History of Shiga Prefecture
by Philbert Ono, Last updated: Sept. 3, 2016
|Yayoi Period (500 BC to 300 AD) hut.|
|Wada tumulus in Ritto.|
The two biggest factors influencing Shiga's history have been Japan's largest lake called Lake Biwa and Shiga's location next to Kyoto, the old Imperial Capital of Japan where the Emperor of Japan resided.
Lake Biwa, called Biwako, covers one-sixth the area of Shiga. Originally formed 4 million years ago in Iga, Mie Prefecture, Lake Biwa started small and underwent a few transformations until it gradually got larger as it shifted to its present location about 400,000 years ago. Its long history and diverse habitats such as rocky shores, sandy beaches, deep and cold waters, and pelagic zones gave rise to numerous endemic species such as the Lake Biwa Giant Catfish and funa carp fish found nowhere else on Earth. Besides supporting the local fishing industry, the lake also served as an important surface transportation link between Kyoto and cities up north facing the Sea of Japan. Before railways were laid in the late 19th century, transporting cargo and merchandise over water was faster than on land.
Shiga's capital Otsu was once the Imperial Capital when Emperor Tenji moved there from Kyoto in 667. Since Shiga was on Kyoto's east side, everyone traveling between Kyoto and Tokyo (Edo) had to pass through Shiga, which was called Omi (近江). This is true even today for most travellers.
Shiga thereby developed a number of official lodging towns (Kusatsu, Otsu, Samegai, etc.) along the main roads (Tokaido and Nakasendo) connecting Kyoto and Tokyo. These towns provided lodging to important dignitaries, samurai, and travellers plying between Kyoto and Tokyo which was Japan's most important travel corridor.
Kyoto was the cradle of Buddhism which started to spread in Japan in the 7th century. Kyoto and Nara's abundance of Buddhist temples spilled over to Shiga where places like Otsu and Mt. Hiei next to Kyoto saw the construction of fortress-like temples since the 9th century. The Tendai Buddhist Sect was founded in Shiga by Saicho who built Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei in 806. Indeed, Shiga today boasts the third-highest number of temples after Kyoto and Nara and the third highest number of architectural National Treasures (mostly Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples).
During the late 16th century when warlords jostled for power and conquest, Omi (now called Shiga Prefecture) was a strategic province since it was the gateway to Kyoto which was the Imperial Capital and home of the emperor. Powerful daimyo feudal lords such as Oda Nobunaga seeking to unify the country and place Kyoto under military control knew that Omi Province had to be conquered first. Bloody battles ensued at Anegawa River, Odani Castle, and Mt. Shizugatake in Shiga. Enryakuji Temple atop Mt. Hiei, host to many warrior monks, was burned to the ground by Nobunaga. Both Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi resided for a time in Omi, in Azuchi Castle and Nagahama Castle respectively. The Azuchi-Momoyama Period of Japan is partially named after Nobunaga's Azuchi Castle in Shiga. The Koga-ryu ninja in Koka were also active in espionage and once helped future shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu escape from an enemy.
In 1600, the pivotal Battle of Sekigahara had Shiga-native Ishida Mitsunari lead the Western forces against Tokugawa Ieyasu's Eastern forces. Ieyasu won and Ishida was later beheaded. For his meritorious service at Sekigahara, Ii Naomasa, Ieyasu's right-hand man, was awarded the fief of Hikone in northern Omi. The Ii Clan built Hikone Castle and successive generations often served in high positions in the Tokugawa government. Kunitomo gunsmiths in Nagahama also turned matchlock guns into nationally-recognized works of art.
During the peaceful Tokugawa Period, Omi Province produced a national figure in Kobori Enshu (1579-1647) who was a master of tea, architecture, garden design, calligraphy and poetry. Also, Omi merchants based in eastern Shiga such as Omi-Hachiman, Hino, and Gokasho (Higashi-Omi) figured prominently in the 19th century as wholesalers and traveling salesmen selling their wares all over Japan. They sold medicines, fabrics, lacquerware, and more and set up branch shops near and far. Their basic and sound business philosophy was called Sanpo yoshi (三方よし), basically meaning, "Good for me (seller), good for you (customer), and good for all."
It was an early form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) where they did business to not only profit themselves, but to also benefit the customer and society as a whole. They did business honestly and sincerely, bringing them much success. The most successful Omi merchants grew into today's giant trading companies and retailers such as Itochu, Marubeni, and Takashimaya. Today, you can tour inside a few of the former homes of these Omi merchants in Omi-Hachiman and Gokasho.
Another prominent historical figure from Shiga was Hikone Castle's Lord Ii Naosuke (1815-1860) who served as the Chief Minister (Tairo or Great Elder) in the shogunate in Edo. Naosuke was the highest ranking official in the Tokugawa government and a key figure in opening up Japan to the US when Commodore Perry came knocking with his black battleships in the mid-19th century. He agreed to sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1858, opening five Japanese ports to American trade.
After Japan's government was returned to the emperor in 1868, many castles were dismantled (Hikone Castle was spared from destruction). The former daimyo fiefs were turned into prefectures. Even Shiga had as many as four prefectures (Otsu, Zeze, Hikone, and Nagahama) in 1871 before they gradually merged to form Shiga Prefecture. In 1890, after four years of monumental construction, the Lake Biwa Canal feeding water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto was completed. Kyoto was thereby revitalized with electric power and a stable water supply. A second, almost parallel canal for drinking water was also constructed in 1912. Both canals are still in use today.
One infamous 19th-century national incident, known as the Otsu Incident, occurred in 1891 when Russian Crown Prince Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (later Tsar Nicholas II) was attacked and slightly wounded in Otsu by one of his police escorts named Tsuda Sanzo wielding a saber. Nicholas was on his way back to Kyoto after visiting Lake Biwa when he was attacked. Tsuda was originally from Iga, Mie Prefecture and had a history of mental illness. His motive for the attempted assassination was never made clear.
With the influx of Western engineers and technology in the late 19th century, Japan began to modernize with railroads, steamships, and factories. As trains started to ply along the shores of Lake Biwa, lake transportation waned and cruise ships for tourists became more common from the late 19th century. Westerners also came to Japan to teach English. One was William Merrell Vories (1881-1964) from Kansas who came to Omi-Hachiman in 1905. He eventually became an architect and designed numerous Western-style buildings in Shiga and other parts of Japan. By the 1920s, numerous textile factories were built in southern Shiga.
During World War II, Shiga escaped heavy bombing and was a relatively safe place to be. In 1944, 10,743 children and 630 teachers from Osaka evacuated to Shiga to escape bombing by the US. They were lodged at 321 temples, community centers, schools, etc., in Shiga. Shiga's worst wartime casualty was when a rayon factory, used as a weapons factory in Otsu, was bombed by a B-29. Fifteen people were killed and 104 were injured. During the postwar Occupation from Oct. 1945, US troops and personnel were stationed at Camp Otsu in Otsu.
The high-growth, postwar period in the 1960s and 70s saw environmental pollution plaguing Shiga, especially Lake Biwa. Agricultural chemicals, non-biodegradable laundry detergents, or PCB were found in the water. Lake Biwa, being the water supply for millions of people in the Kansai region (Osaka, etc.), becomes a high priority in Shiga especially when red tide started occurring in the late 1970s.
During the first decade of the 21st century, Shiga and most of Japan went through major municipal mergers. Shiga's 7 cities, 42 towns, and 1 village in 2001 became 13 cities and 6 towns by March 21, 2010. Mega-mergers occurred with Takashima, Higashi-Omi, and Nagahama cities, while Omi-Hachiman's merger with Azuchi was fiercely opposed by some Azuchi residents (including their last mayor) until the very end.
Shiga has been one of the few prefectures whose population has been increasing. Cheaper real estate and easy commuting distances to Kyoto and Osaka have attracted more residents to Shiga as a "bed town" (commuter town). The average income of Shiga residents ranks third in the nation (after Tokyo and Aichi), reflecting the high number of people working in large cities like Kyoto. However, Shiga still ranks very low as a desirable destination for tourists.
Shiga has pursued environmental issues such as lake pollution, control of invasive fish species in Lake Biwa, increasing the native fish population, preservation of reed areas, and eradicating cormorant birds devastating the trees on Chikubushima island and devouring native fish. In 2006, Shiga's first woman governor in Kada Yukiko was elected to a four-year term, vowing to scrap wasteful government spending on pork barrel projects like the shinkansen bullet train station in Ritto. She succeeds in fulfilling her campaign promise and is reelected in 2010. However, despite her popularity, she declined to run for a third term in July 2014.
|Wada tumuli||Yayoi-Period shack||Bronze bell, Yasu||Saio princess|
|Enryakuji temple||Azuchi Castle||Odani Castle||Minakuchi Castle|
- 646: The province of Omi-no-kuni is established.
- 667: Emperor Tenji (天智天皇) moves the Imperial Capital from Asuka, Nara to Omi-Otsu-no-Miya 近江大津宮 (Otsu).
- 671: Emperor Tenji dies in Dec.
