Located just a short trip from the popular tourist city of Kyoto, Shiga Prefecture is a unique part of Japan which offers something incredible in every season – be it skiing at Biwako Valley Resort in winter, cherry blossom viewing in spring, witnessing bizarre fire festivals in summer, or viewing gorgeous foliage in autumn.
The enormous freshwater lake which dominates this prefecture – Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest – makes the region an ideal place for nature lovers, and the wealth of historic sites which surround it offer plenty for fans of culture and tradition.
Among the best is the floating torii gate of Shirahige Shrine on the west bank, the national treasure Hikone Castle on the east, and 1260-year-old Ishayama Dera Temple on the south. A circuit around the vibrant towns and cities on the perimeter of this formidable body of water is a crash course in all things Japanese.
And while you’ll be well familiar with Japanese seafood, you might be surprised to discover a wealth of new dishes based on the freshwater catches which abound in this region. You’ll even get the chance to try Japanese sushi in its most original (and pungent) form: funazushi.
Shiga has more to offer than just the lake, however. Head into the mountains and you’ll find charming traditional inns, world-class art museums, and two temples once occupied by warring sects of Buddhist monks — Miidera and Enryakuji.
Excellent transport links mean that the majority of Shiga is easily accessible from the popular tourist destinations of Kyoto and Osaka. Here’s our pick of the best sights to help you get the most out of your time in this incredible corner of Japan.