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Nagahama 長浜

Nagahama Hikiyama Festival
Nagahama Hikiyama Festival

From castles to kabuki at this quiet lakeside town

Once a castle town of legendary warlords, Nagahama nowadays strikes a more peaceful pose. Famous for artisanal glass manufacturers and the oldest preserved railway station in Japan, the town streets burst into theater and song in April when children take to the streets and perform Kabuki as part of the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival.

Don't Miss

  • Kids' Kabuki parades as part of the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival
  • Artisinal art glass manufacturers at Kurokabe
  • The oldest (and trainless) train station in Japan

How to Get There

Nagahama lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture and is easily accessible by rail from Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and other major cities.

To get to Nagahama, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara (just over 2 hours from Tokyo or 20 minutes from Kyoto), and then take the Hokuriku Line to Nagahama (about 10 minutes).

Quick Facts

Toyotomi Hideyoshi developed the town as his administrative capital

Nagahama has microbreweries, and Nagahama Ale is an award-winning brew

The Nagahama Hikiyama Festival parade is recognized by UNESCO

Nagahama through the ages

Prominent warlord and politician Toyotomi Hideyoshi built Nagahama Castle in 1575. His castle was destroyed in 1615 and some parts of it were used to construct Hikone Castle. The current building is a 1980s reproduction located in the center of Ho Park.

Inside the castle is a museum about the history of Nagahama going all the way back to the Jomon period (c. 8000 B.C.-300 B.C.), the oldest known civilization in Japan. From here, take a stroll to the well-preserved Kurokabe (“black walls”) area and visit artisanal glassmakers. Also in Kurokabe is the informative and surprisingly fun Yanmar Museum of heavy machinery.

Another artifact of note is the old Nagahama Station, built in 1882. It's the oldest preserved railroad station in Japan and great for a visit, but there are no trains! The current Nagahama Station is in a different location.

Portable theaters for the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival

April Kabuki festival where children take charge

April's Nagahama Hikiyama Festival has drawn crowds for hundreds of years. Young boys perform Kabuki on huge “hikiyama” floats pulled through the city. The rest of the year, the floats are on display in the Hikiyama Hakubutsukan museum.

Sacred spaces

If you need a quiet moment, take a ferry from Nagahama Port to Chichibu Island, with its ancient Buddhist and Shinto shrines.

You can also stop by the thousand-year-old Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine to pay your respects to the town's guardian deity. The temple is known as the starting point for the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival and is famous for its hydrangeas that bloom in June.

Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine

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