Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Nagahama – The City Where Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Legend Begins

Nagahama, the second biggest city in Shiga Prefecture, is rich in history and nature. Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s success in becoming the leader of Japan in the second half of the 16th century was said to have started from here. The city at the northmost of Shiga Prefecture is next to both Fuki and Gifu Prefecture, making it a convenient destination to stop by if you look to explore Japan’s Chūbu Area from Kansai!

Located in Lake Biwa‘s north, Nagahama is commonly referred to as Kohoku Chihō (湖北地方) by the Japanese. In the 16th century, it developed as a castle town of Nagahama Castle, the first castle built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In the Edo period (1603 – 1867), it prospered as a merchant town that served the travelers passing through this transportation hub of Kansai region.

Below is a list of attractions in the city. Some will further elaborate on the history of Nagahama.

Nagahama’s History

Originally, Nagahama was called Imahama (今浜). It wasn’t until Kinoshita Tōkichirō (later Toyotomi Hideyoshi) became the new lord of the region and had his first castle constructed that the area had its name changed to Nagahama.

Why Nagahama? Hideyoshi wasn’t born into a samurai family but was from a peasant background. If Oda Nobunaga didn’t accept him as a retainer, he wouldn’t have had a chance to become a samurai.

In 1573, Hideyoshi was ordered to take down the Azai clan (浅井氏), which governed the area around Nagahama. Successfully defeating the Azai clan, he was awarded the Azai clan’s territory by his lord.

Feeling thankful towards his prominent lord, the new castle that he built in Imahama, replacing the Azai clan’s Odani Castle (小谷城), was named Nagahama, replacing the “Ima” of Imahama with the “Naga” from “Nobunaga”.

Since then, the castle was the base of a few more different feudal clans before it became a part of Hikone Domain (彦根藩). Nagahama Castle was then dismantled with many building materials used to construct Hikone Castle (彦根城).

Even without a castle, Nagahama thrived as the second biggest city in Hikone Domain. Furthermore, what contributed to the city’s prosperity is due to the famous temple Daitsū-ji (大通寺). With many pilgrims visiting the temple, Nagahama prospered as a temple town until the end of the Edo period (1603 – 1867).

Nagahama Roman Passport (長浜浪漫パスポート)

If you plan to visit a few main attractions in Nagahama City, consider getting a Nagahama Roman Passport to save on admission fees. The current price of the passport is 1,200 yen. So, for example, if Kaiyōdō Figure Museum (海洋堂フィギュアミュージアム黒壁) is on your itinerary, you only need to visit another major attraction during your time in Nagahama to start saving!

For a list of attractions you can use the passport to enter, please refer to their Japanese website HERE and translate it to English using Google Chrome’s translation function. Their English website HERE doesn’t give you much information.

The passport can also give you discounts or freebies at other facilities in the city such as restaurants and souvenir shops. As the list of participating facilities is only in Japanese online, we recommend purchasing the passport at Nagahama’s tourist information center. They might have the list in English or at least translate and make some recommendations for you.

Statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Ishida Mitsunari (秀吉・三成出逢いの像)

Soon after you step out of JR Nagahama Station, this statue might catch your attention. It reminds us of the importance of being attentive if you want to change your life dramatically and be successful.

This statue that was placed in 1981 illustrates the scene where Toyotomi Hideyoshi first encountered Ishida Mitsunari.

Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会

At the time, Mitsunari was still young and was training in Kannon-ji Temple (観音寺). When Hideyoshi was Nagahama Castle’s lord, he sometimes ventured out of the castle for falconry. One day, he stopped by the temple for water.

The first bowl of tea that Mitsunari served Hideyoshi was warm, just the right temperature for him to quench his thirst. The second bowl of tea served to Hideyoshi was slightly hotter and in a smaller tea bowl with the bowl half-filled.

Curious about what the young boy would do if he requested another bowl, Hideyoshi asked for more tea. This time, Mitsuhide brought out an even smaller tea bowl filled with a little bit of hot tea.

Being deeply impressed by how attentive Mitsunari was, Hideyoshi took in Mitsunari as his vassal later on.

