If you find Kyoto and Osaka too crowded and touristy, consider visiting Shiga Prefecture when you land in Kansai next time! The less-visited prefecture is home to Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa. The attractions around the lake thus offer its visitors some magnificent “ocean view”. Locating next to Kyoto, Shiga Prefecture houses countless astonishing temples and shrines and is where many historical events occurred.
Here is our list of Shiga Prefecture’s best attractions to help you plan a memorable trip!
- Shirahige Shrine (白鬚神社)
- Biwako Hakodateyama (びわこ箱館山)
- Mt. Hiei (比叡山)
- Sakamoto (坂本)
- Kōka Ninja House (甲賀流 忍術屋敷)
- Mii-dera Temple (三井寺)
- Hikone Castle (彦根城)
- Chikubu Island (竹生島)
- Kōnan Sanzan (湖南三山)
- MIHO MUSEUM (ミホ・ミュージアム)
Shirahige Shrine (白鬚神社)
Erected around 2,000 years ago during the time of Emperor Suinin, Shirahige Shrine is a great attraction to see when visiting Shiga Prefecture. Located just north of Kyoto, Shiranhige Shrine features a torii gate in the water. In Shirahige Shrine’s precinct, you will find many monuments with famous poems engraved by literati as odes to the beautiful scenery around the shrine.
For more information, please refer to our Shirahige Shrine.
Biwako Hakodateyama (びわこ箱館山)
Did you know there is a ski resort in the Shiga Prefecture called Biwako Hakodateyama? You can ski from December to mid-March. During other times of the year, majestic mountain views with gorgeous wildflowers await your visit. Imagine the amazing photos you can capture of Lake Biwa and the surrounding mountains from here!
For more information, please refer to our Biwako Hakodateyama article.
Mt. Hiei (比叡山)
Mt Hiei is one of Japan’s top three holiest places, located on the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. Known as “the mother of Japanese Buddhism,” there are pagodas and worship halls to be found throughout Mt. Hiei.
Accessible by train, cable car, bus, foot, or cable car, the best time to visit Mt. Hiei is autumn. Some of the main attractions in Mt. Hiei, in addition to several worship halls, include Garden Museum Hiei and the Yumemigaoka Observation Deck for stunning views of the surrounding area.
For more information, please refer to our Mt. Hiei article.
Sakamoto Area (坂本)
Just at the foot of Mt. Hiei, the town traditionally used where the monks of Enryakuji retired to. If you are a hiker, one of the main trailheads of Mt. Hiei is located in Sakamoto, making it the perfect spot to base for hiking.
One of the area’s highlights is the Former Chikurin-in, the most famous temple around. With a beautiful garden, it was designated as a National Place of Scenery Beauty in 1998 and a wonderful place for photography. Another amazing spot in Sakamoto is the Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine. The foliage is especially stunning in the fall with the bright autumn colors.
For more information, please refer to our article on Sakamoto.
Kōka Ninja House (甲賀流 忍術屋敷)
Have you ever dreamed of being a ninja? You know, the secret martial artists who wore all black and snuck around enemies gathering information in ancient Japan? Well, Kōka Ninja House in Shiga Prefecture is the base of one of Japan’s most famous ninja martial art schools.
Kōka Ninja House is the home of the head of the original 53 ninja families who protected the area. With hidden rooms, trick windows, rotating walls, and a 3-meter pit, you can channel your inner ninja by renting a ninja costume when you visit the Koka Ninja House. How awesome is that?
For more information, please refer to our Kōka Kōka City’s Ninja Attractions Guide article.
Mii-dera Temple (三井寺)
Mii-dera Temple, founded in the late mid-7th century, is located on the hillside of Mt. Nagara overlooking Lake Biwa. With a rich history, the temple is known as the Temple of the Phoenix. With buildings filled with Japanese cultural treasures, visiting Mii-dera is a must-do for Japanese history buffs.
If you plan to visit Shiga Prefecture in early spring and autumn, ensure you stop by Mii-dera for the stunning scenery that can’t be found elsewhere!
For more information about the amazing temple, please refer to our article on Mii-dera.
Hikone Castle (彦根城)
Hikone Castle was built over 400 years ago and is one of Lake Biwa’s most famous attractions. The castle itself is three stories and is one of the last of 12 castles left in the world built in the Edo period. With cherry blossom trees and a plum forest, your visit to Hikone Castle will just be amazing!
For more information, please refer to our Hikone Castle article.
Chikubu Island (竹生島)
Chikubu Island is an ancient sacred island located in the middle of Lake Biwa. Accessible by ferry from Nagahama Port, be sure to visit the splendid Hōngon-ji Karamon gate, which is a Japanese National Treasure covered in black lacquer and golden carvings of lions, peonies, and rabbits.
Before leaving Chikubu Island, be sure to stop at Ryūjin Haijo and participate in the Kawarake-nage ritual, which involves making a wish on a plate and then trying to throw it through the stone torii gate. The scenery in this area is spectacular, and the island is a great spot to capture photos.
For more information, please refer to our Chikubu Island article.
Kōnan Sanzan (湖南三山)
Located south of Lake Biwa, the Kōnan Sanzan comprises three temples erected in the 8th century. Filled with many maple trees, the autumn foliage in Kōnan Sanzan is one of the best in the area.
The three temples contain at least a Japanese National Treasure each. With beautiful gardens, ponds, and even a waterfall in the area, Kōnan Sanzan should be at the top of your to-see list when visiting Shiga Prefecture.
For more information, please refer to our Kōnan Sanzan article.
MIHO MUSEUM (ミホ・ミュージアム)
Last but not least on our list of the best attractions in Shiga Prefecture is a visit to MIHO MUSEUM, located deep in the mountainous area in western Kōka. Surrounded by cherry trees and rich nature, the grounds of the museum are absolutely stunning.
There are two buildings at the museum and an outdoor reception pavilion. MIHO MUSEUM has over 3,000 art collections, with 250 to 300 on display at one time.
In addition to the traditional Japanese ceremonial artworks, there are priceless artifacts, sculptures, and paintings from Egypt and China, as well as artworks throughout Asia.
For more information, please refer to our Kōka City article.
The Best Places to Visit in Shiga Prefecture for Fall Foliage Hunting
If your plan is to visit Kansai from late October to early December, you will want to check out our article on the Best Fall Foliage Destinations in Shiga Prefecture for some stunning spots to add to your itinerary.
We are sure you will discover some places you weren’t aware of before!
Discover the Best Cherry Blossom Destinations in Shiga Prefecture
Are you heading to Japan to adore the gorgeous cherry blossoms? If the answer is yes, check out our articles on Shiga Prefecture’s Top Cherry Blossom Destinations.
Many of the places we mention in the article are hidden gems. It means you won’t be pushed around when you get there!