Otsu, Shiga

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Otsu, Shiga (大津市; Otsu-shi)
Otsu Enryakuji temple, World Heritage Site More Otsu photos here.
Map of Shiga with Otsu highlighted
Google Map of Otsu here.
Location Shiga Prefecture, Kinki region, Honshu island, JAPAN  
Population 338,240 (2010-08-01)
Area 374.06 km²
City Centers Hama-Otsu, Sakamoto, Mt. Hiei, Omi-Maiko, Katata, Zeze 
Major Sights Enryaku-ji Temple, Ishiyama-dera, Ukimido temple, Lake Biwa boat cruise 
Major Gateways JR Tokaido Main Line Otsu Station, Ishiyama Station, Kyoto Station (Kyoto); JR Kosei Line Yamashina Station (Kyoto) 
Train Stations JR Tokaido Main Line Otsu Station, Zeze Station, Ishiyama Station, Seta Station; JR Kosei Line Otsukyo Station, Karasaki Station, Hie-zan Sakamoto Station, Ogoto Onsen Station, Katata Station, Ono Station, Wani Station, Horai Station, Shiga Station, Hira Station, Omi-Maiko Station, Kita-Komatsu Station 
Claim to Fame Capital of Shiga Prefecture. Otsu was also once the capital of Japan when Emperor Tenji moved the capital to Otsu in 667. World Heritage Site temples together with Kyoto.
Products Otsu-e prints
Neighbors Kusatsu, Takashima, Koka, Kyoto 
Old Name(s) Omi-no-Otsu-no-miya, Omi-no-miya, Otsu-no-miya 近江大津宮
Keywords Emperor Tenchi
Historical Persons Emperor Tenchi, Tendai-shu founder Saicho, Murasaki Shikibu
Links Otsu Articles | Otsu Photos
Otsu Tourist Information
Location JR Otsu Station and other stations below
Phone Otsu Office 077-528-2772

Otsu Station 077-522-3830 Katata Station 077-573-1000 Ogoto Spa 077-578-1650 Ishiyama Station 077-534-0706 Sakamoto 077-578-6565 Shiga-cho 077-592-0378 

Tourist Links Tourism Ass.  
Int'l Association Web site Tel: 077-525-4711  
Volunteer Guides None  
Otsu City Hall 大津市役所
Address 〒520-8575 滋賀県大津市御陵町3-1

Goryocho 3-1, Otsu, Shiga 520-8575 JAPAN

Phone/Fax 077-523-1234 
Official Site Japanese |  
Symbols Flower:  Eizan Sumire
Tree:  Yamazakura mountain cherry tree
Bird:  Black-headed Gull (yurikamome)
Others:  Otsu-e pictures
Logo:  Otsulogo.gif
Sister Cities Lansing, Michigan, USA; Interlaken, Switzerland; Wurzburg, Germany; Mudanjiang, China; Kumi, The Republic Korea

This page is 80% complete. Last updated: Apr. 2, 2014

by Philbert Ono

Otsu (大津市; Otsu-shi) is a city in southern Shiga Prefecture and the prefecture's capital.

Adjacent to Kyoto (10 min. by train), Otsu occupies almost the entire southern shore of Lake Biwa. It thus has a very long lakeshore coast. Best known for World Heritage Site temples such as Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei (one of Japan's three most sacred temple mountains) and National Treasures at Ishiyama-dera and Miidera (Onjoji) temples. It also boasts white sand beaches along the western shore and cruises on Lake Biwa.

Otsu, with its Kyoto-influenced temples, convenient transportation links to Kyoto, lake beaches frequented by Kyotoites, and the Lake Biwa Canal supplying water to Kyoto (and Osaka), is almost a satellite or extension of neighboring Kyoto and has never really developed its own unique identity. However, it is an interesting city in its own right with many major places of interest of its own.

Sights

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Ishiyama-dera Genji Room Omi-Maiko Enryakuji Konpon Chudo
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Miidera temple Otsu Matsuri Sanno Matsuri
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Katata Ukimido Karasaki Hiei-zan Driveway

Must See

  • Enryakuji 延暦寺 - One of the largest temple complexes in Japan, Enryakuji is the headquarters of the Tendai Buddhist sect atop Mt. Hie in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. The temple was founded by Saicho to protect Kyoto from the demons of the northeast. Mt. Hiei can be called the birthplace of Japanese Buddhism as many founders of Japanese Buddhist sects once trained on Mt. Hiei. The mountain also has the scenic Hie-zan Driveway offering panoramic views of Lake Biwa. Map
  • Katata Ukimido 堅田 浮御堂 - The Ukimido Floating Temple in Lake Biwa, Katata, Shiga Prefecture is famous as one of the Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Omi). Today, it is supported by strong concrete pillars instead of wooden stilts of long ago. Map
  • Ishiyama-dera 石山寺 - Founded in 749, Ishiyama-dera, belonging to the Shingon Buddhist Sect, is the 13th Temple of the Saigoku Pilgrimage. Lady Murasaki Shikibu is said to have written the epic novel, "A Tale of Genji" in a room at this temple. The fall colors are also brilliant. Map
  • Miidera 三井寺 - Established in the 7th century, Miidera temple, or Onjoji, is one of Otsu's major temples and one of Japan's four largest temples. It is the headquarters temple of the Tendai Jimon Buddhist Sect and former rival of Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei. It is a complex of numerous structures including National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. The temple bell is famous for being one of the Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Omi) depicted in ukiyoe prints. Cherry blossoms in April are also lit up at night. Map
  • Michigan Paddlewheel Cruise - Operates from Otsu for pleasure cruises on the lake. Other boat cruises start from Nagahama, Hikone, and Omi-Imazu to Chikubushima and Takeshima. Map