If you don’t quite understand why Mitsunari’s action, here is his intention.

The Japanese love the tea being served hot. But hot tea isn’t quite a good idea when one is thirsty and wants to rehydrate. So Mitsunari first brought out a large bowl of warm tea. After Hideyoshi wasn’t that thirsty anymore, he gradually increased the temperature and reduced the amount of tea served. The third bowl was probably the most delicious, with the right temperature to bring out the best of the tea leaves for Hideyoshi to enjoy.

Nagahama Castle Historical Museum (長浜城歴史博物館)

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Nagahama Castle (長浜城) at the northeastern lakeshore of Lake Biwa is known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s starting point of becoming the leader of Japan. Even if you aren’t interested in Japanese history and the Japanese castle, you might still want to visit the castle park in spring.

Usually, from early to mid-April, the cherry trees blossom beautifully around the castle, making the park one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots!

For more information, please refer to our article on Nagahama Castle (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Chikubu Island (竹生島)

Just next to the Hō Park (豊公園), Nagahama Port (長浜港) is where you can board the ferry to the most sacred island on the ocean-like Lake Biwa.

Chikubu Island is the second biggest island on the lake that has been regarded as the island where god lives. Not only is the island a religious destination, but a couple of architecture on the island also has a deep connection with Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Chikubu-Island-Nagahama-Shiga-Japan
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For more information, please refer to our article on Chikubu Island!

Hōkoku Shrine (豊国神社)

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A couple of Hōkoku Shrine enshrines Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Japan, and one of them is in Nagahama. His retainers Katō Kiyomasa (加藤清正) and Kimura Shigenari (木村重成) are also enshrined here.

The citizens of Nagahama erected the shrine to commemorate Hideyoshi’s third anniversary in 1600. But, after the Tokugawa shogunate was established, the shrine was demolished as worshipping Hideyoshi, who was once Tokugawa’s opponent, was forbidden.

However, this couldn’t stop the locals from continuing to worship Hideyoshi.

The statue of Hideyoshi was moved to a private residence before it was moved to a newly built Ebisu Shrine (恵比須宮). On the surface, it was a shrine to worship Ebisu, a god who looks after pilgrims’ businesses’ success. But, on the other side of the wall behind Ebisu, Hideyoshi’s statue was placed.

After the Tokugawa shogunate was overturned and a new era arrived, the Hōkoku Shrine was revived in the early Meiji period in 1898, the 300th anniversary of Hideyoshi.

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One thing that we found really interesting about the shrine is the purification fountain. Not sure if it has anything to do with Hideyoshi being known as a short guy that the fountain’s height is extremely low. This is why the pilgrims usually have a hard time performing the purification ritual at Hōkoku Shrine (´▽`*).

On the same precinct, there is an Inari Shrine with a God who grants prayers of success in one’s career. The size of the Inari Shrine is as big as the main shrine – Hōkoku Shrine.

The Legend of Tora-ishi Rock

Furthermore, as you stroll around the shrine, you will find a large rock with a white rope wrapped around it. The rock is called “Tora-ishi (虎石)”.

Its legend goes back to when Hideyoshi was still the lord of Nagahama Castle. Katō Kiyomasa (加藤清正), who Hideyoshi raised, loved the rock that was in the castle’s garden a lot.

In the mid-Edo period, when the rock was moved to Daitsū-ji Temple‘s garden, the rock started crying out with the sound of “Iō, iō” (meaning going back, going back). So it was moved back to where it was. Later on, the rock was relocated to Hōkoku Shrine, where Hideyoshi is enshrined.

Since the rock didn’t cry to go back again, it must want to stay somewhere related to Hideyoshi (so we guessed).

Hōkoku Shrine’s Main Festivals

If you happen to be around Nagahama between the 9th to the 11th of January each year, head to Hōkoku Shrine for an event called Tōka Ebisu (十日戎). As a participant, you might be able to catch the mochi rice cakes thrown by the shrine’s maiden!

