Ōtsu, Japan

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Ōtsu, Japan

Region: Shiga

Geographic Coordinates: 35.016700, 135.850000
Temperature Range: -10.0°C to 35.0°C (14°F to 95°F)
Climate: Seasonal.
Population: 342607
Language: Japanese

Ōtsu is a stunning city located in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture. It sits on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, Which is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. The city has a population of around 340, 000 people and serves as the capital of Shiga Prefecture. The historic landmarks and temples are some of Ōtsu’s main attractions. Mii-dera, Also known as Onjo-ji Temple, Is the most famous temple in Ōtsu. This temple was founded over 1, 200 years ago and houses many important cultural treasures such as ancient statues and paintings.

Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine is another notable landmark that was built over 2, 000 years ago and has been designated a National Treasure by the Japanese government. Visitors to Ōtsu can enjoy its natural beauty as well. Lake Biwa provides stunning views all year round with cherry blossoms blooming during springtime and vibrant foliage during autumn season. Parks around the lake offer great picnic spots or hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts.

Ōtsu also offers visitors an opportunity to experience traditional Japanese culture through various festivals held throughout the year like Sanno Matsuri which takes place every two years at Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine where locals dress up in traditional costumes and parade through town carrying portable shrines. The local culinary scene boasts specialties like Omi beef (a type of wagyu beef) and funazushi (fermented carp sushi). Visitors can enjoy these delicacies at local restaurants or purchase them from food stands around town.

Transportation within Ōtsu makes it easy for visitors to explore other nearby cities like Kyoto or Osaka via train or bus services that run frequently throughout the day. Overall, Ōtsu offers visitors a perfect blend of history, Culture, Nature, Cuisine making it worth visiting when exploring Japan’s Kansai region.

Important Landmarks

  1. Lake Biwa
  2. Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine
  3. Enryaku-ji Temple
  4. Miidera Temple
  5. Omi Jingu Shrine
  6. Ishiyama-dera Temple
  7. Otsu City Museum of History
  8. Karahashi Bridge
  9. Biwako Hall
  10. Biwako Valley Ski Resort

Primary Industries

The Major Industries and Businesses in Ōtsu, Japan

  1. Tourism
    • Significant industry due to location on the shores of Lake Biwa
    • Popular attractions include Enryaku-ji Temple, Miidera Temple, Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, and Omi Jingu Shrine
  2. Manufacturing
    • Important industry with companies producing electronic components, automotive parts, and precision machinery
  3. Agriculture
    • Thrives due to fertile soil around Lake Biwa
    • Farmers grow crops like rice, vegetables, fruits, and tea
  4. Education
    • Plays a significant role in the city’s economy with several universities including Shiga University and Shiga Junior College located within its borders
  5. Retail
    • Well-established with numerous shopping centers catering to both locals and tourists
  6. Healthcare
    • Services are readily available through several hospitals and clinics located throughout the city providing medical services not only to residents of Ōtsu but also neighboring areas
  7. Transportation
    • Abundant options due to proximity to Kyoto (10 km away)
    • Transportation companies include bus companies like Keihan Bus Co., Ltd., train operators like JR West Japan Railway Company (JR West), taxi services like Daiichi Koutsuu Sangyo Co., Ltd., etc.

Noteable History

  1. Battle of Ōtsu (1600): One of the most significant battles in Japanese history, fought between the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari.
  2. Emperor Tenji: The 38th emperor of Japan who is said to have founded Ōtsu in 667 AD.
  3. Lake Biwa Canal: A major engineering project completed in 1890 that brought water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto via a canal that runs through Ōtsu.
  4. Lafcadio Hearn: An Irish-Greek writer who lived in Japan and wrote extensively about Japanese culture, including a book about his experiences living in Ōtsu.
  5. Kannon-ji Temple: A famous Buddhist temple located on Mt. Hiei near Ōtsu that was founded by Saichō, one of the founders of Tendai Buddhism.
  6. Omi merchants: A group of wealthy merchants from the Omi region (which includes modern-day Shiga Prefecture) who played a significant role in trade and commerce during the Edo period (1603-1868).
  7. Takashima Castle: A castle built by Tokugawa Ieyasu’s son-in-law Matsudaira Naomasa in 1590, which was later destroyed during the Battle of Sekigahara.
  8. Hashimoto Kansetsu: A famous painter born in Ōtsu who is known for his traditional-style paintings featuring natural landscapes and animals.
  9. Ukimido Floating Temple: A unique temple located on Lake Biwa that appears to float on top of the water when viewed from certain angles.
  10. Hikone Castle: One of only twelve original castles remaining intact from Japan’s feudal period, located just outside Ōtsu in the city of Hikone.

Museums and Things To See

  1. Miidera Temple is considered one of the oldest and most significant temples in Japan.
  2. Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, a Shinto shrine, has a history dating back over 2,000 years.
  3. The Otsu City Museum of History showcases the rich cultural history of Ōtsu.
  4. The Lake Biwa Museum is dedicated to the ecology and biodiversity of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake.
  5. Ishiyama-dera Temple is famous for its connection to The Tale of Genji, an ancient Japanese novel.
  6. Enryaku-ji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site located on Mount Hiei.
  7. Omi Jingu Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Tenji, who founded Ōtsu according to legend.
  8. Biwako Hall Center for Performing Arts hosts concerts and performances by local and international artists.
  9. Shiga Prefectural Museum of Modern Art exhibits modern art from both domestic and international artists.
  10. Biwako Valley Ski Resort offers skiing or snowboarding during winter season making it perfect for those looking for winter sports activities.