- 672: The Jinshin Conflict (壬申の乱, Jinshin no Ran) from late June to late July occurs in Omi as ancient Japan's biggest civil war with an uncle fighting his nephew for the Emperor's throne. Emperor Tenji had designated his son Prince Otomo 大友皇子 as his heir. However, since Prince Otomo's mother was from a lowly background, he was not customarily qualified to be heir to the throne. Instead, it would have been customary to have Emperor Tenji's younger brother Prince Oama 大海人皇子 (whose mother was a noble) to be heir. After Emperor Tenji declared his son to be heir, Prince Oama feared for his life and declared that he had no desire to ascend the throne and retired himself and his family to Yoshino in Nara, over 100 km away from Otsu. When Emperor Tenji died, his son Prince Otomo became Emperor Kobun 弘文. But the Imperial Court expressed outrage at Emperor Tenji's dictatorial rule and various mishaps. Taking advantage of this confusion, Prince Oama emerged from Yoshino and gathered a large army. He marched through Omi and attacked and defeated his nephew Emperor Kobun after a month-long battle in multiple locations. Upon his defeat, Emperor Kobun commited suicide, and Prince Oama became Emperor Tenmu 天武 who ruled with an iron fist, backed by military might. The capital is moved back to Asuka, Nara.
- 724: Hogonji Temple on Chikubushima island is established.
- 742: Emperor Shomu 聖武天皇 builds Shigaraki-no-Miya Detached Palace 紫香楽宮 in Shigaraki, Koka-gun.
- 745: In Jan., Emperor Shomu moves the capital to Shigaraki. However, opposition forces him to return to Nara by May.
- 806: Saicho establishes Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei to desseminate the Tendai Buddhist Sect.
- 886: The Saio princess, an unmarried, young Imperial princess, often the Emperor's daughter, was appointed (by divination) to be the High Priestess of Ise Grand Shrines in Mie Prefecture from the 7th to 14th centuries. Each time there was a new emperor, a new Saio princess would be appointed to serve at Ise.
Upon her appointment, she would travel from Kyoto to Saiku Palace, near Ise Grand Shrines. The journey took 5 nights and 6 days, and passed through Shiga Prefecture at Seta, Kafuka (Koka), and Tarumi. From 886 to 1264 (378 years), one stop along the way was Tarumi Tongu in Tsuchiyama, Shiga.
- 1075: A battle erupts between the monks at Enryakuji Temple and Miidera Temple (Onjo Temple).
- 12th to 14th centuries: Omi comes under the rule of the Sasaki clan 佐々木.
- 14th to 16th centuries: Omi comes under the rule of the Rokkaku clan 六角 or Kyogoku clan 京極.
- 1570: Battle of Anegawa River occurs with Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu defeating the Azai and Asakura Clans.
- 1571: Oda Nobunaga torches Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei.
- 1573: Oda Nobunaga attacks and defeats the Azai at Odani Castle while his younger sister Ichi and her daughters are saved.
- 1576: Oda Nobunaga constructs the magnificent Azuchi Castle.
- 1583: The Battle of Shizugatake is fought on Mt. Shizugatake in northern Shiga with Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeating Shibata Katsuie.
- Ishida Mitsunari, native of Nagahama and based at Sawayama Castle, leads the Western Forces against Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara. He loses and is later beheaded.
- Headed by Ii Naomasa, the Ii clan move to Sawayama Castle upon receiving the Omi domain.
- 1602: Lord Ii Naomasa dies of an old gunshot wound from the Battle of Sekigahara.
- 1603: Construction of Hikone Castle begins as desired by Ii Naomasa who did not like Sawayama Castle being the former home of an enemy.
- 1604: The Ii Clan moves from Sawayama Castle to Hikone Castle.
- 1607: While using materials from Otsu, Nagahama, and Sawayama Castle, construction of Hikone Castle proceeds and the tenshu castle tower is completed. Lord Ii Naotsugu moves in.
- 1622: Construction of Hikone Castle is completed.
- Tokugawa Period: Omi shonin merchants mainly from Omi-Hachiman, Gokasho, and Hino become highly active all over Japan, selling their wares.
- 1842: The Omi Tempo Ikki (天保一揆) peasant farmer uprising occurs for a few days in mid Oct. (1842 is the 13th year of the Tempo Period.) Centering on the Mikami area in Yasu, some 40,000 peasant farmers from over 300 villages in parts of present-day Yasu, Koka, Moriyama, Konan, and Ritto gathered and revolted against unfair land taxation surveys by national government representatives seeking to increase rice taxes unfairly. The land survey appraised the farmer's land as having a larger area than it really had, subjecting it to higher taxation. The rebels surrounded Mikami village where the land survey representatives were. After some negotiations, the revolt succeeds in canceling the land survey with the government declaring a "100,000-Day Postponement." But it came at the cost of having over 100 revolt leaders imprisoned in Kyoto's Nijo Castle. Eleven of the top leaders of the revolt were sent to Edo (Tokyo). Three of them died enroute, and the rest died of torture during questioning including Mikami village headman Tsuchikawa Heibei (土川平兵衛). Those who died are called Tempo Gimin (天保義民) or Tempo Martyrs, and Tempo Gimin monuments can be found in Mikami (Yasu) and Mikumo (Konan).
- 1846: On July 17 at Senjuji temple (千樹寺) in Toyosato, people dance to a prayer song that eventually became the Goshu Ondo. The prayer song was created by Yokaichi native Nishizawa Torakichi (西沢寅吉) upon the request of Omi merchant Fujino Shirobei (又十・藤野四郎兵衛) from Toyosato. The Goshu Ondo later spread throughput Shiga and neighboring prefectures mainly by Omi merchants.
- 1850: At age 35, Ii Naosuke becomes head of the Ii clan in Hikone upon the death of his elder brother.
- Lord Ii Naosuke is appointed as Tairo 大老 (Great Elder or Chief Minister) by the shogunate. The government's highest position was given to him to deal with the West knocking on Japan's door.
- The Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the U.S. was signed upon the reluctant approval of Ii Naosuke.
- 1860: At age 45 on March 3, Lord and Tairo Ii Naosuke is brutally assassinated (shot, stabbed, and beheaded) near Edo Castle's Sakuradamon Gate by Mito clan radicals opposed to opening Japan to the West.
- 1869: Otsu Prefecture is established, and Lake Biwa first steam-powered paddlewheel boat named Ichiban Maru starts operating on between Otsu and Kaizu in the north.
- 1871: In July, based on the old feudal domains, a number of prefectures are established such as Otsu, Hikone, Zeze, and Nagahama Prefectures. By Nov., these small prefectures merge into two prefectures: Otsu and Nagahama Prefectures.
- 1872: In Jan., Otsu Prefecture is renamed Shiga Prefecture, and in Feb., Nagahama Prefecture is renamed Inukami Prefecture. Later in Sept., these two prefectures merged to form modern-day Shiga Prefecture.
- 1876: In Aug., four counties in western Fukui Prefecture north of Shiga merged with Shiga. For about 5 years up to 1881 while these counties (including Tsuruga and Mikata) were part of Shiga, Shiga enjoyed having a coast facing the Sea of Japan.
- 1882: Funded by both the government and private sectors, Taiko Steamship Co. (太湖汽船会社) is established to operate cruise boats on Lake Biwa.
- : A railway between Nagahama and Tsuruga (Fukui) is completed. Boat transport from Otsu to Nagahama is also established in conjunction with the railway.
- 1885: In Jan., among the first Japanese immigrants going to Hawaii under the Kanyaku Imin program aboard the City of Tokio, five are from Shiga. Later in June, three people from Hikone (Isoda Village) are in the second immigration group to Hawaii.
- 1888: Numerous mergers of towns and villages takes place nationwide. Shiga's number of towns and villages also shrank from 1675 to 195 after this year.
- 1889: The Tokaido Line railway is completed, and the boat transport from Otsu to Nagahama on Lake Biwa is abolished.
- 1890: After four years of monumental construction, the Biwako Canal is completed to feed water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto. Kyoto was thereby revitalized with electric power and a stable water supply. A second, almost parallel canal for drinking water was also completed in 1912.
- The Otsu Incident occurs when Russian Crown Prince Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (later Tsar Nicholas II) is attacked and wounded in Otsu by a policeman guard named Tsuda Sanzo wielding a saber. Nicholas was on his way back to Kyoto after visiting the Shiga Prefectural Capitol when the attack occurred.
- Shiga had towns and villages in 13 counties (-gun): Ika, Higashi Azai, Nishi Azai, Takashima, Sakata, Inukami, Echi, Shiga, Kanzaki, Gamou, Yasu, Kurita, and Koka.
- 1900: Private company Ohmi Railway opens a railway between Hikone and Kibukawa.
- Missionary, architect, and English teacher William Merrell Vories arrives in Shiga (Omi-Hachiman).
- Minami Shinsuke (南新助 1885-1972), an operator of a bento lunch box restaurant in Kusatsu Station, starts Japan's first travel agency called Nihon Ryoko-kai (日本旅行会) now known as Nippon Travel Agency (株式会社日本旅行), one of Japan's largest travel agencies. Shinsuke's organized the first group tour to Koya-san (Wakayama Prefecture) and Ise Shrine (Mie Prefecture). He gathered about 900 people from Kusatsu and Otsu to go on this religious pilgrimage tour by train. The company ceased operations in 1941 due to the war, but restarted in 1949. The head office moved from Osaka to Tokyo in 1967. The company's original location is occupied by the Kusatsu Branch in Kusatsu, Shiga.