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On a Sunday in mid-October, Toyokō Festival (豊公まつり) is another big event of the shrine. This is where a warrior procession imitates the triumphal return of the Battle of Shizugatake. At the end of the event, mochi rice cakes will be thrown to the crowd as a sign of blessing for your personal or business success.

How to Get to Hōkoku Shrine

From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is less than a 5-minute walk.

Round Toast Tsuruya-pan (つるやパン まるい食パン専門店)

Toast is such a common thing in our life. But have you seen a toast in a cylindrical shape? When you come to Nagahama, remember to check out this round toast shop!

Tsuruya-pan is a local bread shop that has been serving Nagahama since 1951. In 2016, it opened a second shop only selling bread made from their signatory cylindrical-shaped toast.

So what is the difference between this special cylindrical-shaped toast and the regular rectangular-shaped toast?

Well, firstly, the ear is a lot thinner. Because of its cylindrical shape, the toast only needs half of the baking time compared to a standard toast. This is also why this toast is more moist and chewy.

Another notable thing about this round toast is the ingredients required to make one toast are less than usual. Also, the ingredients needed to make the toast are less than usual. This is good news for us to enjoy more of their delicious products!

As most of their savory bread contains meat or seafood, please use phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to order.

Tip: If you purchase bread with toppings, you can ask the shop to heat it up.

Round Bread Tsuruya-pan’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The shop is open from 8 am to 5 pm except for Wednesdays. But please be aware of the below for when each type of product will be available
    • Breakfast bread: From 8 am
    • Freshly baked cylindrical toast: From around 10:30 am
    • Sandwiches made from freshly baked round toast: From around 10:30 am
  • On weekends, the bread can be sold out at around 3 pm
  • From the east exit of JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is less than a 5-minute walk

Keiunkan (慶雲館)

Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会

If you aren’t told, you might not be aware that one of the National Places of Scenery Beauty is just minutes away from JR Nagahama Station.

In late 1886, the officials of Nagahama were informed that the emperor and empress of Meiji would make a brief stop at Nagahama for transit to Nagoya. While it was certainly an honor to the city, no facility was suitable to accommodate them.

Learning the news, Asami Matazō (浅見又蔵), a successful local businessman, promptly started the construction of Keiunkan with his money on the 3rd of November. As the royal couple was scheduled to arrive on the 21st of February the following year, the construction was extremely rushed.

Thanks to everyone’s effort, the reception hall was completed in time just hours before the royal arrival at 1 pm. Taking a brief break at Keiunkan, they headed to Nagoya by taking the 1:45 pm train.

Keiunkan is the name given by Itō Hirobumi (伊藤博文), the first Prime Minister of Japan, who accompanied the emperor and empress. After the royal couple’s visit, it was used as both Asami’s private villa and Nagahama’s reception hall.

The location of Keiunkan was determined to be Daitsū-ji Temple’s (大通寺) annex. The year after it was designated as a National Historic Site in 1935 (the statue was canceled in 1948), it was donated to Nagahama City. Since then, it has been used as one of the city’s facilities for pot plum exhibitions and meetings. In the early 2000s, the garden was renovated, allowing it to be designated as a National Place of Scenery Beauty in 2006.

Keiunkan’s Elegant Interior Decoration and Gorgeous Garden

The gorgeous Japanese garden is nicely maintained on the spacious ground of 6,000 square meters. What will catch your attention as soon as you walk into Keiunkan is a 5-meter tall stone lantern. It will probably be the most enormous stone lantern you have seen in your life.

Close to the lantern, there is a statue of a sumo wrestler. The guy who had obtained the name of Yokozuna (the highest rank in professional sumo wrestling in Japan) at the time was supported by Asami. So he regularly visited Keiunkan during the Meiji period. Throughout the garden, you will also find many giant rocks here and there, some with Japanese poems engraved.

Keiunkan itself is decorated elegantly internally. As a formal reception hall, there are several items exhibited proving this part of history.

On the second floor, there is a room called Gyokuza no Ma (玉座の間). It is the room where the royals rested in.

