Guideto JapanCulture History
Although it is one of a relatively small number of prefectures without a coastline, Shiga Prefecture in Kansai includes Lake Biwa, which is Japan’s largest body of fresh water. The lake lies entirely within Shiga’s borders and accounts for one sixth of its total area. The prefecture is located on a central plain surrounded by mountains.
Shiga Prefecture at a Glance
- Established in 1872 (formerly Ōmi province)
- Capital: Ōtsu
- Population: 1,414,000 (as of Oct. 2020)
- Area: 4,017 km2
Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture, one of Japan’s best-preserved castles, was originally built in the early seventeenth century. The hilltop fortress looks out over Lake Biwa, and is a popular spot during cherry blossom season. The small city of Ōmihachiman has a rich history as a hub for transportation, and its picturesque canal area attracts tourists today.
Western Shiga, on the border with Kyoto Prefecture, is home to the temple Enryakuji on the mountain Hieizan, the head temple for the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism.
Secondary industries are an important part of Shiga Prefecture’s overall production, and it specializes in products including hairdressing appliances and scales. Funazushi, an early, fermented form of sushi, is made with funa carp from Lake Biwa, while the local Ōmi beef is a respected wagyū brand.
- Uno Sōsuke (1922–98): Liberal Democratic Party politician who was one of Japan’s shortest-serving prime ministers, resigning after 68 days in office in June–August 1989.
- Kiryū Yoshihide (1995–): Athlete who was the first Japanese sprinter to run 100 meters in under 10 seconds.
(Originally published in English. Banner photo: Hikone Castle in cherry blossom season. © Pixta.)
For the complete list of the country’s 47 prefectures, see “The Prefectures of Japan.”