Kaizu Ōsaki, Shiga: A Parade in Pink Along Lake Biwa’s Northern Shore

Travel

Kaizu Ōsaki is a popular scenic spot for sakura-viewing on Lake Biwa. In springtime, cherry trees lining a 4-kilometer stretch of the Shiga Prefecture lake burst into bloom, creating a tunnel of pink flowers on land and a beautifully decorated shoreline viewed from the water.

Late Blooms Along a Scenic Rcky Shore

Kaizu Ōsaki is part of the Makino district in the city of Takashima, on the northwestern shore of Lake Biwa. This scenic spot, known for its dynamic rock formations, has been designated one of the “Eight Best Views of Lake Biwa.”

Eight hundred somei yoshino cherry trees planted along a 4-kilometer stretch of Prefectural Route 557 flower in early to mid-April. This is a bit later than usual for sakura in the Kansai region, making the road a popular attraction for those seeking to enjoy the delicate pink flowers as long as possible.

Sakura in bloom form a pink line along the shore at Kaizu Ōsaki.
Sakura in bloom form a pink line along the shore at Kaizu Ōsaki.

Pale flowers offer a pleasing contrast to the blue skies and waters of Lake Biwa.
Pale flowers offer a pleasing contrast to the blue skies and waters of Lake Biwa.

This scenic route got its start in the late 1920s, when a local laborer planted a few sakura trees along the shoreline road at his own expense. As spring came and the sakura bloomed, young men from the village got together and planted more. With the opening of the Ōsaki tunnel in 1936, the Makino village authorities planted still more sakura to commemorate the event, giving birth to today’s scenic stretch of trees along the lakeshore. Local residents have been active in maintaining the trees, and the sakura of Kaizu Ōsaki were included in a list of the “Hundred Best Sakura Spots” in the country in 1990.

The Kaizu Ōsaki trees are at their best when viewed against the blue waters of Lake Biwa. During flower-viewing season, tour boats ply the waters, allowing visitors to admire the contrast between the rough shoreline and the delicate flowers from offshore.

Pretty as a picture: sakura in bloom against rocky outcroppings along the shore at Kaizu Ōsaki. To the right is Chikubu Island.
Pretty as a picture: sakura in bloom against rocky outcroppings along the shore at Kaizu Ōsaki. To the right is Chikubu Island.

Tour boats depart from the Kaizu fishing port, Nihonmatsu, Takagihama, and several other points along the lake’s edge.
Tour boats depart from the Kaizu fishing port, Nihonmatsu, Takagihama, and several other points along the lake’s edge.

Nearby Must-See Spots

Visitors to Kaizu Ōsaki should certainly include other nearby spots in their itinerary. Drive northeast along Route 557 to the Ōura intersection, turn right onto Route 513, and follow the road to the Oku-Biwako Parkway, a 19-kilometer meandering road that climbs the hills of a northern peninsula jutting into the lake. This road, lined with 3,000 cherry trees, is very popular for spring excursions; the Tsuzura Osaki vista point offers splendid views of the entire lake.

The cherry trees along the Oku-Biwako Parkway are just 20 to 25 years old, much younger than those at Kaizu Ōsaki.
The cherry trees along the Oku-Biwako Parkway are just 20 to 25 years old, much younger than those at Kaizu Ōsaki.

Another notable spot is Lake Yogo to the northeast. Various species of sakura are planted around the lake: the Ōshima cherry (Prunus speciosa) blooms in late April, and the yae-zakura, with its double blossoms, reaches its peak in early May. Other cherry trees planted on the banks of the water course along the lake vie with bright yellow nanohana rape blossom to delight visitors. Also recommended for hikers is the peak of Shizugatake, just south of Lake Yogo. Another scenic spot among the “Eight Best Views of Lake Biwa,” Shizugatake offers panoramic views of the lake and its tapestry of spring colors. (A chairlift offering easier access to the peak has been out of service since a March 2018 landslide.)

Pink sakura and bright yellow nanohana at Lake Yogo.
Pink sakura and bright yellow nanohana at Lake Yogo.

Shizugatake, site of a battle hundreds of years ago, overlooks the northern part of Lake Biwa.
Shizugatake, site of a battle hundreds of years ago, overlooks the northern part of Lake Biwa.

Kaizu Ōsaki

Access: From Kyoto to Makino on the JR Kosei Line new express, 70 minutes. From Makino station to the entrance to the Ōsaki trees, 30 minutes on foot. (A shuttle bus runs from Makino station when the trees are in bloom.) From there to the temple Ōsakidera, 30 minutes on foot.

Note: There are weekend restrictions on vehicular traffic along the Kaizu Ōsaki road during the flower-viewing season. If visiting by car, check before setting out.

(Originally published in Japanese. Reporting, photos, and text by Kuroiwa Masakazu. Banner photo: A flower-viewing boat at Kaizu Ōsaki is framed by branches of sakura in bloom.)

tourism takoyaki tatami Lake Biwa Shiga Prefecture Kansai cherry blossoms cherry blossom viewing cherry trees