Back then, with no tall buildings around, it was the perfect place to admire Lake Biwa and Mt. Ibuki. Even now, the two large white chairs they sat on are still in the room. Although you won’t be able to see Lake Biwa, you will get a great view of the garden surrounding the house.

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From early January to early March each year, around 90 pots of plum blossoms will make the air inside Keiunkan more pleasant. A few of the plum trees exhibited are more than 400 years old and as tall as 3 meters!

Keiunkan’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Keiunkan is open from 9 am to 5 pm from mid-March to the beginning of December
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
  • The plot plum exhibition is held from early January to early March from 9 am to 5 pm
    • Night time light-up will take place from early February to early March until 8:30 pm
    • The last admission is taken 30 minutes before the closing time
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 150 yen for elementary and junior high school students
  • During the plot plum exhibition, the admission fee is
    • 800 yen for adults
    • 400 yen for elementary and junior high school students
  • Keiunkan is just next to Nagahama Railway Museum and less than a 5-minute walk from JR Nagahama Station’s (長浜駅) west exit.

Nagahama Railway Museum (長浜鉄道スクエア)

If you are passionate about trains, you might want to stop by Nagahama Railway Museum close to JR Nagahama Station. This two-story western-style building, completed in 1882, is Japan’s oldest existing train station. Unlike recently completed buildings, the station’s brick walls are as thick as 50 cm.

The museum is divided into three areas, the Former Nagahama Station (旧長浜駅舎), Nagahama Railway History Center (長浜鉄道文化館), and Hokuriku Line Electrification Memorial Hall (北陸線電化記念館).

Inside the Former Nagahama Station, the old ticket office and waiting room are reproduced with realistic dioramas that wear clothes commonly seen in the 19th century. As you step into the Nagahama Railway History Center, the view around Nagahama Station back then is shown through models of a 1:150 scale.

On the second floor, you will find the Nagahama Station that you might have stepped out of earlier is minimized in front of you. Different types of trains currently serving are running through the train tracks 1/87 smaller than the tracks in real life.

From the observation deck inside the Hokuriku Line Electrification Memorial Hall, one of the small trains you saw in the museum might just happen to be passing by!

Lastly, you can take a closer look at the steam locomotive and AC electric locomotive in the Hokuriku Line Electrification Memorial Hall. They were both made in the mid-20th century serving the northwestern region of Japan.

If you are traveling with children, how about dressing them up in a train driver uniform and snapping a photo of them sitting on the train’s driver’s seat?

Important: The explanations of the exhibits in the museum are Japanese-only.

Nagahama Railway Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
    • It closes between the 29th of December to the 3rd of January
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 150 yen for elementary and junior high school students
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is less than a 5-minute walk

Kurokabe Square (黒壁スクエア) and Kaiyōdō Figure Museum Kurokabe (海洋堂フィギュアミュージアム黒壁 龍遊館)

Especially if you love shopping and trendy cafes, come to Kurokabe Square when visiting Nagahama. Apart from the boutique shops selling intricately made glass items in this shopping district, there is a museum full of figurines of various anime characters, animals, demons, and many other topics!

For more information, please refer to our article on Kurokabe Square and Kaiyōdō Figure Museum Kurokabe (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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Hikiyama Museum (曳山博物館)

In April each year, Nagahama Hikiyama Festival is held. It isn’t a typical festival that we are talking about here, but one of Japan’s Three Biggest Festival Float Festivals (the other two are the Gion Festival (祇園祭) in Kyoto and the Takayama Festival (高山祭) in Takayama)!

The festival that was registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage is said to have originated when Hashiba Hideyoshi (later Toyotomi Hideyoshi) became the first lord of Nagahama Castle. In the mid-1570s, Hideyoshi got his first son. As a part of the celebration, gold was thrown at the townspeople during a parade. This later became a part of the festivals of Hachimangū Shrines in the area, where large festival floats are pulled and showcased through the towns.

So if you can’t be there when the festival takes place, the best place to head to for a vibe of the splendid festival is the Hikiyama Museum. Here, you can examine the floats used in the festival up close. The details of the events are also showcased through videos and exhibits.