- 1908: William Merrell Vories opens an architectural design office in a room at the Kyoto Sanjo YMCA. He later incorporates and employs as many as 30 architects (including Americans) who designed over 1,500 buildings up to the 1940s. They designed Christian churches, YMCAs, private residences, schools, hospitals, banks, post offices, and other buildings in many areas of Japan, even in Korea and China.
- 1909: The Anegawa Earthquake strikes on Aug. 14 centering on Higashi Azai-gun and Sakata-gun. The epicenter was below the Ibuki mountain range with a magnitude 6.9. In Shiga, 35 people died, 643 were injured, 972 homes were totally destroyed, and 2367 homes were partially damaged.
- 1912: At age 24, Yamaoka Magokichi, native of Takatsuki in Shiga, 山岡孫吉 establishes Yamaoka Hatsudoki Seisakusho 山岡発動機工作所, the forerunner of Yanmar Diesel Co., now called Yanmar Co. In 1933, he develops the world's first compact diesel engine.
- 1914: The Keihan streetcar line between Hama-Otsu and Ishiyama-dera Stations opens. People start skiing on Mt. Ibuki which becomes the Kansai region's first ski grounds.
- 1915: A private airport is completed in Yokaichi (now Higashi-Omi).
- 1917: Oguchi Taro and boatmates compose the song Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) during a rowing trip around the lake. The song later becomes Shiga's most famous song.
- 1921: The Kojaku Railway Line (江若鉄道) opens between Miidera Station and Eizan Station (now Hiei-zan Sakamoto Station), operated by the Kojaku Railway Co. (The railway is gradually extended until 1931.)
- 1922: The Midori-Maru みどり丸 cruise boat starts operating on Lake Biwa by Taiko Kisen Steamship Co. 大湖汽船
- 1924: Asahi Kenshoku Co. 旭絹織 (now Asahi Kasei) starts producing rayon at its Zeze Factory.
- A cable car route is completed on a steep slope between Sakamoto and Mt. Hiei's Enryakuji Temple. At 2025 meters long, it was Japan's longest cable car route at the time.
- Toyo Rayon Co. (now Toray) starts producing rayon at its Shiga Factory in Ishiyama, Otsu.
- The Keihan-Maru 京阪丸 cruise boat starts operating on Lake Biwa by Konan Kisen Steamship Co. 湖南汽船
- Showa Rayon Co. 昭和レーヨン starts producing rayon at its Katata Factory. With three major rayon factories, Shiga becomes Japan's Rayon Capital by producing 60% of Japan's rayon by 1929.
- 1931: After 10 years of extension work, the Kojaku Railway Line opens between Hama-Otsu and Omi-Imazu. Operated by the Kojaku Railway Co. (江若鉄道). The original plan was for the railway to link Shiga and neighboring Fukui Prefecture, but it was eventually abandoned. JR later bought most of the railway in 1974 and renamed it Kosei Line.
- 1933: The Shigaraki Line opens.
- Shiga's first cement plant is built in Aonami Village in Inukami-gun.
- The first Lake Biwa Festival is held.
- 1936: Hikone and Otsu have a heated debate over which city the new prefectural office should move to.
- 1937: Helen Keller visits Shiga and give lectures in Otsu and Hikone.
- 1939: The Shiga Prefectural Office is completed in Otsu (still in use today).
- To create more land to grow rice amid a serious shortage of rice, the government begins to fill in attached lakes and other shallow waters around Lake Biwa. The war ended before reclamation project was completed. By 1969, an abundance of rice compelled the national and prefectural governments to prohibit further land reclamation around the lake.
- Yanmar Diesel Co. builds an engine factory in Nagahama, its first factory in northern Shiga.
- 1942: Temples in Shiga are required to give up their temple bells and metal implements for the war effort.
- Ohmi Railway is taken over by the Hakone Tochi company (the present Kokudo Co.) operated by Tsutsumi Yasujiro who is from Shiga. The company today operates the Seibu Group.
- The Shiga Prefectural Library opens in Otsu.
- 1944 Shiga accepts 10,743 children and 630 teachers as evacuees from Osaka trying to escape wartime bombing by the US. They are lodged at 321 temples, community centers, schools, etc., in Shiga which was relatively safe from bombings.
- 1945: Although Shiga did not receive heavy bombing during the war, it did have a few casualties such as on July 24 when the Toyo Rayon Shiga Factory used as a weapons factory in Otsu was bombed by a B-29. Fifteen people were killed and 104 were injured. It was Shiga's worst wartime casualty. On Aug. 6, the day Hiroshima was bombed, a fighter plane dropped a bomb on Kanebo's Nagahama Factory, killing one person. In Oct., US occupation troops are stationed in Otsu.
- 1949 Shiga University opens in Hikone and Otsu as a national university.
- 1950: Lake Biwa and the surrounding area becomes Japan's first quasi-national park.
- Hikone Castle's main tower is designated as a National Treasure.
- Osaka Cement Co. starts operating its cement plant in Ibuki-cho which later ranked 6th in the nation for cement output.
- The Biwako Boat Race Course is built in Otsu as Japan's third motorboat race course. Operated by the prefecture.
- Some buildings at Enryakuji Temple are designated as National Treasures.
- Sanyo Electric's plant in Seta-cho (now Otsu) produced Japan's first washing machine which became a huge hit with its low price of less than 30,000 yen. (Imported models were priced over 50,000 yen.)
- Typhoon No. 13 in Sept. causes major flooding and damage, killing 43 and destroying 421 homes in Shiga.
- 1953-1956: Numerous mergers of towns and villages takes place nationwide. Shiga's number of cities, towns, and many villages also shrank from 160 municipalities to 6 cities, 41 towns, and 20 villages during this period. By 1968, the number was further reduced to 50. (As of March 2006, the number was 26.)
- 1954: Shiga Kaikan opens right across from the prefectural office.
- Ohmi Railway Co. starts building a ski lift and related facilities on Mt. Ibuki.
- The Tokaido Line between Maibara and Kyoto Stations is electrified.
- 1957: US occupation troops withdraw from Otsu.
- 1958: The scenic Hie-zan Driveway opens.
- 1959: The Ise Bay typhoon in Sept. causes major flooding and damage, killing 16 and destroying 357 homes in Shiga.
- 1960 In July many fish are found dead in the river in Kusatsu and lake shore in places such as Moriyama, Maihara-cho, and Hikone where shellfish died. The cause was a new agricultural weed killer which contained PCP (pentachlorophenol). The chemical in the rice paddies entered the rivers and lake with the water runoff during rains. The problem later subsided as new chemicals harmless to fish were developed.
- The castle-shaped Lake Biwa Cultural Museum (Biwako Bunkakan 琵琶湖文化館) opens in Otsu. (Closed in 2008.)
- The Genji-botaru firefly becomes extinct in Moriyama.
- 1962: The annual Biwako Mainichi Marathon, mainly sponsored by Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, starts in Shiga. In 1965, Abebe Bikila, the marathon winner in the Tokyo Olympics the year before, wins the event in 2 hr 22 min. 55 sec.
- NHK TV broadcasts its first year-long Taiga Drama series called "Hana no Shogai" (花の生涯) from April to Dec. 1963. Based on the period novel of the same name written by Funahashi Seiichi 舟橋 聖一 for Mainichi Newspaper during 1952-53, the story is about the life of Ii Naosuke (1815-60), lord of Hikone Castle and Chief Minister (Tairo 大老) of the Tokugawa government. Naosuke was played by Onoe Shoroku II, a kabuki actor. The series boosts the number of tourists visiting Hikone. Unfortunately, most of the original videotape of the series was erased to reuse the expensive videotape.
- The Fisheries Agency gives 1,400 blue gill fish for cultivation in Lake Biwa up to 1964. The fish later devours native fish species. The fish was brought back by Crown Prince Akihito given to him as a gift from Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. The fish was meant to be cultivated for human consumption.
- The Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train railway is completed between Tokyo and Osaka with 71.7 km of the track on Shiga land. The existing Maibara Station is outfitted to be a bullet train station for the Kodama trains. From 1972, some Hikari trains (faster than Kodama) began stopping at Maibara.
- The Biwako Ohashi Bridge is completed between Moriyama-cho and Katata-cho at the panhandle neck of the lake. Spanning 1.35 km, the bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks with a hump in the middle to enable boats to pass under. In 1980, a sidewalk for pedestrians and bicycles was built. In 1994, the bridge's two lanes were expanded to four lanes.
- To increase rice paddy farming, Hayasaki Naiko attached lake in Nagahama/Biwa-cho starts to be reclaimed. It takes about 6 years to complete.
- The Meishin Expressway between Aichi and Hyogo Prefectures is completed, with 80 km of the 189.7-km expressway laid in Shiga. Large factories were subsequently built along the expressway in Shiga.
- The Ibukiyama Driveway toll road to Mt. Ibuki opens.
