit. Titled “Micro World”, it focuses on freshwater micro-organisms, many of which you can view for yourself at the “Micro Bar” equipped with microscopes attached to digital displays. Other larger artworks, videos, and recreations gave a good glimpse into the strange and diverse world of our tiny neighbors.
At this point, I think we finished the first floor, and before moving on to the second floor we took a lunch break at the museum cafe/restaurant. Nice atmosphere and decent food, but the dining room is a bit small, so you may be in for a wait at peak lunch hour. Alternately, there are areas outside to eat your own bento from home if the weather is nice.
After lunch, we headed to the main 2nd floor exhibition hall. The first room is a wide circular space with satellite imagery of Lake Biwa printed onto the floor tiles, along with various wall displays about Lake Biwa’s geography, history, fishing, agriculture, etc.
This leads into a much larger hall that begins with a section about the lake’s reed grasses which have had many historical uses including the famous thatched roofs of traditional houses.
There is also an overlook here, back down to the first floor aquarium where you can see that these reeds are also growing in the outdoor sections of the tanks below.
From here there were several more sections about the local wildlife, agricultural practices, the rivers and broader ecosystems, and more. This was all pretty interesting. A few shots to give a brief overview.
There was also a wing arranged as a timeline of technological and pop culture history of modern times. Neat overview, but not related to Lake Biwa so much as Japanese culture more broadly.
The one other attraction in this floor was an entire old thatched-roof farmhouse, which was not a replica but an actual old house moved into this space. Not sure how they transported it, much less got it up to the second floor! Visitors can enter the main rooms, and it also included a couple ancillary building like an outhouse, and a sort of wash house or cleaning room that would have been situated along a river or canal for water access.
Making our way back toward the entrance, there were also a few smaller exhibition halls, one featuring ancient and prehistoric fossils and artifacts, another featuring some of the historical trade and merchant uses of the local waterways, as well as an art gallery.
So that was basically a full day for us. A fun and educational experience all around. I’ve still not seen the neighboring botanical gardens, so may have to do another return trip.
If you’re planning to visit, the museum has a good English website, with info on public transportation, hours, etc, so check here to help plan your visit: http://www.biwahaku.jp/english/guide-e/index.html