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Nishi-Azai-cho, Shiga

Nishi-Azai, Shiga (西浅井町; Nishi-Azai-chō)
Maruko-bune Maruko-bune boat, a town symbol More Nishi-Azai photos here.
Map of Shiga with Nishi-Azai highlighted
[{{{GoogleMapLink}}} Google Map of Nishi-Azai here.]
Location Shiga Prefecture, Kinki region, Honshu island, JAPAN  
Population 4,622 (2005)
Area 67.05 km²
Town Centers Nagahara, Sugaura, Shiotsu 
Major Sights Maruko-bune no Yakata museum, Sugaura, Oku Biwako Parkway 
Major Gateways JR Omi-Shiotsu Station, JR Nagahara Station 
Train Stations JR Omi-Shiotsu Station, JR Nagahara Station 
Claim to Fame Maruko-bune boats
Products Magamo duck 真鴨 (winter)
Neighbors Takashima, Takatsuki-cho, Kinomoto-cho, Yogo-cho, Kohoku-cho, Nagahama, Tsuruga (Fukui) 
Old Name(s)
Keywords Maruko-bune
Historical Persons Azai clan
Links Nishi-Azai Articles | Nishi-Azai Photos
Nishi-Azai Tourist Information
Location Same as town hall.
Phone 0749-89-1121 
Tourist Links Nishi-Azai town Tourism  
Int'l Association None  
Volunteer Guides Tel:  
Nishi-Azai Town Hall 西浅井町役場
Address 〒529-0792滋賀県伊香郡西浅井町大字大浦2590番地 

Oura 2590, Nishi-azai-cho, Ika-gun, Shiga-ken 529-0792 JAPAN

Phone/Fax Tel: 0749-89-1121

Fax: 0749-89-0585 

Official Site Japanese | English  
Symbols Flower:  Rhododendron つつじ
Tree:  Camellia sasanqua サザンカ
Bird:  Japanese Bush Warbler うぐいす
Others:  Maruko-bune boat
Logo:  Forests and the lake
Sister Towns

by Philbert Ono

Nishi-Azai (西浅井町; -chō) was a town in Shiga Prefecture. It was dissolved as a municipality upon the town's merger with the city of Nagahama on Jan. 1, 2010.

Note that this Web page will no longer be updated. For the latest photos and news about the Nishi-Azai area, please refer to the Nagahama page for travel info and the Nagahama gallery page for photos.

Occupying the northern-most shore of Lake Biwa, Nishi-Azai was formerly a bustling port town on the lake for over 1,000 cargo boats (called maruko-bune) plying between the north and south of the lake during the Edo Period. It was part of a trade route between the Hokuriku region and Kyoto/Osaka.

The area spans 9 km from east to west, and 18 km from north to south. Some 82% of the area is forested. Logging and fishing used to be the area's main industries, but it now mainly manufacturing.

With the advent of train lines replacing the boats, Nishi-Azai is now a quiet and scenic area along the lake. Its lake shore is part of the Lake Biwa Quasi-National Park. A foot path along the shore is pleasant and scenic.

Getting There

The town has two train stations: Omi-Shiotsu on the JR Hokuriku Main Line and Nagahara on the JR Kosei Line. Omi-Shiotsu is a transfer station for the Hokuriku Main Line and Kosei Line. Transferring trains at Omi-Shiotsu is relatively short.


  • Maruko-bune no Yakata boat museum 丸子船の館 - The town's symbol is the maruko-bune wooden boat which was a common sight on the lake in the old days before trains came to fore. Both sides of the boat were attached with a round log cut in half, hence the name "maruko" which means round log. A small museum is dedicated to this boat. Open 9am-5pm, closed Tue. Museum Web site.
  • Sugaura - Sugaura is a small settlement along the northern shore of Lake Biwa. It is a very scenic area with a nice lakeshore road and hiking/cycling trail almost to the tip of the peninsula. Sugaura also has a small thatched-roof gate, called Shisokumon 四足門 on the east and west ends which were used to monitor outsiders entering the village.
  • Oku Biwako Parkway 奥琵琶湖パークウェイ - Scenic mountain road (18.8 km) on a peninsula in northern Shiga Prefecture providing great views of Lake Biwa. There is a scenic lookout at the top of the mountain. Closed in winter due to snow.