- The Suzuka mountain range is designated as a quasi-national park, and the Suzuka Quasi-National Park becomes Shiga's second such park after the Lake Biwa Quasi-National Park designated in 1950.
- The Biwako Fair びわこ大博覧会 is held in Otsu.
- Shiga and the US state of Michigan formally agree to be sister states.
- 1969: The Kojaku Railway Line between Hama-Otsu and Omi-Imazu is abolished upon plans for the Kosei Line to be constructed by Japan National Railways.
- PCB is detected in the fish in Lake Biwa and Seta River.
- The song Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) becomes national hit for singer Kato Tokiko.
- The scenic Oku Biwako Parkway road opens in northern Shiga.
- PCB is detected in effluent coming from factories in Kusatsu.
- Local TV station Biwako Broadcasting Co. (BBC) starts broadcasting.
- Eigenji Dam is completed in Eigenji-cho town (now HigashiOmi).
- Land reclamation of Hayasaki Naiko attached lake in Nagahama/Biwa-cho is completed.
- The Japan National Railways (JNR, now JR) Kosei Line on the west shore of the lake opens.
- The Omi Ohashi Bridge spanning 1.29 km over the southern tip of Lake Biwa is completed in July after 2 years of construction. In 1985, the bridge's two lanes were expanded to four lanes.
- 1976: The population of Shiga tops 1 million.
- 1977: Severe red tide occurs in Lake Biwa. It is repeated for the next 8 consecutive years.
- 1978: A movement to promote the use of laundry soap instead of synthetic detergent is started. It was to help prevent household waste water polluting the lake from causing adverse effects like red tide.
- 1980: The Hokuriku Expressway opens between Maibara and Tsuruga, Fukui Pref.
- In Jan. and Feb., northern Shiga gets dumped with the most snow ever recorded since the end of the war.
- In July, the Hikone Prince Hotel opens for business.
- 1982: Based in Otsu, the Michigan paddlewheel boat starts offering cruises on Lake Biwa.
- 1983: Shiga's "Floating School," a large ship named Umi no Ko, starts cruising on Lake Biwa on Aug. 2 with local 5th graders aboard to learn more about the lake.
- The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga (Shiga-kenritsu Kindai Bijutsu-kan) opens in a park in Otsu.
- Organized by Shiga Prefecture, the 1st International Conference on the Conservation and Management of Lakes is held in Otsu. The meeting is held every two years thereafter in different countries. (Held in Shiga again in 2001.)
- The Crown Prince and Princess visit Uminoko Floating School n Aug. 28.
- 1986: Amid the low number of schools of higher learning in the prefecture, Shiga Prefecture sets up a department to entice universities to move or build a campus in the prefecture. The program succeeds with Ryukoku University in Kyoto moving two faculties to Otsu. In 1994, Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto moves its science and engineering department to Kusatsu. It moved two more departments to Kusatsu in 1998.
- A Summit of World Religions 世界宗教サミット is held at Enryakuji Temple with religious leaders from 16 countries attending. It also marked the Tendai Sect's 1200th anniversary of its founding.
- On Nov. 8 at noon, 260,000 people (who paid 1,000 yen each) form a human ring around Lake Biwa and literally joined hands for the Dakishimete Biwako (Embrace Lake Biwa)「抱きしめてBIWAKO」event to raise funds for the Daiichi Biwako Gakuen's new school. The school is for severely retarded children.
- The railway line between Maibara and Kyoto Stations is named Biwako Line by JR West Japan.
- The prefectural government announces a plan to build an airport (called Biwako Airport) in Gamo and Hino towns. The year 2000 was the target opening date. The plan met immediate opposition from the local population, forcing it to be shelved.
- Uno Sosuke, native of Moriyama, becomes Japan's 75th prime minister in June. Three months later, he resigns in disgrace amid a scandal of him having an affair with a Kagurazaka geisha in Tokyo.
- Kurokabe Square in Nagahama opens. A small group of citizens, a local bank, and the city pitched in to redevelop a small area of shops whose exterior walls were painted in black. (Kurokabe means "black wall.") The effort paid off as the area, anchored by the main shop selling glassware, is seeing almost 2 million visitors a year. This is ten times the number of visitors in 1990.
- In Sept., the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) is established to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of sister-state relations between the U.S. State of Michigan, and Shiga Prefecture. The center is initially housed at a temporary facility at the Cultural and Industrial Exchange Hall of Shiga in Maibara.
- In Sept., the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) starts classes at its permanent (and present) campus in Hikone.
- Biwako Kisen starts operatin luxury cruise ship Bianca, on Lake Biwa.
- The old quarters of Omi-Hachiman city is designated by the Japanese government as the prefecture's first Important Traditional Building Preservation Area.
- In late April, the Ceramic World Shigaraki pottery fair is held in Shigaraki for about a month before it was canceled in May due to a fatal train crash.
- On May 14, 1991, a horrific train crash on the Shigaraki Kogen Line kills 42 and injures over 600. A Shigaraki Kogen Railway train bound for Kibukawa collided head on with a special JR West train traveling from Kyoto to Shigaraki. The accident was due to a train signal mixup and human error. It was one of the worst train accidents in Japan's history.
- A new ordinance is passed to preserve Lake Biwa's reeds whose volume had shrunk to 130 hectares in 1991 from 260 hectares in 1953 due to land reclamation.
- Nagahama Dome, built by the prefecture, opens in Nagahama.
- The Seian University of Art and Design opens in Otsu.
- Lake Biwa is registered in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
- Temples in Otsu, such as Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei, become part of Japan's third World Heritage Site officially called "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)."
- A severe drought drains Lake Biwa to minus 123 cm from its normal water level.
- Ritsumeikan University opens its Biwako Kusatsu campus.
- 1995 The University of Shiga Prefecture (滋賀県立大学) opens in Hikone as a four-year university. Its environmental science department attracts attention. (Not to be confused with Shiga University which is a national university.)
- 1996: Built by the prefecture, the Lake Biwa Museum (琵琶湖博物館) opens in Karasuma Peninsula in Kusatsu. It is the prefecture's largest museum which includes an aquarium for lake fish. Its facilities for lake research is world-class.
- 1998: Biwako Hall, a large concert hall, opens in Otsu.
- 2000: In April, before the G8 Summit meeting in Okinawa, the G8 Environment Ministers' Meeting is held in Japan for the first time in Shiga. Shiga was selected as the venue by the Japanese government since the prefecture had a good record of handling environmental issues.
- The Toray Arrows volleyball team is established in Otsu. The team moved to Toray from Osaka-based textile maker Unitika which discontinued its storied volleyball team nicknamed "Witches of the Orient" during their gold medal performance at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
- The 9th International Conference on the Conservation and Management of Lakes is held in Otsu.
- Ono Wasaburo (大野和三郎), the mayor of Toyosato-cho town, meets stiff opposition to his plan to tear down Toyosato Elementary School due to old age and earthquake vulnerability and build a new school on the same property. The school was designed by U.S. architect William Merrell Vories (1880-1964) and completed in 1937. The debate makes national headlines. In 2002, the mayor cancels his demolition plans. In 2003, he loses his mayoral office in a recall election. However, he regains the office in a later election. A new school building is eventually built.
- In Aug., Ohmi Senior High School in Hikone becomes Shiga's first high school to reach the finals at the National High School Baseball Championship (Summer Koshien), but loses 5-2 to Tokyo's Senior High School of Nihon University (日本大学第三中学校・高等学校) to receive runner-up honors.
- Part of the rice paddies reclaimed from the former Hayasaki Naiko attached lake in Nagahama/Biwa-cho are reflooded for an experimental project to restore Hayasaki Naiko. The experiment proves to be successful as wildlife starts to return to the flooded area.
- Prince Akinoshino and Princess Kiko visit the Uminoko Floating School on Nov. 12.
- Shiga Prefecture, Ritto, and neighboring cities approve plans to build a new shinkansen station in Ritto (cancelled in 2007).
- Shiga passes the "No-release" ordinance prohibiting fishermen from throwing back into Lake Biwa any invasive species they catch.
- October 1: The towns of Chuzu-cho and Yasu-cho merged to form Yasu city. Yasu-gun was thereby dissolved.
- October 1: The towns of Kosei-cho and Ishibe-cho merged to form Konan city.
- October 1: The towns of Koka-cho, Minakuchi-cho, Shigaraki-cho, Tsuchiyama-cho, and Konan-cho merged to form Koka city. Koka-gun was thereby dissolved.
- January 1: All five towns and one village in the former Takashima-gun comprising Adogawa-cho, Imazu-cho, Shinasahi-cho, Makino-cho, and Takashima-cho towns and Kutsuki-mura village merged to form Takashima city. Takashima-gun was thereby dissolved.
- February 11: Yokaichi city and the towns of Eigenji-cho, Gokasho-cho, Aito-cho, and Koto-cho merged to form HigashiOmi city. Yokaichi and the four towns were thereby dissolved. The adjacent lakeside town of Notogawa merged with HigashiOmi on Jan. 1, 2006.
- February 14: Maihara-cho, Santo-cho, and Ibuki-cho towns in Sakata-gun merged to form Maibara city.