For more details about the festival, please refer to the official website HERE.

The official brochure with more explanations about the festival can be found HERE.

Hikiyama Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
    • It is close from the end of December to the beginning of January
  • The admission fee is
    • 600 yen for adults
    • 300 yen for elementary and middle school students
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is less than a 10-minute walk

Vertical Kaleidoscope (竪型万華鏡)

Close to Kurokabe Square, there is an 8-meter tall vertical kaleidoscope in a back alley of a shopping street.

There are two entrances to the premises. As the kaleidoscope is located in the middle of a residential block, take the Italian restaurant – Biwa Collage (ビワコラージュ) as a landmark. One of the entrances is next to the Chinese restaurant opposite it. Since no admission fee is required, feel free to proceed further from either of the gates.

At the end of the valley, you will find the spectacular kaleidoscope. At the top of the tower-like kaleidoscope, various objects are used to reflect light to create various patterns for you to see at its bottom.

There is a handle for you to operate this gigantic kaleidoscope. The handle is linked to the objects at the top. So as you turn the handle to rotate the objects, the patterns you see will change accordingly.

At the side of the kaleidoscope, you will find a funny statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi on a horse (´▽`*).

How to Get to Vertical Kaleidoscope

From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is around a 15-minute walk.

Daitsū-ji Temple (長浜別院 大通寺)

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Daitsū-ji Temple is a branch temple of the Higashi Honganji (東本願寺) in Kyoto. Both temples belong to the Shinshū Ōtani school (真宗大谷派).

On the temple’s precinct, there are many Important Cultural Properties, including the Grand Hall relocated from Fushimi Momoyama Castle, a tower gate from Nagahama Castle, a bell from the Nanboku-chō period (1336 – 1392), and paintings on the sliding doors from the Edo period inside the buildings.

Furthermore, Daitsū-ji’s garden is one of the spots in Japan that was designated as a National Place of Scenery Beauty.

For more information, please refer to our article on Daitsū-ji!

Nagahama Hachiman-gū Shrine (長濱八幡宮)

Under the order of Emperor Sanjō (三条天皇), Nagahama Hachiman-gū was founded in 1069 as a branch shrine of Kyoto’s Iwashimizu Hachiman-gū (石清水八幡宮). The gods enshrined in a Hachiman-gu are the ancestors of the Japanese royal family.

At the time, there were as many as 73 sub-shrines under Nagahama Hachiman-gū. However, most of the worship halls were destroyed in the civil wars later on.

Fortunately, in 1574, when Hashiba Hideyoshi became the lord of Nagahama Castle, it was revived. The shrine is now known for its hydrangea flowers and the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival (長浜曳山まつり), one of the Three Great Festival Float festivals in Japan. The festival that is on from the 9th to the 16th of April, was registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016, together with the other 32 festivals with festival floats involved.

During the festival, 12 two-story large festival floats of a height of 7 meters are paraded through the city. Another event highlight is the traditional Kabuki plays performed by boys between 5 and 12.

For more information about the event, please refer to the part of the article where we talk about the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum.

Nagahama Hachiman-gū’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The shrine’s office is open from 9 am to 5 pm
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is around a 20-minute walk.

Tokushō-ji Temple (徳勝寺)

Another place that a Japanese history buff would love to visit is Tokushō-ji. It is a temple dedicated to the Azai family (浅井氏) and has all three clan lords buried here.

The temple that currently belongs to the Sōtō school (曹洞宗) was initially founded in a valley close to Odani Castle (小谷城) between the late 14th century and the early 15th century. In 1518, upon the completion of the Odani Castle, the temple was moved to the castle’s ground.

After the Azai clan was destroyed by Hashiba Hideyoshi (later Toyotomi Hideyoshi), the temple was moved to the newly built Nagahama Castle. Why? Because the last lord of the Azai clan – Azai Nagamasa (浅井長政) took in Oda Nobunaga’s sister as his wife. Respecting his lord and his family, the temple was relocated and renamed ‘Tokushō-ji’. The name Tokoshō was taken from Azai Sukemasa’s (浅井亮政) posthumous Buddhist name, who was the first lord of the Azai clan.

