Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa: japan‘s Largest Freshwater Lake and Water Playground


Lake Biwa, located in the center of Shiga Prefecture, is Japan’s largest freshwater lake and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Its name is derived from its natural shape, resembling a traditional Japanese lute called a biwa. With approximately 235 kilometers of shoreline, Lake Biwa offers a wide range of activities, from swimming and pleasure cruising to island-hopping and exploring its scenic surroundings. In this article, we will delve into the various attractions and experiences Lake Biwa has to offer.

Don’t Miss: Shirahige Shrine, Island Hopping, and Windsurfing at Omimaiko

One of the must-visit attractions at Lake Biwa is the Shirahige Shrine, famous for its “floating” torii gate standing in the water. This picturesque shrine provides a unique and serene setting for visitors to experience the spiritual side of Lake Biwa.

For those interested in exploring the lake itself, island hopping on a cruise boat is highly recommended. Several ports around the lake offer boat tours that allow visitors to visit different islands and enjoy the stunning views of Lake Biwa from various perspectives.

If you’re looking for some adventure on the water, Omimaiko Beach is the perfect spot for windsurfing. With its white sandy beach and pine tree-lined shores, this beach offers a beautiful setting for water sports enthusiasts to enjoy the thrill of windsurfing while admiring the natural beauty of Lake Biwa.

How to Get There: Convenient Access from Kyoto and Kansai International Airport

Lake Biwa may be located in Shiga Prefecture, but it is easily accessible from Kyoto Station. A short 10-minute train ride from Kyoto Station to Otsu Station will transport you to the southern tip of Lake Biwa. Alternatively, you can continue to Hikone Station to access the eastern side of the lake. Direct links to Lake Biwa are also available from Kansai International Airport and Nagoya.

Quick Facts: A Lake with a Rich History and Biodiversity

Lake Biwa is believed to be one of the world’s oldest lakes, with an estimated age of at least four million years. Throughout history, the lake has been featured in numerous ancient stories and artworks, showcasing its cultural significance.

The lake is also renowned for its biodiversity, harboring a wide range of endemic species. From fish and birds to rare mollusks, Lake Biwa is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. Exploring the lake’s diverse ecosystem is a rewarding experience for those interested in ecology and conservation.

Head to the Beach: Omimaiko Beach and Ogoto Onsen

Omimaiko Beach, located on the west side of Lake Biwa, is a popular summer getaway from Kyoto. With its white sandy beach and groves of shady pines, it offers a tranquil and picturesque setting for beachgoers. Taking the JR Kosei Line to Omi-Maiko Station will bring you to this idyllic beach in just five minutes.

For those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation, Ogoto Onsen on the west side of Lake Biwa is a hot springs area worth visiting. With a mix of small ryokan and hotels, Ogoto Onsen offers a variety of bathing facilities where visitors can soak in the therapeutic hot spring waters while enjoying panoramic views of the lake.

Camping and Glamping: Okubiwako Campground and Nagahara Station

For nature enthusiasts, camping at Okubiwako Campground is a great way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Shiga Prefecture. Located at the north end of Lake Biwa, this campground offers sweeping water views and various amenities for a comfortable camping experience. Tents can be rented, or visitors can opt for “glamping” in simple cottages equipped with modern conveniences. Barbecuing, swimming, and renting small motorized boats are among the activities available at the campground.

Reaching Okubiwako Campground is convenient, with Nagahara Station just a 30-minute walk away. For those looking to explore the area, bicycles can be rented from the station for a nominal fee, providing an eco-friendly and enjoyable mode of transportation.

Fishing for Facts: Biwa Lake Museum and its Educational Exhibits

On a rainy day, a visit to the Biwa Lake Museum is highly recommended. This museum offers bilingual tours that provide insights into the lake’s history and its diverse wildlife. The clear tunnel aquarium provides an immersive experience, allowing visitors to observe the lake’s rare marine life up close. Full-size models and interactive exhibits offer a comprehensive understanding of the area’s rich history and natural wonders, making it an educational and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

Get on the Water: Canoeing, Kayaking, and Watersports at BSC Watersports Center

While swimming is a popular activity around Lake Biwa, there are also opportunities to rent canoes and kayaks for a more adventurous experience on the water. BSC Watersports Center, located in Otsu City, offers various water activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, and windsurfing. In the winter months, ski camps for children are available, providing a unique opportunity to enjoy the lake’s surroundings in a different season.

Go Cruising: Biwako Cruise and Michigan Cruise

To explore the southern end of Lake Biwa, Biwako Cruise offers several cruise courses that allow visitors to admire the lake’s beauty from a different perspective. Michigan Cruise, a grand paddle steamer, provides a unique cruising experience with food and entertainment. For those seeking shorter cruises, the sleek South Lake Cruise ship is an excellent option. Both cruises depart from Otsu Port, offering a leisurely and scenic journey on the lake.

Island-Hopping: Chikubu Island and its Historical Significance

Chikubu Island is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts. Accessible by boat from Nagahama Port, Imazu Port, or Hikone Port, this island is home to several shrines and interesting structures dating back to the late 1500s. The highlight of Chikubu Island is the Benzaiten Shrine, dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. Exploring the island allows visitors to immerse themselves in the rich history and cultural heritage of Lake Biwa.

Adventure Valley: Biwako Valley and Mt. Horai

Lake Biwa offers exciting adventures throughout the year. In winter, visitors can experience Japan’s fastest cable car ride up Mt. Horai to Biwako Valley, a popular ski resort. Skiing or snowboarding with breathtaking views of Lake Biwa below is a thrilling experience. In summer, Biwako Valley provides a refreshing escape from the city heat, with cooler temperatures and stunning views. Visitors can enjoy ziplining, or try the vertigo-inducing “Skywalker” attraction, offering a unique perspective of the lake and its surroundings.


Lake Biwa is a treasure trove of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and recreational opportunities. Whether you’re interested in exploring its scenic shores, engaging in water sports, or immersing yourself in its rich history, Lake Biwa has something for everyone. Convenient access from Kyoto and Kansai International Airport makes it easily accessible for visitors from all over the world. Plan your visit to Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, and embark on an unforgettable journey of discovery and adventure.

(Note: The information in this article is subject to change due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check the latest travel advisories and guidelines before planning your trip.)

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