- July: Toyo Keizai Inc. (東洋経済新報社), a major business magazine publisher, ranks Ritto as Japan's Most Livable City (住みよさランキング), citing its safety, convenience, and pleasantness.
- October 1: Sakata-gun's remaining town of Omi-cho merges with Maibara, and Sakata-gun was thereby dissolved.
- October: Ohmi Railways withdraws from its ski resort business on Mt. Ibuki. A Tokyo company takes over and reopens the ski grounds in Dec.
- January 1: Notogawa-cho and Gamo-cho towns merge with HigashiOmi
- January 8: NHK starts broadcasting its year-long "Taiga Drama" TV series called "Komyo ga Tsuji" featuring Shiga as the background in major parts of the period drama.
- February 13: Neighboring towns Azai-cho and Biwa-cho merge with Nagahama.
- February 17: Two kindergarten children, a boy and a girl, are stabbed to death numerous times in Nagahama by a 34-year-old Chinese housewife, Zheng Yongshan (鄭永善) (Japanese name Taniguchi Mie), as she was driving them (and her own 5-year-old daughter who was unhurt) to a kindergarten (神照幼稚園). She threw both bodies out of the car near the road. The shocking murder grabbed national headlines. She was arrested the same day and received a sentence of life imprisonment upheld by the Osaka High Court in Feb. 2009.
- March 20: Shiga-cho in Shiga-gun merged with Otsu. Shiga-gun was thereby dissolved.
- May 23: The committee promoting the construction of a new shinkansen bullet train station in Ritto decides on the name of the new station: Minami-Biwako Station (南びわ湖駅). Construction of the new station also begins in May (later halted in July upon the election of Kada Yukiko who opposed the construction).
- July 2: Shiga elects a new governor and its first woman governor in Kada Yukiko （嘉田由紀子）who ran on a campaign slogan called "Mottainai" (It's wasteful) in reference to the proposed construction of a new shinkansen bullet train station in Ritto, Shiga. Born in 1950, she is Japan's fifth woman governor, beating two-term incumbent Kunimatsu Yoshitsugu （国松善次）against all odds as an independent candidate.
- Sept. 20: The mayor of Yogo-cho town, Hatano Sakuro (畑野 佐久郎), again announces that he wants to accept highly radioactive nuclear waste for final disposal in Yogo. (No other municipality in Japan has agreed to accept the nuclear waste.) The large amount of money the town would receive for studies conducted for the disposal site would greatly help the cash-strapped town which forecasts a lot of red ink in the coming years. Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko is opposed to the plan, saying that a nuclear waste dump near Lake Biwa which supplies water to 14 million people in the Kinki region would cause too much anxiety among the population.
- Oct. 21: The Hokuriku Main Line switches to direct-current electrification between Nagahama Station and Tsuruga Station (Fukui), enabling faster shin-kaisoku trains to reach these train stations (Torahime, Kawake, Takatsuki, Kinomoto, Yogo, Omi-Shiotsu Stations) directly from Kyoto. Before the switch, passengers had to transfer trains at Nagahama Station to go beyond Nagahama. Anticipating a substantial increase in visitors, a new train station building was built at Nagahama, Torahime, Takatsuki, and Kinomoto. However, by March 2008, the passenger increase was only 0.5 percent, far below the target 14% increase.
- March 21: Hikone Castle celebrates its 400th anniversary with an 8-month-long festival lasting until Nov. 25, 2007. Three castle structures (Umaya horse stable, Tenbin Yagura turret, and Nishinomaru Sanju-yagura turret), normally closed to the public, are open to the public during the festival period. Official mascot Hiko-nyan (a helmeted cat) soon becomes nationally popular.
- May 5: At the Expoland amusement park in Suita, Osaka, the Fujin Raijin II roller coaster derails, killing Yoshino Kogawara, 19, from Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture. Nineteen others are injured.
- June 16: The English version of Shiga's most famous song, Biwako Shuko no Uta, called Lake Biwa Rowing Song, is issued on CD sold by the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan museum in Imazu.
- Sept. 6: Shiga's very first pro sports team, the Shiga LakeStars, was approved to join the bj League, Japan's fledging pro basketball league. The LakeStars will start playing from the fall 2008-2009 season.
- Oct. 11: The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Japanese government against an Osaka High Court ruling which deemed illegal the Eigenji No. 2 Dam construction project in Higashi-Omi, Shiga Prefecture. Local residents of Eigenji had filed a lawsuit claiming that the Eigenji No. 2 Dam project was unnecessary and seriously flawed. The residents' claims were supported by the Osaka High Court. The government then appealed to the Supreme Court unsuccessfully. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry now must revise its plans from scratch.
- Oct. 28: During a meeting 新駅設置促進協議会 in Otsu between Governor Kada Yukiko and the mayors and local assembly members of Ritto and neighboring cities, the Governor announces that the project to build a new shinkansen train station in Ritto is officially cancelled. The governor reiterated that her election in 2006 reflected the will of the people who were against the shinkansen station which would have cost Shiga and Ritto 24,000,000,000 yen. The mayor of Ritto, who had pushed hard for this new station, expresses great regret. The cancellation makes national headlines.
- Nov. 10-11: The 27th Zenkoku Yutaka na Umizukuri Taikai (National Convention to Make Bountiful Oceans) 第２７回全国豊かな海づくり大会 is held in Otsu with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in attendance on the 11th for the formal ceremony held at Biwako Hall. The Emperor gives a speech saying that "It hurts my heart that the blue gill fish I brought to Japan from America for human consumption is now damaging the ecosystem of Lake Biwa." In 1960 as Crown Prince on a trip to the U.S., the Emperor brought back the blue gill fish given to him in Chicago, Illinois and intended it to be raised in Japan for human consumption. The blue gill has multiplied rapidly in Lake Biwa from the 1990s and eats the baby fish of native lake fish. After the ceremony, the Emperor and Empress release baby fish of native lake fish into the lake. The Hama-Otsu area also serves as a venue for the public to become more aware of fisheries in Lake Biwa.
- Nov. 10-13: Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit Shiga for the first time in 13 years. On the first day, they visit a nursing home called Care Town Karasaki. Some 20 patients there sang "Biwako Shuko no Uta" (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) for the Imperial couple and the Emperor demanded an encore for them to sing it again. On the second day the 11th, they attended the Zenkoku Yutaka na Umizukuri Taikai and afterward took a boat ride to Kusatsu to visit the Lake Biwa Museum. On the 12th, they visited Shigaraki Ceramic Park and the ruins of Shigaraki-no-Miya which was a detached palace of Emperor Shomu. On the 13th, they visited Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei and returned to Tokyo via shinkansen train from Kyoto Station.
- Nov. 25: The 400th anniversary festival for Hikone Castle ends with a total attendance of 764,484 during the period of March 21 to Nov. 25. This far exceeded the break-even attendance of 550,000. They spent an estimated 17 billion yen or an average of 5,200 yen per person who came on a day trip and 23,300 yen per person who lodged in Hikone. Ten percent of the amount were spent on Hiko-nyan merchandise.
- Dec. 27: A second meeting between the mayors of the six northern towns of Torahime-cho, Kohoku-cho, Takatsuki-cho, Kinomoto-cho, Yogo-cho, and Nishi-Azai-cho and the mayor of Nagahama meet at Takatsuki Town Hall to discuss the proposal to merge the six towns and Nagahama. The neighboring city of Maibara is also cited as a candidate to join the municipal merger. The mayors formally agreed to clearly call their meetings for the purpose of merging, instead of making it vague (広域でのまちづくり協議) as they did at their first meeting in the summer in Nagahama. The next day, they went to the Prefectural capital to request their support.
- Dec. 27: At the Otsu District Court, a court settlement was reached between a citizen's group and the town of Toyosato over the preservation of Toyosato Elementary School's old school building designed by William Vories in 1937 and the funding of the construction of the new school building. The citizen's group sought to have former town mayor Ono Wasaburo return the over 1.8 billion yen spent to build the new school building since the money was appropriated without obtaining the approval of the town assembly. Both sides agreed to the court's proposal that the former mayor express his "reflection" concerning his deeds, and the construction company, which built the new school building, to donate about 20 million yen to the town to help preserve the old school building. The old school is slated to become a cultural facility. This concludes the five-year court battle.
- Feb. 23: A 50-km section between Kameyama (Mie Pref.) and Otsu (Kusatsu Tanakami Interchange 草津田上インターチェンジ) of the New Meishin Expressway 新名神高速道路 opens to traffic. A ceremony was held at the Koka-Tsuchiyama Interchange with the Governors of Shiga and Mie in attendance. Passing though Koka and Otsu, the new expressway is expected to lessen traffic on the old Meishin Expressway between Nagoya and Kobe, shorten the driving time to the Kansai area, and bring more visitors to Koka.
- March 15: Nishi-Otsu Station (西大津駅) on the Kosei Line changed its name to Otsu-kyo Station 大津京駅. This is an attempt to have people recognize that Otsu was once the capital of Japan. Also on the Kosei Line, Ogoto Station (雄琴駅) on the Kosei Line changed its name to Ogoto Onsen Station おごと温泉駅. This is an attempt to get more people to visit Ogoto Spa.