Other Sights

  • Omi Jingu 近江神宮 - Dedicated to Emperor Tenji (Tenchi) who moved the capital to Otsu. The shrine holds a karuta card contest in Jan. and yabusame horseback archery on Nov. 3. Also nearby are two Otsu Palace sites in Nishikori where Japan's capital was located for 5 years from 667. Near Keihan Line Omi-Jingu-mae Station. Map
  • Lake Biwa Canal (Biwako Sosui) 琵琶湖疎水 - Not exactly a tourist attraction except the part where cherry trees are planted, but a vital water link for Kyoto and Osaka which depend on Lake Biwa for its water supply. In April, it is noted for cherry blossoms. Map
  • Takebe Taisha Shrine - Near the east end of Seta-no-Karahashi Bridge. Holds the Senko-sai Festival in Aug. Map
  • Gichuji Temple - The grave of Haiku poet Basho Matsuo is here, along with many haiku-related monuments. Map
  • Zeze Castle Park - Site of Zeze Castle along the lakeshore, only a stone foundation remains. Map
  • Biwako Valley - Fine view of the city and lake from a ski slope (also open in summer). Map
  • Top of Otsu - Great views of Otsu and the southern tip of Lake Biwa from the top-floor restaurant in the Otsu Prince Hotel. The city's tallest building. Map
  • The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga (Shiga-kenritsu Kindai Bijutsu-kan) 滋賀県立近代美術館 - First-class modern art museum in a scenic park. KInd of out of the way, but worth a visit. Map

Event Calendar

  • April 12-14: Sanno-sai Festival 山王祭 - Held by Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine and one of Shiga Prefecture's largest festivals, the annual Sanno Matsuri is held during April 12-14 and features processions, violent rocking of portable shrines, and a boat procession on Lake Biwa. Map
  • Aug. - Lake Biwa Summer Festival - Near Hama-Otsu Station, a variety of entertainment and Bon dancing called Goshu Ondo in Shiga.
  • Aug. 7 or 8 - Grand Lake Biwa Fireworks - Aerial and water fireworks off the shore in central Otsu near Hama-Otsu Station (admission required) or the free area around Nagisa Park.
  • Aug. 17 - Takebe Taisha Senko-sai Festival - One of Otsu's Big Three Festivals, the Senko-sai is a portable shrine procession on boats going down Seta River from Seta-no-Karahashi Bridge to Nango sluice and back. Held annually by Takebe Taisha Shrine near the bridge. The festival starts at 5 pm when the portable shrines leave the shrine, and climaxes with fireworks on Seta River after the boats return at about 8:00 pm. Map
  • Two days before Sports Day Oct. 10: Otsu Matsuri Festival 大津祭 - One of Shiga's major festivals featuring thirteen ornate floats displayed and paraded around central Otsu over two days before Sports Day, a national holiday around Oct. 10. The first day of the festival has the floats parked and displayed on the streets and lit up at night (Yoimiya). The second day is the festival climax with a procession of all the floats highlighted by performances by karakuri mechanical dolls on the floats. Within walking distance from Otsu Station.
  • Oct. - Apr.: Shiga Lakestars regular season games are held on weekends. Otsu is home to the Shiga Lakestars pro basketball team in the bj-league. Many of the home games are played at the Shiga Prefectural Gym. For the home game schedule, see their official site (Japanese).

Travel Tips

  • Otsu is a long city in length. Trains, streetcars, and buses can take you to most places of interest. By train when coming from the east (Maibara, Nagoya, etc.), getting off at Ishiyama Station is convenient since you can transfer to the Keihan Railways streetcar line which runs through the middle of the city all the way to Sakamoto (Mt. Hiei and Enryakuji). The city's major sights are along this streetcar line (Ishiyama-dera, Keihan Zeze, Hama-Otsu, Miidera, Omi Jingu-mae, and Sakamoto). From Otsu Station, which has a tourist info office, you can walk to Hama-Otsu or take a bus to various places. To visit the western side of the city such as Omi-Maiko, go to Yamashina Station in Kyoto or Otsukyo Station to catch the Kosei Line.

Getting There

Official mascot
Otsu's official mascot: Hikaru-kun
Otsu is next to Kyoto, so take the shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto, then the Tokaido/Biwako Line train to Otsu Station or Yamashina Station if you will travel on the Kosei Line.