Travel Tips

  • Nagahara Station is the best place to start. Rent a bicycle at the station and ride along the lake shore toward Sugaura. Or ride in the opposite direction toward Makino in Takashima during which you will pass by Kaizu-Osaki noted for cherry blossoms. The lakeshore road is flat and scenic for cycling in either direction (toward Sugaura or Makino).
  • After passing through Sugaura from the west end, go all the way through the town until you reach the west end (thatched-roof gate). Beyond that is as hiking trail along the lake shore leading to a small lookout hut.
  • If you have a car, go up the Oku Biwako Parkway mountain road which gives very scenic views of the lake.

Getting Around

By train

Train stations in Nishi-Azai and their places of interest are as follows:

  • Nagahara Station (永原駅) - Maruko-bune no Yakata museum, Ranta no Yakata, Haraobi Kannon Temple. Bicycle rental at the station (drop-off OK at Makino Station).
  • Omi-Shiotsu Station (近江塩津駅) - Transfer station for JR Kosei Line and Hokuriku Line. Catch another train south to Nagahama/Maibara or north to Tsuruga/Fukui or west to Makino/Omi-Imazu. Bicycle rental at the station (drop-off OK at Yogo Station or Nagahara Station on Kosei Line).

By bicycle

  • Rental bicycles available at both train stations in Nishi-Azai. The shore road is flat and scenic. However, going up the Oku Biwako Parkway by bicycle will be strenuous.

By bus

Buses leave Nagahara Station and Omi-Shiotsu Station for places of interest with an infrequent schedule.


Unless noted otherwise, all maps are in Japanese.

Event Calendar

  • 3rd Sun. in May - Oku Biwako Kenko Marathon 奥びわ湖健康マラソン Three marathon courses of 1.5 km, 5 km, and 15 km. Registration required.
  • Aug. 16 - Chanchako Matsuri ちゃんちゃこ祭 held at Shimo-Shiotsu Shrine. Centers on a taiko drum dance lasting until the evening.
  • Late July or early Aug. - Nishi-Azai Suiun Matsuri 西浅井水運まつり - Canoe marathon, souvenir shops, fireworks, and other activities at Oura Gyokuchi Koen Park,



Side Trips

Other sights in neighboring cities/towns within easy reach from Nishi-Azai.

  • Lake Yogo - Near Yogo Station which is next to Omi-Shiotsu.


  • 16th century - Maruko-bune boats flourished on Lake Biwa, transporting goods between the north and south. Shiotsu in Nishi-Azai was a major port with the most number of boats.
  • 1889 - Nagahara Village and Shiotsu Village are established.
  • 1882 - The Hokuriku Railroad opens, diminishing the importance of lake transport maruko-bune boats.
  • 1955 - Nagahara Village and Shiotsu Village merge to form Nishi-Azai Village.
  • 1965 - Maruko-bune boats completely disappear from Lake Biwa. The history of cargo transport on the lake ended after over 1,000 years.
  • 1971 - Nishi-Azai Village becomes a town.
  • 2010 - Nishi-Azai is dissolved as a municipality upon its merger with Nagahama on Jan. 1, 2010.



  • During the Heian Period, Taira Kiyomori ordered his son Shigemori to build a canal connecting Tsuruga (Fukui) with Shiotsu Port on Lake Biwa. The plan never materialized.

Famous People

Azai Nagamasa 浅井 長政 (1545-1573)
Warlord who ruled northern Omi in the 16th century from Odani Castle (in Kohoku-cho). Married to Oda Nobunaga's sister Oichi, but fought against Nobunaga. Defeated at the Battle of Anegawa River by Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1570. His Odani Castle was beseiged by Nobunaga in 1573, and he committed seppuku ritual suicide in the castle. His wife Oichi and three daughters were allowed to return to Nobunaga.

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