- March 30: The Lake Biwa Cultural Museum (Biwako Bunkakan 琵琶湖文化館), a landmark shaped like a castle on the shore of Lake Biwa in Otsu, close its doors after 47 years. The museum opened in 1961 and served as an art museum, centering on Buddhist art, and aquarium for lake fish. Parts of the museum's collection were later transferred to other museums in Shiga. Its collection of about 5,000 pieces includes National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. Due to financial reasons, the cash-strapped prefecture decided to close the museum which will continue to store its collection.
- Mar. 29: Japan's first Ninja Certification Exam (Ninja Kentei 忍者検定) is held in Konan-cho, Koka, the ancestral home of the Koga (Koka) ninja and home to Japan's sole remaining original Ninja house. It is a beginner-level written exam with 50 multiple-choice questions. To pass the exam, 30 questions must be answered correctly within 30 min. The questions cover Koga ninja history, ninjutsu techniques, weapons, tools, famous ninja, and ninja in pop culture such as manga and anime. The certification does not include any physical exam of ninja techniques (throwing shuriken star knives, etc.). The exam is held by the Konan-cho Tourist Association to attract ninja fans to Koka. Some 100 ninja fans from all over Japan came to Koka to take the exam. It cost 500 yen to take the exam open to 5th grade students and older people. The top six scorers were awarded with a helicopter ride over Koka after the exam. All the exam takers were treated to a ninja stew for lunch. The exam will be held annually.
- June 4: Hikone starts the Ii Naosuke 150th Anniversary Festival 井伊直弼と開国150年祭 commemorating Lord Ii Naosuke's achievements in opening Japan to the West in 1858. The festival will last for almost two years until March 2010. It will feature exhibitions and other events. Hiko-nyan is also the official mascot.
- June 5: The Ministry of the Environment announces Japan's 100 Best Spring Waters of the Heisei Era (平成の名水百選) and four of them are in Shiga Prefecture as follows: Dorai Shozu (堂来清水) in Takayama-cho, Nagahama; Harie-no-Shozu (針江の生水) in Shin-Asahi-cho, Takashima; Isame-no-Shozu (居醒の清水) in Samegai, Maibara; and Yamabiko Yusui (山比古湧水) in Matsuo-dera, Aisho-cho. The 100 locations were selected based on the water's quality, volume, and how well it was used and preserved by the community.
- Oct. 11: Shiga's first pro sports team, the Shiga LakeStars pro basketball team in the bj-league, plays its debut game against Osaka Evessa at the Shiga Prefectural Gymnasium in Otsu. The LakeStars lost the game by only 3 points, 78-81. They played Osaka again the next day, and lost again 73-89.
- Oct. 18-21: The Sports Recreation Shiga 2008 (Spo-rec) is held. It is a national sports meet held annually in a different prefecture for adults of all ages. The opening ceremony was held on Oct. 18 at Kibogaoka Park in Yasu.
- Oct. 24: Nishikawa Takanori, a Shiga-native and famous musician known as T.M.Revolution, is appointed as the first Shiga Hometown Tourism Ambassador (Shiga Furusato Kanko Taishi) by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko.
- Oct. 25-26: The first Yuru-Kyara (Mascot Character) Matsuri was held on Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road in Hikone. Some 46 PR mascots adorned the road and posed for pictures. A total of 46,000 people came.
- March 1: Hikone Prince Hotel is renamed Hikone View Hotel (彦根ビューホテル) upon the change of the hotel ownership from Prince Hotels to a Tokyo-based company called Study, Co., Ltd. The hotel is now part of the Itoen Hotel Group.
- March: The six northern Shiga towns of Torahime, Kohoku, Takatsuki, Kinomoto, Yogo, and Nishi-Azai (虎姫、湖北、高月、木之本、余呉、西浅井) took steps to merge with the city of Nagahama on Jan. 1, 2010. The proposed merger was approved by the prefectural government.
- Mar. 4: Caffee (キャッフィー), the mascot character used for Sports Recreation Shiga 2008, was sworn in by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko as one of Shiga’s official mascots, especially for sports events.
- March: The construction of the new Maibara Station is pretty much complete with the opening of the east-west corridor on Mar. 21st.
- Mar. 30: The prefectural government announces that they found at least 44 suspected cases of slush funds or suspicious accounting created for illicit purposes by prefectural government departments and employees. The alleged backdoor money (called uragane 裏金) totaled at least 6.9 million yen.
- Mar. 31: In a rare turnabout of policy, the Construction and Transport Ministry announced that it would freeze construction of Daidogawa Dam (大戸川ダム) in Otsu. The decision was made in consideration of opposition to the dam by the governors of Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka and Mie prefectures. The ministry had stated that the dam was needed to prevent any great flood that may occur. The affected municipalities (Otsu and Uji in Kyoto) and residents, however, were in favor of the dam.
- April: The Shiga Lakestars pro basketball team in the bj-league ends their debut season in 5th place with a record of 19 wins and 33 losses.
- May 4: The Nyu Chawan Matsuri festival is held in Yogo for the first time in six years.
- May 20: Shiga’s first case of swine flu (H1N1) is confirmed. A 23-year-old male student at the Biwako-Kusatsu campus of Ritsumeikan University is the first patient in Shiga. His symptoms are not serious and he was hospitalized. The news hits the local tourism industry very hard as school trips to Shiga are canceled. By late Sept. 2009, well over 2,000 people, mainly children, are infected in Shiga.
- May 30: At a total cost of 650 million yen, the old Toyosato Elementary School is completely renovated and reopened to the public with an exhibition room, local public library, children's room, and offices of the local board of education. The old building was repainted, reinforced against earthquakes, installed with an elevator, and preserved as much as possible. The second floor with classrooms is preserved as it was originally.
- June 7: Hikone's official mascot, Hiko-nyan, takes his first overseas trip to Hawai'i to appear in the Pan-Pacific Festival parade held along Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki.
- July 1: Smoking is banned in and around all major train stations in Otsu.
- Aug. 24: Twelve-year-old Murakami Koji (村川康嗣) dies due to injuries from judo practice at Hatasho Junior High School in Aisho on July 29. Although the judo instructor was found to be at fault, he was not held personally liable for the death of the boy. The boy's mother unsuccessfully sought damages from the instructor, although the town was held liable and was ordered to pay damage by the court.
- Sept. 7: Kato Tokiko, a famous singer best known for her 1971 recording of Biwako Shuko no Uta, is appointed as a Shiga Hometown Ambassador (Shiga Furusato Taishi) by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko.
- Sept. 12: The movie, Katen no Shiro (Castle of the Fire God 火天の城) is released to theaters nationwide. The movie is about Okabe Mataemon, a Nagoya (Atsuta)-based master carpenter who in 1576 was ordered by Japan’s leading warlord Oda Nobunaga to build Azuchi Castle on Mt. Azuchi fronting Lake Biwa.
- Sept. 19-20: The first Inazuma Rock Fes is held at Karasuma Peninsula by Shiga-native Nishikawa Takanori, a famous musician known as T.M.Revolution.
- Oct. 23-25: The 2nd Yuru-Kyara (Mascot Character) Matsuri is held on Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road in Hikone. Well over 100 PR mascots adorned the road and posed for pictures. On the first day, most of the mascots appeared on stage at the Hikone Bunka Plaza where singer Hashi Yukio sang the Yuru-chara ondo song.
- Jan. 1: Nagahama merges with six towns in northern Shiga Prefecture: Torahime, Kohoku, Takatsuki, Kinomoto, Yogo, and Nishi-Azai.
- Feb. 14: ITO Miki, native of Hino, places 12th in the finals of the women’s freestyle moguls competition at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
- March 10: Google Maps street views start including photos of the streets of Shiga, mainly in Otsu, Kusatsu, and the road going around Lake Biwa.
- March 21: Omi-Hachiman and the town of Azuchi merge, becoming a new city of about 82,000 residents. A mayoral election is held on April 25 to elect the new city’s first mayor (won by the mayor of the old Omi-Hachiman).
- March 31: Shiga Kaikan, a public hall, theater, and exhibition space across from the prefectural office, is closed due to old age.
- May: Japan’s oldest clay figure (called “doguu” 土偶) is discovered in Aidani-kumahara ruins (相谷熊原遺跡) in Higashi-Omi’s Eigenji area near the Echigawa River. Slightly larger than a human thumbnail, the tiny clay figure is about 1.3 cm tall and depicts the upper torso of a female. The clay sculpture was dated as from the early Jomon Period, about 13,000 years ago.
- June 19: Natsuhara Heijiro, the founder of the Heiwado supermarket chain, passes away due to pneumonia at age 91.
- July 8: Mitsui Outlet Park, Shiga Ryuo, a large outlet mall in Ryuo opens.
- July 11: Kada Yukiko is reelected for her second term as governor of Shiga Prefecture. She pulls in a record 419,921 votes, the highest number ever for a Shiga governor.
- Oct. 24-25: Biwako Basho exhibition sumo tournament is held in Otsu's Shiga Prefectural Gymnasium. Yokozuna Hakuho, on a winning streak of 62 consecutive wins, and the rest of the top sumo wrestlers and staff totaling about about 270 were on hand to entertain about 2,700 spectators each day.
