Lake Biwa (Biwa-ko) in Shiga Prefecture

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  • Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

    Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

  • Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

    Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

  • Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

    Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

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Facts & Figures

Lake Biwa (Biwa-ko) is with a surface area of 672 square km and a circumference of approx. 235 km the largest and most well-known freshwater lake in Japan. The depth of the lake is on average 41 m and the deepest spot is reaching 104 m. The lake covers 1/6 of the area of the Shiga Prefecture. It is said that the name biwa is related to a Japanese musical instrument, which the lake resembles in shape. The lake is a very important water reservoir for cities like Osaka, Kyoto and Otsu. Japan Rail Pass Buy now and Save >
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It is the source of drinking water for more than 15 million people in the Kansai region. Lake Biwa contains over 46 native fish species and subspecies. The surrounding mountains give this place a beautiful scenery, which was also praised in Japanese poetry. The whole area is all year round the perfect spot for outdoor lovers to do camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, canoeing and much much more.


Lake Biwa is with an age of almost 4 million years one of the oldest lakes in the world. It is home of more than 1000 species. The area around the lake was formerly known as Omi. It was a major transportation hub between the east and western part of Japan. In 1993 Lake Biwa was registered as a Wetland under the Ramsar Convention.


Map of Japan

Lake Biwa is located 10km northeast of Kyoto within the Shiga Prefecture.

How to get to Lake Biwa?

  • JR Tokaido Line and Tokaido Shinkansen Line serve southern and eastern coasts
  • JR Kosei Line serves western and northern coasts
  • 10min from Kyoto Station to Otsu Station served by JR Tokaido Line

Sightseeing spots at Lake Biwa


Hikone - It is the largest town along the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. The biggest attraction for tourists is the Hikone Castle. One of the most beautiful castles in Japan was built in 1622.

Otsu - Otsu is the capital of the Shiga Prefecture. You will find there the largest port of Lake Biwa, important temples and shrines like the UNESCO World Heritage Site Enryaku-ji.

Shirahige Shrine - The oldest shrine within the Shiga Prefecture is dating back over 1900 years. Its must-see feature is the large vermillion-colored torii (gate), which is standing in the water of the lake. People come here to pray for a long life.
Address: 215 Ukawa, Takashima-shi, Shiga-ken

Boat cruise on Lake Biwa - Take the Michigan, an American Mississippi River paddle wheel boat, from the Otsu Port for a 60, 90 or 150 minutes cruise on the lake.

Lake Biwa Museum - The museum is located within the city Kusatsu. It explores the connection between people and lakes.
Address: 1091 Oroshimo, Kusatsu, Shiga 525-0001, Japan

Mizunomori Water Botanical Garden - The botanical garden in the city Kusatsu displays a huge variety of aquatic plants.
Address: 1091 Oroshimo-cho, Kusatsu City, Shiga 525-0001, Japan

Popular Beaches - You should check out the well-known white sandy Omi-Maiko and Shiga Beach at the north-western shoreline. It is a great place for windsurfing.

Nagahma - The small city is a popular tourist destination with many historical attractions like the Nagahama Castle, Daitsu-ji Temple etc...

Sakamoto - The historic town of Sakamoto is the perfect getaway to Mount Hiei (the birthplace of Japanese Buddhism), with its famous temple complex near the summit.

Biwako Valley Ski Resort - A very popular site to go snowboarding and skiing in Japan. The resort is located in the city Otsu.

Chikubu Island - The island is easily accessible by boat from Hikone Port, Nagahama Port and Imazu Port. You will find there beautiful shrines.

Festival & Events (dates can change without notice)


Lake Biwa Fireworks Festival (6th, 7th, 8th)
This festival is the largest fireworks show in the Kansai region. It starts at 7:30 pm and you will have the best view from Hama-Otsu.


Otsu Festival (2nd Saturday and Sunday)
The festival is dating back 350 years and is held in the old streets of Otsu. The procession of floats is a beautiful sight. The floats are designated as Important Cultural Properties.

Biwako Biennale (10th of Oct - 23rd of Nov)
The art festival will show exhibitions at more than 18 venues in Omihachiman and Hikone.


Hikone Shiro-Matsuri (3rd)
In this procession children are dressed in traditional costumes of feudal lords.

Where to stay near Lake Biwa?

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