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Have you ever heard of Shiga Prefecture? If you have been reading my blog, you have probably heard of it because I often talk about it, but if you found this blog today, I bet your answer is no.
Most people never heard of Shiga, and it is definitely not listed in your itinerary.
I think it is a pity, if you are not visiting here because you didn’t know about it, and you are visiting Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto because they are listed in your guidebook.
I’ll tell you why.
First of all, I wouldn’t recommend that you go to Tokyo unless you are interested in the city of Tokyo itself. If you want to see Japan and experience Japanese culture, Tokyo is the last place on your list since it doesn’t represent typical Japan.
I suppose it is the same in your country. New York doesn’t represent America, London doesn’t represent England, and Paris doesn’t represent France. If you want to see the typical culture of a country, you are better off visiting a small town in the countryside.
Kyoto is a better choice since you can experience a little bit of Japanese culture there. You can visit many temples and shrines, you can see some women walking in kimono on the street, and you can see Machiyas, traditional style houses.
And yet, it isn’t better than Shiga because we have all those things in Shiga, too, and we have things that Kyoto doesn’t have, and they are the key ingredients in experiencing Japanese culture.
As far as temples are concerned, there are more temples in Shiga than there are in Kyoto. Shiga has 3217 temples, and Kyoto has 3074 temples. Actually, Shiga has the biggest number of temples per population of 100000 in Japan.
Certainly, Kyoto has many famous temples worth visiting such as Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji, and Kiyomizu-dera. Mind you, did you know about them before planning your trip to Japan? Has it been your lifelong dream to visit Kinkaku-ji? I bet you just wanted to see any Japanese temples and when you opened your guidebook, Kinkaku-ji was listed as a must visit place.
Well, let me tell you my experience in England. I have been to St Paul’s Cathedral, and it was impressive, but what was more memorable was a little church I visited in Rottingdean, a small village outside of Brighton. It had beautiful brick walls and some stained glass windows which were very exotic to me as a foreign visitor. I could feel the atmosphere more since it was quiet inside. I and a family who took me there were the only people visiting there that day.
You can find a lot of quiet temples in Shiga-haha.
There are many shrines in Shiga, too. When you go to the countryside, you’ll find a shrine everywhere because a shrine is the center of every community, and community members look after it by cleaning it regularly and having seasonal festivals.
A Machiya is a traditional style Japanese house, and it is one of the so-called Kominka. If what you want to see is Kominka, Kyoto isn’t the only place that has it. Shiga has many Kominkas. Kyoto and Shiga are neighbors, and there are a lot of similarities between the two in their architecture, festivals, and antique furniture. Most of the things you want to see in Kyoto, you can see them in Shiga, too, and you can see them quietly without having many tourists around you.
We don’t have Maiko in Shiga, and you don’t see so many women wearing kimono but it is catching on among some young women, and they started wearing their grandmothers’ kimonos.
One thing we have in Shiga that Kyoto (I am talking about the city of Kyoto) doesn’t have is the countryside; rice paddies, vegetable fields, mountains, and the Lake Biwa.
Rice paddies represent Japanese scenery. For me, not seeing rice paddies is like not seeing Japan at all. Seeing them from bullet train’s windows doesn’t count. You need to stand by rice paddies and feel them and hear the sound of frogs.
In Shiga, you can take a walk or ride a bike along rice paddies and be part of nature.
I am not saying you shouldn’t go to Kyoto; you can go there, too. You can skip Tokyo, come to Osaka directly and spend a day there, then you spend another day in Kyoto, but after that come to Shiga and spend the rest of your holiday here.
Okay, you have convinced me. I will come to Shiga, but where in Shiga can I visit?
I will tell you in the next post.