In 1672, which is the 100th anniversary of Azai Nagamasa, the temple was moved to where it is now (before this, another relocation took place in 1606).

Although the Azai clan only lasted for three generations, the bloodline was carried forward by the daughters of Nagamasa. His third daughter (Okō, お江) was the wife of Tokugawa Hidetada (the successor of Tokugawa Ieyasu). Furthermore, the fifth daughter of Hidetada and Okō married into the imperial family and became an empress. The temple thus receives protection from the Tokugawa shogunate, the Hikone Domain, and the imperial family in the Edo period.

The main image of the temple is the medical Buddha (Yakushi Nyori, 薬師如来). It is said that the statue was brought back by Hideyoshi when he traveled to Banshū (播州), the southwestern part of the Hyōgo Prefecture.

How to Get to Tokushō-ji

  • The opening hours of the temple are from 10 am to 4 pm
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is around a 15-minute walk.

Sōji-ji Temple (総持寺)

Sōji-ji is the 31st temple of the 49 Saigoku Yakushi Sacred Places Pilgrimage. Yakushi Nyorai (薬師如来) is the Medicine Buddha. The statue’s head and body were majorly repaired in the Heian and Edo periods, respectively. So pilgrims come to Sōji-ji to pray for a smooth operation. It is said that the Buddha will look after the healing of the wound and take care of your mental health.

With a request from Emperor Shōmu’s (聖武天皇), the temple was founded by Gyōki (行基) as a “testing temple” for the many Kokubunji (国分寺) that were later built across Japan. Since then, the temple has prospered with support from the imperial court and Ashikaga Shogunate until the Sengoku period.

However, all buildings were burnt down during the Battle of Anegawa (姉川の戦い) in 1570. Fortunately, the temple was restored by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and supported by Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period.

With around 1,000 peony plants of 80 different species, Sōji-ji is also known as Shiga Prefecture’s no. 1 Peony Temple.

If you love flowers, the peonies at Sōji-ji will usually bloom from late April to early May. If the weather gets warmer earlier, the flowers might start blooming from early April.

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Furthermore, the temple has a deep connection with Kobori Enshū (小堀遠州), a notable Japanese artist and aristocrat. The strolling garden with a pond was determined to be designed by him. The plum tree used to grow a pine cutting is the tree pilgrims pray for a thriving business and a great partner.

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The Niō-mon Gate (仁王門) was built in 1635. The two Niō statues were made by notable Buddha sculptor Takano Sakyō from Kyoto.

Apart from this main image, there are many other Buddha statues in the precinct, including a Kannon statue made in the late Heian period (794 – 1185) that was designated as an Important Cultural Property.

Sōji-ji Temple’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The temple is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm
    • If you want to see the cultural properties such as the Buddha statues, please reserve by calling +81-749-62-2543. If you don’t speak Japanese, check with the staff at your accommodation to see if they can make the booking on your behalf
  • The admission fee is
    • Free outside of peony season
    • 400 yen when the peonies are blooming
    • 500 yen to enter the worship halls to see the cultural properties
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅)’s east exit, take the Ōmi Nagaoka Line (近江長岡線) and get off at Miyashi-kita (宮司北)
    • The bus trip is around 15 minutes
    • The number of bus services is limited. Please refer to the second timetable HERE for buses departing from JR Nagahama Station to plan. For services returning to JR Nagahama Station, please refer to HERE
    • The first column is for weekdays, the second column is for Saturdays, and the last column is for Sundays and public holidays

Kunitomo Teppō (Matchlock) Museum (国友鉄砲ミュージアム)

While guns aren’t an uncommon thing, especially if you live in the U.S. or if you have a hunting license, you probably haven’t come across a matchlock in your life. So if you are a gun amateur interested in this historical type of firearm, Kunitomo Teppō Museum is the place to visit!

