Lake Biwa 琵琶湖
Le Léman de Kyoto
A un jet de pierre de Kyoto s'étend le plus grand lac du Japon. Mais pour profiter de ce haut-lieu de villégiature, mieux vaut aller chercher la tranquillité sur sa rive nord.
On weekends, the locals of Kyoto usually converge on the lake's shores near Otsu, 20 minutes from Kyoto by the JR line train.However, this briefly imperial capital (for just five years in the 7th century) and former milestone of the Tokaido Road (linking Kyoto and Tokyo) is now the nerve center of a sad industrial suburb that sprawls along the southern shores of the lake.
Before setting sail on a cruise around the lake (most of which embark from the famous fountain, Biwako Hana Funsui and last from one to four hours), you might spend a few hours in the vicinity of Otsu. This city holds the roots of the Tendai sect of Buddhism: founded by the monk Saicho in the early 9th century, at the exact same time a different monk, Kukai, founded the Shingon sect up on Mount Koya. Visit Miidera, its main temple, and especially Enryakuji Temple near the summit of Mount Hiei, which overlooks Otsu (accessible by cable car).
The three islands
On the eastern side of the lake, avoid the dready Kusatsu city and head to Hikone. Its castle (built in 1622), perched on Konkizan Hill, overlooks the lake and offers a beautiful view from the 3rd floor of the dungeon. Below is a line of merchant houses from the Edo period, converted into restaurants, shops, and tea houses, near a sumptuous Chinese garden. Boats also depart from Hikone to take you to Chikubushima (30 minutes), one of three islands on Lake Biwa. You can also take a boat from Nagahama, a village 15 minutes north with beautiful beaches.
Our advice is to avoid the crowds and enjoy the quiet side of Lake Biwa, exploring small towns often overlooked by guide books. Consider Omihachiman (45 minutes from Kyoto on the JR Biwako Line). Visit the preserved merchant houses of Omi (a 15-minute walk from the station twoards Mount Hachiman), with one of them, Nishikawa House, turned into a municipal museum. The canal running through the same area is ideal for a nice walk, and a bus (number) takes 25 minutes to go from the station to the shore of Lake Biwa.
Address, timetable & access