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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

The mountain home of gods, demons and marathon monks

The beauty of the Otsu area, including Mt. Hiei and Enryakuji Temple, has inspired legends and tall tales for centuries.

Don't Miss

  • The room where The Tale of Genji was born at Ishiyamadera Temple
  • The "marathon monks" and stunning views of Enryakuji Temple
  • A festival for your favorite drunken forest critter

How to Get There

Otsu is easily accessible from Kyoto.

The Otsu area can be explored on the JR Tokaido and Kosei lines as well as the private Keihan line from Kyoto.

Autumn foliage at Enryaku-ji Temple, Mt. Hiei

Legend and literature

Mt. Hiei is the home of numerous gods and demons in Shinto lore. It's also the home of Miidera Temple, in whose water Japan's newborn emperors are bathed. On the same mountain is Enryakuji Temple, whose monks use extreme physical exercise as a means to approach enlightenment. Enryakuji is also the place where, in 1004, Lady Murasaki began writing "The Tale of Genji," Japan's first novel, and the oldest extant novel in the world. To get there, take a ride on the Sakamoto Cable Car, the longest funicular in Japan.

Sakamoto Cable Car, Mt. Hiei

Festival lanterns

Fantastic festivals

If you visit in autumn, make sure to attend the Otsu Festival. In this 400-year-old tradition, revelers celebrate the prosperity of the city by carrying mikoshi portable shrines through the town. Join the locals in donning a tanuki mask. Even if you don't know what a tanuki is, you'll likely see a statue of one outside an izakaya. It's the odd-looking raccoon dog with a big belly and bottle of sake, inviting passersby in for a drink.

Spring in Otsu means cherry blossoms and the Hiyoshi-Taisha Sanno Festival. Related events start in March, culminating in mid-April. Hiyoshi Taisha itself is an extremely important Shinto shrine that houses Sanno Gongen, the guardian deity of Mt. Hiei. Among other ceremonies, the festival involves taking mikoshi portable shrines across Lake Biwa and back.

Portable shrines at the Sanno Festival

Other amusements in Otsu

If you're in the mood for art, take a look inside the Shiga Kenritsu Kindai Bijutsukan (the Prefectural Museum of Modern Art). The museum focuses on modern Japanese paintings, works connected to Shiga, and postwar American and Japanese art. After you've had your fill of the galleries, consider having a nice long soak in the hot spring baths of Ogoto Onsen.

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