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Domo arigato.
  • Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

  • Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

  • Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

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Facts & Figures

Lake Biwa is with an surface area of 672 square km and a circumference of appr. 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. It is said that the name biwa is related to an Japanese musical instrument, which the lake resembles in shape. The lake is a very important water reservoir for the cities of Kyoto and Otsu. 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 the Japanese poetry.


Lake Biwa is with an age of almost 4 million years one of the oldest lakes in the world. The area around the lake was formerly known as Omi. It was a major transportation hub between the east and western part of Japan.

Location Show map

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

Sightseeing spots

around the lake:

Hikone - largest town along the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, biggest attraction Hikone Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in Japan, built in 1622

Otsu - capital of the Shiga Prefectue

Boat cruise on Lake Biwa - take the Michigan, an American Mississippi River paddle wheel boat, from the Otsu Port for a 90min cruise on the lake

Nagahma - the small city is a popluar tourist destination with many historical attractions (Nagahama Castle, Daitsu-ji Temple etc...)

Sakamoto - getway 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, located in Otsu City

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.


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