Kōka is well known for its ninja history (Kōga ninja clan), unique ceramics and position on the Tokaido Road. The Kōga ninja clan were rivals of the nearby Iga ninjas. Unlike the Iga ninja, whose power was well-known, the Kōga clan are said to have used stealth and deception to mask their size and power, creating fake rivals for themselves. In 1581, the two clans joined forces against Oda Nobunaga, but were defeated by Nobunaga's overwhelming forces, and the surviving members of the Kōga ninja went into retreat.
The ceramics produced in Kōka, known as Shigaraki-yaki, have been prized across Japan for centuries. Today you will see many small pottery shops lining the streets near Shigaraki Station.
The Tokaido Road was for centuries the main route from Kyoto to Edo (present day Tokyo). The road passes through the heart of Kōka, and two famous rest stations, Tsuchiyama and Minakuchi, are located here.
In 2004 the towns of Minakuchi, Shigaraki, Tsuchiyama, Kōga and Kōnan merged to form Kōka City.
Kōka has five stations on the JR Kusatsu Line. The largest station, Kibukawa, is about a 45 minute ride from Kyoto.
From JR Osaka or Kyoto Station, get on any regular, rapid or special rapid train headed for Kusatsu, Yasu, Maibara, Nagahama or Tsuruga. Get off the train at Kusatsu. From Kyoto this takes about 15-20 minutes. Do not exit Kusatsu station, and transfer to any train bound for Kibukawa or Tsuge (Keep in mind that trains bound for Tsuge will stop at all stations in Koka City, while trains bound for Kibukawa will only stop at Kibukawa). The train from Kusatsu to Kibukawa takes about 25 minutes.
Along with the JR train line, Koka has 4 stops on the Omi Railway and 5 stops on the Shigaraki Kogen Railway. Both of these railways can be accessed at JR Kibukawa Station. Koka also has an extensive bus network, with many buses departing from Kibukawa Station.
Many of the above sights offer a number of activities that go beyond simply "looking." Furthermore, Koka is an excellent destination for cherry blossoms (early to mid April), hiking and autumn foliage
Koka is famous for its Shigaraki-yaki pottery, which comes in many shapes, sizes and prices. Handmade cups, bowls and ornaments often start at only several hundred yen. Larger, more elaborate ceramic items are also sold. There are dozens of small pottery shops around Shigaraki Station. To get there, take the Shigaraki Kogen Railway from Kibukawa Station.
For the last 650 years, Koka has also been a large producer of fine quality teas. Tsuchiyama-cha, with its bold flavor, and Asamiya-cha with its mild taste are especially famous.
Koka’s Kafuka Miso, made from Shiga soy and rice, is prized as being some of the tastiest in Japan.
Iga is the other ninja hot-spot in Japan, and isn't far away.