Shiga Prefecture is dominated by the massive Lake Biwa, which attracts visitors with its natural beauty, outdoor activities and many cultural sites. The majestic Hikone Castle, from its powerful hilltop position alongside the lake, boasts many of its original structures, such as stone climbing walls to deter invaders hoping to encircle the castle. Also overlooking the lake, the nearby Nagahama Castle Historical Museum introduces visitors to aspects of daily life in this typical castle town through artifacts from the Edo Period.
Lake Biwa has blessed the region with natural resources and an environment that support traditional handicrafts. Clay that was once the lake bottom is rich in minerals, giving Shigaraki ware its reddish-brown color and rustic texture, often seen as tea sets, outdoor jars, and adorable raccoon figures known as “tanuki.” The humid environment around the lake is also ideal for growing hemp, which is blended with ramie to create a cool linen fabric known for its slightly fuzzy patterns and popular as clothing in the hot summertime.