Sports Teams

  1. The Shiga Lakestars is a professional basketball team in Ōtsu, Japan that was established in 2005. They are currently competing in the B.League, which is considered as the top tier of Japanese basketball.
  2. Biwako Seikei Sport College FC is a football club located in Ōtsu City, Japan. Their home games are held at the Biwako Seikei Sport College Ground and they participate in the Kansai Soccer League.
  3. Omiya Ardija U-18 is a youth football team affiliated with Omiya Ardija, a professional football club that competes in J.League. The team is based in Ōtsu City, Japan.
  4. The Shiga Prefecture Women’s Volleyball Team represents Shiga Prefecture at national volleyball tournaments and competitions.
  5. The Lake Biwa Rowing Club aims to promote rowing as an amateur sport for people of all ages and skill levels who reside near Lake Biwa located near Ōtsu city center.
  6. The Omiya Ardija Girls’ Soccer Academy provides soccer training for girls aged 6-15 years old who live around Ōtsu City with the goal of developing players who can compete nationally and internationally.
  7. Otsuma Junior High School Baseball Club has achieved multiple regional championships and participated twice (2019 & 2021) at Koshien Stadium Tournament quarterfinals making them one of the most successful baseball clubs from Ōtsu City recently.

Cultural Events

  1. Otsu Matsuri is a traditional festival that takes place in September. It includes parades, music performances, and food stalls.
  2. The Hie Shrine Festival is held every May and features a procession of portable shrines and traditional dances.
  3. Lake Biwa hosts one of the largest fireworks displays in Japan every August during the Biwako Fireworks Festival.
  4. The Otsu-e Exhibition is an annual showcase of traditional folk paintings from Otsu-e.
  5. Kannon-ji Temple celebrates autumn foliage with illuminations and tea ceremonies during their Autumn Leaves Festival.
  6. Omizo Fish Market Morning Market sells fresh seafood caught daily from Lake Biwa.
  7. Shiga Food & Culture Fair takes place every November, showcasing local specialties such as Omi beef, freshwater fish dishes, and sake.
  8. Hama-Otsu Port Festival happens during the summer at the port area with live music performances and food stalls serving fresh seafood dishes.
  9. Ishiyama-dera Temple holds an Autumn Leaves Illumination Event where visitors can enjoy an illuminated display of autumn leaves during November and December each year.
  10. Omi Jingu Shrine hosts a New Year’s Day Ceremony where Japanese people gather to pray for good fortune for the coming year on January 1st as part of their important tradition.


  • Omi Beef: This is a type of wagyu beef that is famous in the region. It is known for its tender texture and rich flavor.
  • Soba Noodles: Ōtsu is known for its soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour and served hot or cold with various toppings.
  • Kamo-nabe: This is a hot pot dish made with duck meat, vegetables, and tofu cooked in a broth.
  • Kaiseki Cuisine: Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course meal that showcases seasonal ingredients and artistic presentation.
  • Kawara Soba: This dish features soba noodles served on a hot tile roof tile (kawara) with toppings such as egg, green onion, and tempura crumbs.

Some popular restaurants to try these dishes in Ōtsu include:

  • Omi Beef Restaurant Matsuzaka
  • Sobadokoro Shiori
  • Kamonanbanishiya
  • Gesshin-An
  • Kawara Cafe & Dining

  • Parks and Recreation

    1. Lake Biwa is Japan’s largest freshwater lake, offering various water sports, fishing opportunities, and breathtaking scenic views.
    2. Ishiyama-dera Temple is a historic temple with stunning gardens and hiking trails that visitors can explore.
    3. Otsu City Science Museum is an interactive museum with fascinating exhibits on science and technology that will surely interest both adults and children.
    4. Hamaotsu Beach Park is a popular beach park where visitors can enjoy swimming areas, BBQ facilities, and a playground for kids.
    5. Otsu Port Market is a lively market selling fresh seafood, local produce, and handicrafts that are perfect souvenirs to take home.
    6. Miidera Temple is a famous temple complex overlooking Lake Biwa with impressive architecture and beautiful gardens that visitors should not miss seeing.
    7. Shiga Prefectural Museum of Archaeology is an interesting museum showcasing the history of the region from prehistoric times to present day through its exhibits.
    8. Omi Jingu Shrine is a grand shrine dedicated to Emperor Tenji located in a serene forested area where visitors can experience peace and tranquility while admiring its beauty.
    9. Mount Hiei Enryaku-ji Temple Complex is one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples located on Mount Hiei offering hiking trails and panoramic views of the surrounding area for those who love nature walks or hikes.
    10. Nagisa Park Otsu Swimming Pool Complex offers multiple outdoor pool facilities suitable for all ages to enjoy during summer months making it an ideal destination for families or groups looking for some fun in the sun!


    Dream, Travel, Repeat.

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