Getting Around

Otsu has numerous train and streetcar stations as well as bus routes. The major sights and facilties along the train and Keihan Railways streetcar lines are as follows:

JR Tokaido Line (東海道線・琵琶湖線)

  • Seta Station (瀬田駅) - By bus, go to the "Bunka Zone" (Culture Zone) that has a Japanese garden, the Shiga Prefectural Library, and the The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga.
  • Ishiyama Station (石山駅) - Ishiyama-dera Temple is a must-see and the Seta River and Seta Karahashi Bridge are also historic places. Ishiyama is also a Keihan streetcar stop which cuts through Otsu.
  • Zeze Station (膳所駅) - Zeze Castle ruins. Also near to Otsu's shopping area.
  • Otsu Station (大津駅) - Shiga's capital and a city with many important temples and shrines such as Enryakuji Temple, Ishiyama-dera Temple, Omi Jingu Shrine, Gichuji Temple (where Haiku poet Basho is buried), and a nice lakeshore. Bicycle rental at Otsu Port (Otsu Tourist Office).

JR Kosei Line (湖西線)

This train line runs on the west side of the city and lake.

Going to northern Shiga:

  • Otsukyo Station (大津京駅) - Omi Jingu Shrine, Ojiyama Kofun Tumulus are nearby. (This train station was Nishi-Otsu Station and renamed "Otsu-kyo" 大津京駅 on March 15, 2008.)
  • Karasaki Station (唐崎駅) - Karasaki Jinja Shrine (Karasaki Pine)
  • Hie-zan Sakamoto Station (比叡山坂本駅) - Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Saikyoji Temple, Hie-zan Sakamoto Cable Car to Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei. Rental bicycles at nearby Sakamoto Station (Sakamoto Tourist Association office) on the Keihan Ishiyama Sakamoto Line.
  • Ogoto Onsen Station (おごと温泉駅) - Ogoto Hot Spring. (This train station was Ogoto Station and renamed "Ogoto Onsen" おごと温泉駅 on March 15, 2008.)
  • Katata Station (堅田駅) - Ukimido Floating Temple, Biwako Ohashi Bridge (west end)
  • Ono Station (小野駅) -
  • Wani Station (和邇駅) - Wani-hama Beach
  • Horai Station (蓬莱駅) - Horai-hama Beach
  • Shiga Station (志賀駅) - Katsuragawa Keikoku Gorge, Biwako Valley
  • Hira Station (比良駅) - Hira mountains
  • Omi-Maiko Station (近江舞子駅) - Shiga's most popular beach is Omi-Maiko where many Kyotoites also come in the summer. Omatsuzaki
  • Kita-Komatsu Station (北小松駅) - Yobai no Taki Falls, Hira Genkimura.

Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto Line (京阪石山坂本線)

Otsu's main streetcar line connecting one end of the city to the other.

Keihan Keishin Line (京阪京津線)

Streetcar line connecting Otsu and Kyoto.

Maps

Placemarks in Google Maps are in English.


View Larger Map

Photos

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Tahoto pagoda, Ishiyama-dera Miidera
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Sanno Matsuri Otsu Matsuri
More photos at Otsu Photos.

Videos

Click on the video to start playing it.

More Shiga videos here.

History

  • 667 Emperor Tenchi designates Otsu as the nation's capital.
  • 672 Jinshin Revolt occurs.
  • 1872 Otsu becomes the capital of Shiga Prefecture.
  • 1890 The Lake Biwa Canal (Biwako Sosui) is completed to feed water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.
  • 1891 The Otsu Incident occurs on May 11 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.
  • 1898 The city of Otsu is established.
  • 1933 Zeze-cho and Ishiyama-cho town merge with Otsu.
  • 1951 Ogoto and Sakamoto Villages merge with Otsu.
  • 1967 Seta-cho and Katata-cho towns merge with Otsu.
  • 2006 March 20: Shiga-cho town merges with Otsu.
  • 2008 Otsu celebrated the Millennium of the Tale of Genji 源氏物語千年紀 (Genji Monogatari Sennenki) with various exhibitions and events mainly at Ishiyama-dera temple. An event venue called Genji Yume-kairo 源氏夢回廊 (main path leading to the temple entrance) at the temple had a few temple buildings holding various exhibitions related to the novel. It was in 1008 when Lady Murasaki completed the epic novel Genji Monogatari after four years. She wrote it in a little room with a view of the moon at Ishiyama-dera in Otsu. The temple itself is a major tourist attraction with National Treasure buildings, spring flowers, and autumn leaves.

Miscellaneous

Recent Otsu News and Weather

The latest five headlines for Otsu from Shiga News are displayed below. Click to view the latest stories.

Shiga News - Otsu

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

More Otsu News here.

Trivia

  • Otsu City Hall might be moved to Hama-Otsu.
  • Lady Murasaki Shikibu is said to have written the epic novel "Tale of Genji" (Genji Monogatari) in a small room in Ishiyama-dera temple. The temple has a small room and a mannequin of Shikibu showing where she might have written the novel.

Famous People

  • 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.
Ogura Yuki
Painter
Saicho
Founder of the Tendai Buddhist sect.

Side Trips

Other sights in neighboring cities/towns within easy reach from Otsu.

  • Kyoto

Related Articles

External Links


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
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