滋賀県長浜市 Shiga-ken (part 1): Nagahama

Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan, 60 kilometres long. It lies to the north of here, in a prefecture called Shiga. On the shore of the lake is a charming old town called Nagahama, with a beautiful castle in a park on the water’s edge.

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Today we drove on a day-trip to Shiga in the glorious April sunshine. Arriving in Nagahama, we discovered that while the cherry-blossom season here in Osaka has come to an end, in Shiga, thanks to its more northerly and more inland situation, the cherries are now in full bloom.

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A bride and groom in traditional wedding outfits posed for photos in front of the castle.

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The dogs were delighted to jump straight into the lake after the long drive, without even waiting to take off their leads.

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Nagahama attracts a great many tourists every year, and the centre of town (around Kurokabe Square) maintains an “old-time” feel, with streets of wooden houses, lots of souvenir shops and museums.

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There may be even more tourists next year, because an upcoming Taiga Drama will be set in this area.

This interesting modern building stands across the road from the Music Box museum:

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A short distance from the historic centre, we spotted this “Nagahama Tower Building”, with a lot of (now rusting) ironwork on the exterior:

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We took the opportunity to have a late-season hanami bentou (picnic lunch) under the cherry blossoms in the castle park.

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A note on the word of the day:

Japan is divided into “prefectures”, equivalent to counties. There are 47 prefectures, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. The Japanese for prefecture is 県 ken, so normally (with a few exceptions) a prefecture is named with the suffix -ken as in 滋賀県 shiga-ken.

The 4 exceptions are:

  • 東京都 toukyou-to—the metropolis of Tokyo;
  • 大阪府 oosaka-fu, 京都府 kyouto-fu—the urban prefecture of Osaka/Kyoto;
  • 北海道 hokkaidou—Hokkaido (道 dou literally means “road”)
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