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When matchlock was first introduced to Japan in the mid-16th century, Kunimoto village was one of the first hubs in Japan for matchlock making. At its peak, more than 500 matchlock craftsmen were employed at more than 70 blacksmiths in the village.

Many matchlocks and muskets that helped famous warriors such as Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu unite the country were produced at Kunimoto village.

Albeit there are limited English explanations in the museum, it is a place to discover the history and culture of Kunitomo through short films, dioramas, and actual exhibits. The achievements of the genius inventor Kunitomo Ikkansai (国友一貫斎), who was called Edison in Japan, are also introduced in an easy-to-understand manner.

In the museum, not only many matchlocks are on display, you can even hold a few of them!

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Kunitomo Teppō Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm. The last admission is at 4:30 pm
    • It is closed from the 28th of December to the 3rd of January
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 150 yen for elementary and junior high school students
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), take the Azai Line (浅井線) and get off at Kunitomo Teppō no Sato Shiryōkan-mae (国友鉄砲の里資料館前)
    • The bus trip is around 15 minutes
    • The number of bus services is limited. Please refer to the second timetable HERE for buses departing from JR Nagahama Station to plan. For services returning to JR Nagahama Station, please refer to the 3rd table HERE
    • The first column is for weekdays, the second column is for Saturdays, and the last column is for Sundays and public holidays

Mt. Shizugatake (賤ヶ岳)

Because of the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583 between Hashiba Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie, Mt. Shizugatake is not only a scenic destination but also a pilgrimage spot for Japanese history buffs.

Around the summit, monuments were placed for the battlefield and those who died in the war to commemorate the historic event. You can also get a magnificent view of Lake Yogo, Shiga’s tallest mountain Mt. Ibuki, and Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa.

Lake-Yogo-from-Shizugatake-Nagahama-Shiga-Japan
Ⓒ びわこビジターズビューロー

For more information, please refer to our article on Mt. Shiguzatake!

Keisoku-ji (鶏足寺) and Shakudō-ji Temple (石道寺)

Keisoku-ji-Approach-Nagahama-Shiga-Japan
Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会

If you plan to visit Nagahama City from mid to late November, remember to put Keisoku-ji (鶏足寺) and Shakudō-ji Temple (石道寺) in your itinerary.

Although located away from the city center, the two temples close to each other are the best destinations for autumn color hunting!

For more information, please refer to our article on Keisoku-ji (鶏足寺) and Shakudō-ji Temple (石道寺) (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Okubiwako Parkway (奥琵琶湖パークウェイ) and Tsuzura Ozaki Observation Deck (つづら尾崎展望台)

If you have access to a car, another incredible destination in Nagahama for cherry blossom from early to mid-April is the Okubiwako Parkway.

Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会
Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会

The driveway along Lake Biwa also has a nature trail, making it a great place to enjoy hiking. If you want to park your car to adore the magnificent scenery, follow the Okubiwako Parkway to Tsuzura Ozaki Observation Deck. The view from the deck is so extraordinary that it was chosen to be one of the lover’s sanctuaries. In other words, an official recommended place for a romantic date or even a proposal!

Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会

In autumn, from mid to late November, it is also an amazing destination to appreciate the vivid fall color.

Moreover, Tsuzura Ozaki Observation Deck is an ideal spot for a photography session of sunset and full moon!

How to Get to Okubiwako Parkway

From Kinomono Interchange (木之本インター), it is around a 20-minute drive.

The motorway is open from 8 am to 8 pm from April to November. From December to March, it is closed due to heavy snowfall.

Visiting Mt. Hiei, One of Japan’s Top Three Holiest Places

Mt. Hiei or Hieizan (比叡山) is one of the Three Holiest Places in Japan. What is scattered throughout the mountain are the worship halls and pagodas of the World Heritage – Enryakuji Temple. The temple that is the headquarter of Japan’s Tendai sect has nurtured well-respected monks in Japanese history.

To find out more about this sacred destination, please refer to our article on Mt. Hiei!

Yokawa-Chudo-Hall-Autumn-Foliage-Mt.-Hiei-Shiga-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about Mt. Hiei!

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