Shiga Prefecture

SHIGA PREFECTURE

Shiga is a prefecture of Japan, located in the region of Kinki and the capital is Otsu. Its area are 4,017,36 km2 with population density of 332/km2. With 11 districts and 50 municipalities.
Shiga borders Fukui Prefecture in the north, Gifu Prefecture in the east, Mie Prefecture in the Southeast, and Kyoto Prefecture in the west.
Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest, is located at the center of this prefecture. Most natural rivers flow into the lake. There were many lagoons around Lake Biwa, but most of them were reclaimed in 1940s. One of the preserved lagoons is the wetland in Omihachiman, and it was selected as the first Important Cultural Landscapes in 2006.
The prefecture is enclosed by mountain ranges and the Mount Ibuki is the highest mountain in Shiga. In Yogo, a small lake is famous for the legend of the heavenly robe of an angel, which is similar to a western Swan Maiden.

CLIMATE AND NATURE

Shiga’s climate sharply varies between north and south. Southern Shiga is usually warm, but northern Shiga is typically cold with high snowfall and hosts many skiing grounds. 1936, in Nakanokawachi, the northernmost village of Shiga, snow reached a depth of 5.6 meters.
As of March 31, 2008, 37% of the total land area of the Shiga was designated as Natural Parks, the highest total of any prefecture.

ECONOMY

Rice fields occupy over 90 percent of cultivated areas. Most farms are small, producing only a slight income and depend on income from other sources. Eastern Shiga is famous for OHMIGYU.
Since Edo period, many Shiga people were active in commerce and were called Ohmi merchants. The NIPPON LIFE, TAKASHIMAYA and YANMAR were founded by people from Shiga. In their home towns, their mansions were preserved as tourist attractions.
In the 1960s, Shiga developed industry, supporting major factories owned by companies such as IBM Japan, Canon, Yanmar Diesel, Mitsubishi and Toray. According to Cabinet Office’s statistics in 2007, the secondary sector of the economy accounted for 44,8% of Gross Shiga Product, the highest proportion in Japan. Traditional industries include Shigaraki ware, medicines in Koka and others.
In recent years, many Brazilians settled in Shiga to work in nearby factories. 26,471 foreigners live in Shiga and 36% of foreigners were Brazilians, even after economic crisis that Japan faced.

HISTORY

During the period 667 to 672, Emperor Tenji founded a palace in Otsu. In 742, Emperor Shomu founded a palace in Shigaraki. In the early Heian Period, Saicho was born in the north of Otsu and founded Enryaku-ji, the center of Tendai and one a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the 1570s, Oda Nobunaga subjugated Ohmi and built Azuchi castle, apparently the original project is in the Vatican. In those times, Ninja were active in Koka.
In 1600, Ishida Mitsunari, born in the east of Nagahama, made war against Tokugawa Ieyasu in Sekigahara.

TOURISM

Shiga’s most prominent feature is Lake Biwa. The northern shore is especially scenic, such as the cherry blossoms in spring, the western shore has white beaches, popular among Brazilians and Kyotoites during the summer. The scenery of the southern shore popularized by Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e. One remaining view is the Ukimido, floatinf temple building at Mangetsu-ji in Katata, northern Otsu. It was reconstructed with concrete in 1937, but a small temple still stands on the lake near the shore, accessible by a short bridge.
Shiga has 807 National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, which ranks the fourth large number in Japan. Shiga’s most famous historical building is Hikone Castle, one of four national treasure castles in the country.
Notable shrines include Hiyoshi Taisha in Otsu and Taga-Taisha in Taga, which respectively head the seventh and twentieth largest shrine networks in Japan, at about 4,000 shrines and 260 shrines, respectively.
The hikiyama festival, held in ten areas such as Otsu, Minakuchi, Hino, Nagahama. The Nagahama hikiyama festival held each April is one of the three major hikiyama festivals in Japan and was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1979.