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Ōtsu (大津) [6] is the prefectural capital located to the Southwest of Shiga prefecture in the Kansai region.


Cherry Blossoms at Miidera Temple.

With its Northeast section facing Lake Biwa, the city is long and thin, curving like a bow. In ancient times, during the Asuka Era, Emperor Tenji relocated the capital to Otsu (then known as Omi-Otsu), making the city allowing the city to control important trade routes through the Kansai region. Its position as a bridge between the north of the country and the capital meant numerous wars were fought for control of the city. After the establishment of Heian-Kyo as the new capital (now Kyoto), the Enryaku-ji Temple was constructed on Mount Hiei, and with the subsequent construction of the Mii-dera Temple, the head temple of the Tendai Jimon sect of Buddhism, the region can be said to be a holy ground in Japan. On top of this, the city prospered as a result of its position along the Toukaidou trading route, and on the shores of Lake Biwa, where commercial shipping could flow through. Otsu is also home to the legendary Eight Views of Omi, but while numerous poems and paintings have been made in its honour, today one of the views 'the Breeze at Azusa' has been lost. At present, Otsu mainly functions as the administrative capital of Shiga Province, a gateway to the Keihanshin Region (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe) and as a residential district.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Otsu does not have its own airport. The nearest airport is Osaka's Itami Airport, but Kansai International Airport is an equally viable option. There are no shuttles or limosine buses from either airport to Otsu however, From Itami Airport you can take a limosine bus to Kyoto (¥1,280) or Osaka (¥490) and then continue to Otsu by train. From either airport, you can travel from the airport to Otsu by train.

By train[edit]

From Kyoto, take the JR Biwako Line from Kyoto Station to Otsu. Alternatively, you can take the Keihan Keishin Line to Hamaotsu Station. From Kyoto Station, the JR line will be most convenient, but from Eastern Kyoto or the subway Tozai Line, Keihan railway is the better option. (Sanjo-keihan to hamaotsu subway 410y / ~25min) Subway and JR station are distant of about 15min walk. Walk to Otsu SA is ~25min from JR station if you want hitchhike out.

By subway[edit]

The Subway Tozai Line connects Otsu to eastern, central, and western Kyoto. From Higashiyama, Keihan Railway connects to the subway from Sanjo Station (the subway station is Sanjo Keihan-Mae).

By bus[edit]

There are night buses available from the Kansai region.

Keisei Buses (Kyoto Class) - 9 hours from Chiba Central Station, or 8 hours from Tokyo Disneyland, fares are ¥5,500(Return ¥10,000). 6 hours 35 min from Keisei Ueno Station, fares are ¥5,000(Return¥9,500).

Seibu Kankou Buses/Nishi Nihon JR Buses (Biwako Dream Class) - Buses go to Hamaotsu Station. 9 hours 40 min from Oimya Station, fares are ¥8,250 (Return ¥14,850). 8 hours 50 min from Ikebukuro Station, fares are ¥7,650 (Return ¥13,770).

By boat[edit]

Get around[edit]

By train[edit]

Travelling around Otsu by train is quite convenient. The Keihan Ishiyama Sakamoto Line connects each end of the city, so no matter where you are, there will likely be a station nearby.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Gichu-ji Temple (義仲寺). The burial place of famed haiku poet Matsuo Basho, of Narrow Road to the Deep North fame. The temple is 300m away from JR Zeze Station (膳所駅), one stop from Otsu on the JR Tokaido Line. Entrance is ¥200.  edit
  • Enryakuji Temple, 077-578-0001. The head temple of Tendai Buddhism and a World Heritage Site located atop Mount Hiei.  edit
  • Ishiyama-dera, (On the Keihan Line, go to Ishiyama-dera Station. Upon exiting, go right for about 15 minutes), [1]. This temple was founded in 749 and the hondo (main hall) is the oldest building in Shiga Prefecture built 850 years ago. Inside the hondo, in the room on the right, is the "Genji Room" where it is believed Murasaki Shikibu wrote her famous book "Tale of Genji", considered to be the world's first novel. The temple precints are quite large, with a 750 year old pagoda and Muyu-en Garden among other things. The pathway leading to the temple is lined with cherry trees, making it especially beautiful in the spring and autumn. For those traveling on the Saigoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage, Ishiyama-dera is number 13. Entrance is ¥500.  edit
  • Miidera Temple, [2].  edit
  • Hiyoshi Taisha.  edit
  • Omi Shrine, 1-1 Jingūchō, Ōtsu-shi, Shiga-ken 520-0015, +81 77-522-3725, [3]. Featured in the manga series "Chihayafuru" as the home of national competitive karuta tournaments, the Omi Shrine was constructed in 1940 and is dedicated to Emperor Tenji. A small clock museum is also located on the shrine grounds. (35.032111,135.852460) edit

Do[edit][add listing]

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Kanekichi, [4]. Local Omi beef specialist.  edit
  • Matsukiya, [5]. Local Omi beef specialist.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Stay Safe[edit]

While it's not a particularly unsafe place, as the shops tend to close early, streets get dark very fast, so it may be wise to be cautious at night.

Get out[edit]

Routes through Otsu
OsakaKyoto  W noframe E  KusatsuNagoya
OsakaKyoto  W noframe E  KusatsuNagoya

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