- Nov. 17: The former Toyosato Elementary School is burglarized. Twenty-two figurines based on the K-ON! anime program were stolen along with a portable cash safe containing almost 300,000 yen and three guitars modeled after those used in the anime series.
- Dec. 10: A two-story ryokan called Nakamura-ya (中村屋) in Musa, Omi-Hachiman has been totally destroyed by an early-morning fire. Nakamura-ya has a 400-year history as one of the hatago inns of Musa, the 66th post town on the Nakasendo Road
- Jan. 9: The first episode of NHK TV’s year-long Taiga Drama called Go–Himetachi no Sengoku (Go–Noble Ladies of Feudal Japan) is broadcast. The weekly series centers on the three Azai sisters born in Odani in Nagahama.
- Jan. 9: Newly-promoted sumo wrestler Nionoumi (鳰の湖) from Otsu makes his Juryo debut at the Hatsu Basho. His ring name (shikona) means Lake of the Grebe (“Nio” means grebe), in reference to Shiga’s official bird and Lake Biwa.
- Jan. 15: In concert with NHK TV’s year-long Taiga Drama called Go–Himetachi no Sengoku (Go–Noble Ladies of Feudal Japan), Nagahama opens a year-long mini expo called Go and Azai Sister Trio Expo (Go–Azai Sanshimai Hakurankai 江・浅井三姉妹博覧会) from Jan. 15 to Dec. 4, 2011. The expo spotlights the three Azai sisters (Chacha, Ohatsu, and Go).
- Feb. 22: Ishibashi Takatoshi (石橋貴俊) is fired as the head coach of the Shiga Lakestars, one of the bj league’s pro basketball teams in the Western Conference. His dismissal is not explained.
- Feb. 22: A large earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand kills Hirabayashi Yuko (平林祐子), a 28-year-old woman from Nagahama (Kinomoto). She was studying English with the aim of obtaining a nurse’s license in New Zealand. Her body was identified in March.
- Mar.: In the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, numerous companies, organizations, and local governments send donations, provisions, and rescue personnel to the stricken areas. Public housing is also made available to people evacuating the Tohoku region. Details here.
- Mar. 18: The 43 students studying Japanese at The Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone are ordered to return to the U.S. by March 25, 2011. The 2011 Spring semester students had been in Shiga since September 2010. The misinformed JCMU head office in Lansing, Michigan suspended the spring semester and gave the evacuation order based on a US State Department travel advisory issued after the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami/radiation threat. This travel advisory was soon revised and it no longer said that all Americans should leave Japan. It recommended evacuation only within the 80km (50 mi.) radius from the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Shiga was totally unaffected by the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and radioactive leaks. Radiation levels in Shiga never increased. Yet, those students had to interrupt their education and leave a perfectly safe and serene Shiga, far from the troubled area.
- April: Many festivals in Japan are canceled in consideration of the Tohoku disaster. The Kusatsu Shukuba Matsuri festival scheduled for April 23-24 is canceled.
- June 4-12: The FISA World Rowing Tour is held on Lake Biwa with about 40 rowers from Europe, Australia, and the US rowing completely around Lake Biwa. Hosted by the Seta Rowing Club in Otsu.
- July 30-31: Shiga’s 1st B-class Gourmet Battle (第1回 滋賀B級グルメバトル) is held in Otsu on the Hama-Otsu lakefront. B-class gourmet (B-kyu in Japanese) is food that is cheap and aimed at the working class.
- Jan. 22: Naomi Koshi (越 直美) defeats two-term (8 years) incumbent Mayor Makoto Mekata (目片信) by almost 10,000 votes to become Shiga’s first female mayor. At age 36, she is Japan’s youngest woman mayor ever to be elected. Ms. Koshi is an Otsu native.
- Feb. 19: Moguls skier Miki Ito places 3rd in FIS Freestyle World Cup.
- Mar. 11: Various events are held in Shiga to mark the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake or Tohoku (northeastern Japan) triple disaster. Memorial services and prayers are held at a number temples in Shiga such as the Kannon temples in Takatsuki, Nagahama and Ishiyama-dera in Otsu. Many people spend a minute of silence at around 2:46 pm when the earthquake struck a year before. In Higashi-Omi, a large kite bearing the word “Recover” (復興 Fukko) is flown. In Kutsuki, Takashima, about 50 children write prayer messages on cards attached to 250 balloons which were then released. In the evening, candlelight vigils are held in Hikone and Otsu. Meanwhile, 389 evacuees (152 families) from Tohoku remain in Shiga Prefecture as of March 8, 2012. Most of them, totaling 250, are from Fukushima Prefecture. Sixty-five people are from Miyagi Prefecture and 6 are from Iwate Prefecture. Ninety-nine evacuees are living in public housing rent-free. This arrangement is being extended by 6 months to 2 years. Some 81 evacuee children (47 in grade school and 17 in junior high) are attending schools in Shiga.
- March 24: Nagahama Sengoku Taiga Furusato-haku (Warring States Hometown Expo 長浜・戦国大河ふるさと博) expo opens in Nagahama. The expo runs until Dec. 2, 2012. The expo focuses on the Battle of Shizugatake and the Battle of Anegawa with side attractions Odani Castle and Chikubushima island.
- May 7: Hikone Board of Education publishes a manga comic booklet in English titled, Hikone: A Journey in Time. Targeting tourists, the black-and-white manga explains about Hikone’s feudal history and cultural sights through the eyes of John, a fictitious 20-year-old lad from Michigan (Shiga’s sister state) visiting Hikone while staying with a Japanese family. The A5-size, 70-page booklet sold for 500 yen at the Hikone Castle Museum.
- May 21: People in southeastern Shiga Prefecture joined the masses in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka to view the rare annular eclipse over most of Japan’s Pacific Ocean side. Many school kids in Shiga went to school about an hour early and gathered on the school grounds to view the eclipse using solar eclipse sunglasses. Earth science students at Maibara High School used high-powered telescopes to successfully observe and photograph Baily’s beads which appear at the moment when the ring forms.
- July 10: Due to bomb threats, Ojiyama Junior High School 皇子山中学校 in Otsu suspends classes a little over a week before the school year ended. Making national headlines nearly every day in June-July is a bullying-suicide scandal centering on a 13-year-old student at the school who jumped off a building and committed suicide upon the alleged encouragement of bullies. Ojiyama Junior High School and Otsu Board of Education are also accused of trying to cover up the student’s suicide that occurred in Oct. 2011. Local Otsu police ignored the deceased boy’s father’s repeated request to investigate his son’s bullying in school. The foot-dragging by the school, Otsu Board of Education, and Otsu police has snowballed into a major scandal attracting national attention. The Ministry of Education and the Shiga Prefectural Police finally took action to investigate, nine months after the suicide.
- July 23: Crown Prince Naruhito (Japan’s next emperor) arrives in Shiga for an official visit to attend a blood donation promotion convention (献血運動推進全国大会) held in Otsu on July 24. His Imperial Highness arrived via shinkansen bullet train at JR Maibara Station where he was welcomed by Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada. He then proceeded by car to Higashi-Omi where he toured Gokasho, visiting the stately homes of Omi merchants.
- July 27-Aug. 12: Six athletes from Shiga compete in the London Summer Olympics: ABIKO Tomomi, Women’s pole vault; INUI Yukiko, Duet synchronized swimming; KAKIIWA Reika (silver medalist and Japan's first medal in the sport), Badminton; OTA Yuki (silver medalist), Fencing; and ARAKI Erika, KIMURA Saori, SAKODA Saori, NAKAMICHI Hitomi (bronze medalists), Women’s volleyball.
- Aug. 15: In connection with the bully-suicide case at Ojiyama Junior High School, the Superintendent of the Otsu Board of Education, Kenji Sawamura (65), is attacked right in his office at Otsu City Hall by a 19-year-old college student from Saitama city. He was hit by a hammer on the head and sustained injuries while he and another colleague wrestled the attacker to the floor.
- Nov. 27: Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada announces the formation of a new political party called Nippon Mirai no To (日本未来の党) which means “Party for Japan’s Future.” She states that the primary goal is abolishing nuclear power in Japan in 10 years. A good number of minor political parties have already joined hands with Governor Kada’s new party, including those led by former political kingpin Ichiro Ozawa and Shizuka Kamei.
- Jan. 4: Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada announces that she is resigning from her Tomorrow Party of Japan (Mirai no To) political party that she and Ichiro Ozawa formed a little over a month ago. Tomorrow Party of Japan’s Diet numbers shrank from 61 seats to only 9. Meanwhile, Ichiro Ozawa took over the party and renamed it.
- Feb. 24: Miki Ito wins World Cup dual moguls in Inawashiro, Fukushima. It is her first freestyle moguls World Cup victory.
- Feb. 26: Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada rejects the governor of Kyoto's statement favoring a merger of Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures.
- Mar. 22: Yanmar Museum opens in Nagahama.
- April 1: Over 70 percent of supermarkets in Shiga Prefecture starts to charge 5 yen for a plastic shopping bag. Some 150 supermarkets in Shiga, including 71 Heiwado supermarket branches (like Friend Mart), starts charging 5 yen plastic shopping bags (レジ袋) for groceries. The money collected from shopping bag sales will be used for environmental preservation. Currently, about 50 percent of shoppers bring their own bags for groceries. The prefecture wants to raise this to 80 percent in three years.
