Lake Biwa


Referring to Shiga prefecture, we all think about the Lake Biwa like we can call Shiga Lake Biwa and its valley. Actually, the lake area of about 670 square kilometers occupies one sixth of the whole Shiga, covering almost all the prefecture by its limpid blue water on the map of Japan. The lake carrying a beautiful name of a Japanese musical instrument with a similar shape , receiving water from small rivers flowing from the encircling mountains, becomes the pride of Shiga as the largest freshwater across Japan.


Lake Biwa is believed to be one of the oldest around the world, dating back about 4 to 5 million years ago. Originally, there was a fate meeting of several different lakes. The great predecessor of Biwa should be Lake Katata which moved to the west to the present position of the southern basin of Lake Biwa, expanding northeast to form the current north basin. Actually, this was proved to happen just 1 million years ago, and what happened even earlier was the existence of 4 other lakes in about 4 million years ago. These lakes came to meet and live with the others to be the only lake of Biwa as we see today. Naturally, the bottom of the lake has continues to subside due to diastrophism then the lake has avoided being choked with sediments carried into by rivers.


The area around Biwa lake used to be called Omi, at that time, playing as the important transportation hub connecting the east and the west parts of Japan. Goods and passengers were carried by ship through Lake Biwa to Kyoto and Osaka, pushing the economic development among regions. In fact, the lake has supplies 14 million people with drinking water including the cities of Osaka and Kyoto, playing as a reservoir for the cities of Kyoto and Otsu and is a valuable resource for nearby textile industries. Lake Biwa generously raises freshwater fish including trout and plecoglosus altivelis, also feeding pearl oyster. They found about 200 historical ruins around the lake, proving the close tie of Biwa with human culture and development.


The magnificent scene of surrounding mountain reflecting vividly in the crystal clear water of Biwa lake has been used in many Japanese poems and paintings among which Omi Hakkei, the eight selected beautiful landscapes in Omi district is the most outstanding. The paintings were inspired by the Eight Views of Xiaoxiang describing the scenery around Lake Dongting in the northeast of the Hunan province in China. 


The Japanese poet, painter and calligrapher Konoe Nobutada chose Mii no Bansho (The Evening Bell at Mii Temple), Awazu no Seiran (The Clear Breeze at Awazu), Seta no Sekisho (The Evening Glow at Seta), Ishiyama no Shugetsu (The Autumn Moon at Ishiyama), Yabase no Kihan (The Returning Sailing Ship at Yabase), Karasaki no Yau (The Evening Rain at Karasaki), Katata no Rakugan (The Wild Geese Returning Home at Katata), Hira no Bosetsu (The Evening Snow at Hira) to make a perfect Omi Hakkei. They represent for the various glory moment of nature dominating Biwa Lake, simply created by sunlight, gentle breeze, charming rain, dreaming snow, silent ship and beautiful geese.

Open time: 

All day


Freely access

How to access: 
-The JR Tokaido Main Line and the Tokaido Shinkansen line run along the southern and eastern coasts of the lake, connecting Otsu and Hikone to Kyoto and Osaka in the west and Nagoya in the east. 
-The private Keihan Keishin Line provides the cheapest way of getting from Kyoto to Otsu and onward with a change of train to Sakamoto.
-Cruises around the lake and ferries to Chikubu and Okishima depart from Otsu and Hikone.