- June 20: Shiga Prefectural government employee, 32-year-old HOTTA Satoru (堀田 悟), an engineer (主任技師) in the Agricultural Operation Division of Shiga Prefecture’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (農政水産部・農業経営課 is arrested for using his camera phone to take upskirt photos of a 27-year-old woman sitting next to him on the train. The incident occurred on June 19, 2013 at around 5:45 pm while the suspect was on a JR Tokaido Line train on his way home to Kyoto’s Fushimi-ku. The train was running from Yamashina Station to Kyoto Station.
- July-August 2013 Shiga History
- September-October 2013 Shiga History
- November-December 2013 Shiga History
- You can also read about Shiga's historical and current events posted on Shiga Headlines (Twitter) below:
|Hikone Castle||Tsuchiyama-juku||Samegai-juku||Kusatsu-juku Honjin|
|Azai Folk Museum||Maruko-bune||Omi merchants||Biwako Canal|
|Nagahama Station||Designed by Vories||Black bass||Cormorants|
- Emperor Tenji 天智天皇 - Moved the Imperial capital from Asuka, Nara to Otsu in 667. Omi Jingu Shrine worships this Emperor.
- Lady Murasaki Shikibu - Writer of the famous novel Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) in the 11th century. She is said to have wriiten the novel in a room at Ishiyama-dera Temple in Otsu.
- Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) - Native of Owari (now Aichi Prefecture), major warlord who sought to conquer and unify Japan. He needed to control Shiga since it was next to Kyoto and a major crossroad. He built a magnificent castle in Azuchi, and also torched many Buddhist temples such as Enryakuji in 1571 whose warring monks might have opposed him. The Azuchi-Momoyama Period of Japanese history is partially named after the castle in Azuchi. Assassinated in Kyoto by Akechi Mitsuhide.
- Azai Nagamasa (浅井 長政) (1545-1573) - Lord of Odani Castle in northern Shiga. He married Oda Nobunaga's sister Ichi but later joined the Asakura family and the monks of Mt. Hiei to fight Nobunaga. Nagamasa was defeated by Oda and Tokugawa Ieyasu at the battle of Anegawa in 1570. In 1573, Nobunaga attacked Odani Castle, and Nagamasa committed suicide. Nobunaga spared Nagamasa's family (which included his own sister). Three of Nagamasa's daughters are famous for marrying famous men.
- Chiyo (千代) (1557-1617) - Believed to be born in Maibara and became wife of Lord Yamauchi Kazutoyo who became lord of Kochi Castle in Shikoku. Both are featured in the NHK Taiga Drama, "Komyo ga Tsuji" during 2006 with Chiyo played by Nakama Yukie. Other names are Matsu and Kensho'in (見性院).
- Ii Naomasa (井伊直政) (1561-1602) - First lord of Hikone from 1600 during the Tokugawa Period. He was a general under Tokugawa Ieyasu whom he helped to win the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He was rewarded with Sawayama Castle and the fief of Omi (now Shiga). Instead of occupying Sawayama Castle, home of his former enemy Ishida Mitsunari, he had wished to build a new castle in Hikone. His wish came true years after his death.
- Ii Naosuke (井伊 直弼) (1815-1860) - Tokugawa shogunate's Chief Minister (Tairo) who favored and concluded commercial treaties with the Western powers and thus broke Japan's isolation from the world. Foreigners were then allowed to trade with Japan and take up residence in cities like Yokohama and Hakodate. Ii was later brutally assassinated in 1860 by people who sought to oust the foreign "barbarians."
- Ishida Mitsunari 石田 三成 (1560-1600) - Native of Nagahama, and loyal retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Became lord of Sawayama Castle in Hikone and was later the ill-fated leader of the Western Forces defeated at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Executed by Tokugawa Ieyasu in Kyoto.
- Nakae Toju 中江藤樹 (1608-1648): Native of Adogawa, Takashima and one of Japan's leading Neo-Confucian philosophers. He taught that the highest virtue was filial piety. To care for his ailing mother, he escaped from his samurai career and returned to Takashima in 1634 where he started his Neo-Confucian school. His large following ranged from samurai to merchants, all treated equally. He was also dubbed the "Saint of Omi." There is the Nakae Toju Memorial Museum in Takashima.
- Amenomori Hoshu 雨森芳洲 (1668-1755): Major Confucian scholar and leading diplomat to Korea during the Edo Period. Born in Amenomori village in Takatsuki, Hoshu first studied medicine in Kyoto. Later he moved to Edo (Tokyo) where he studied Confucianism under Confucian scholar Kinoshita Jun'an 木下 順庵. He was hired by the Tsushima clan in Nagasaki and was put in charge of Korean relations at age 22. Tsushima was an island domain close to Korea which had trade relations with Korea. Tsushima was put in charge by the Tokugawa shogunate to handle Korean relations. At age 25, Hoshu learned Chinese. At age 36, he lived and studied Korean in Pusan for 3 years during 1702-1705. He even wrote a book to teach basic Korean conversation. Hoshu rightly believed that language represented the culture, and learning the language was thus essential to understand the country. He also traveled with the Korea's royal embassy dispatched from Korea to Edo in 1711 and 1719. Hoshu today is regarded as a pioneer in Korean-Japanese relations and an internationally-minded person ahead of his time. The East Asia Exchange House Amenomori Hoshu-an Museum 東アジア交流ハウス雨森芳洲庵 in Amenomori, Takatsuki, Shiga is dedicated to him and Japanese-Korean relations. He is buried in Tsushima, Nagasaki.
- Itoh Chube'e (1842-1903) - Native of Toyosato, Omi shonin merchant and founder of Itochu Corporation (C. Itoh) and Marubeni, two of Japan's largest trading companies, in 1858. At age 15, he started out peddling his linen goods on foot from Shiga, traveling west to Wakayama and Osaka. He soon set up shop in Osaka. He even had a shop in San Francisco, California. His second son Seiichi, also born in Toyosato, set up the C. Itoh company in 1918 and started importing textiles from England where he had studied abroad.
- Ochiai Kentaro 落合謙太郎 (1870-1926) - Native of Biwa-cho and diplomat who was present at the Russo-Japan Peace Conference at Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1905 where Russia and Japan signed a peace treaty. Among the Japanese delegation, which incuded Japanese Ambassador to the US Kogoro Takahira and Japanese Foreign Minister Jutaro Komura, Ochiai was the only one who could speak Russian. Also served as ambassador extraordinary in Italy and Holland.
- Oguchi Taro (1897-1924) - He and his college boatmates composed the song Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) during a rowing trip around the lake in June 1917. The song later became Shiga's most famous song.
- William Merrell Vories (1881-1964) - Native of Kansas who came to Omi-Hachiman in 1905 to teach English and do missionary work. Later he opened his own architectural firm and designed numerous Western-style buildings in Shiga, including Toyosato Primary School. Married a Japanese and became a naturalized Japanese citizen named Mereru Hitotsuyanagi (his wife's maiden name). His hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas and Omi-Hachiman are sister cities.
- Uno Sosuke (1922-1998) - Native of Moriyama and Japan's 75th prime minister during June-Sept. 1989. Resigned in disgrace after an extramarital affair with a Tokyo geisha was made public.
- Takemura Masayoshi 武村 正義 (1934-) - Native of Yokaichi (Higashi-Omi) who served as mayor of Yokaichi in 1971, and elected governor of Shiga in 1974 serving three terms until 1986 during which he instituted a number of well-received environmental measures for Lake Biwa. That same year, he is elected to the National Diet. In 1993 in the cabinet of Hosokawa Morihiro, he becomes Chief Cabinet Secretary. During 1994-1996, in the Cabinet of Murayama Tomiichi, he serves as Minister of Finance when the consumption tax was raised from 3% to 5%.
- Shiga Prefecture
- Shiga Prefecture Sights
- Shiga Prefecture Municipalities
- Oguchi Taro
- Biwako Shuko no Uta
- 「滋賀の２０世紀 ひと・もの・こと」編集／滋賀の２０世紀編集委員会、サンライズ出版（株）、2001年3月29日出版
- 「平成大合併 日本新地図」監修／正井 泰夫、小学館 、2005-12-10出版
- Asahi Shimbun, Chunichi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Kyoto Shimbun, various issues
|Municipalities of Shiga Prefecture 滋賀県|
|Cities & Towns: Aisho-cho | Higashi-Omi | Hikone | Hino-cho | Koka | Konan | Kora-cho | Kusatsu | Maibara | Moriyama | Nagahama | Omi-Hachiman | Otsu | Ritto | Ryuo-cho | Taga-cho | Takashima | Toyosato-cho | Yasu|
|愛荘町 | 東近江市 | 彦根市 | 日野町 | 甲賀市 | 湖南市 | 甲良町 | 草津市 | 米原市 | 守山市 | 長浜市 | 近江八幡市 | 大津市 | 栗東市 | 竜王町 | 多賀町 | 高島市 | 豊郷町 | 野洲市|