Otsu City (大津市)

Otsu City is a city located at the southwest end of Shiga Prefecture, which is the prefectural capital. It is designated as a core city.


It is an ancient capital known since Emperor Tenchi transferred the capital to Omi no miya (Omi Palace), and it is dotted with lots of historical sites including shrines and temples such as Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei as the World Cultural Heritage, Onjo-ji Temple (Mii-dera Temple) and Hiyoshi-taisha Shrine.

Centered around Otsu-juku, which is an important port of Lake Biwa and used to be the 53rd posting station of Tokai-do Road, it consists of Zeze, the castle town of the Zeze Domain, Sakamoto, a temple town of Mt. Hiei, and Katata, a hub of lake-borne trade.

Although it is the prefectural capital, the feature as a core city of Shiga Prefecture is weak since it is located at the southwest end of the prefecture and adjacent to Kyoto City, and it has been developed as a satellite city of Kyoto.


The city area of Otsu City stretches from the southwest coast to the south coast of Lake Biwa, long and thinly from north to south. As its name suggests, it has been an important point of water transport of Lake Biwa. Mt. Hiei runs north-south in the border with Kyoto City to the west, and the relationship with Kyoto City, which lies across the mountain, is deep. There are three cases that capital cities lie adjacent in Japan; the above-mentioned cities, Yamagata City and Sendai City, and Fukuoka City and Saga City. However, the said cities are especially close to each other in all cities, and the centers of the both cities are only about 10km away (The distance of the centers of Yamagata City and Sendai City is about 62km, that of Fukuoka City and Saga City is about 53km).

Lake: Lake Biwa
Rivers: Yodo-gawa River, Daido-gawa River
Mountains: Mt. Hiei, Mt. Nagara, Mr. Otowa, Mt. Tanakami

It has Inland climate as well as Seto Inland Sea climate in the south and Japan Sea area climate in the north. The old Katata Town area in the snowy area has a lot of snow in the winter.


Before the Jomon period, Ishiyama Shell-Mound was made on the west bank of the Seta-gawa River.

667: Emperor Tenchi built the capital at the Imperial Palace Omi Otsu.

672: Jinsh War occurred. A battle erupted over the bridge of the Seta-gawa River (later Seta no Karahashi Bridge), and Prince Otomo (he was given a posthumous name as Emperor Kobun in 1870) committed a suicide, which made the Imperial Palace Omi Otsu extinct.

In the Nara period, Kokufu (provincial office) was established in Seta, and the timber for constructing the Heijo-kyo Palace came down from the mountains to the south of the lake such as Mt. Tanakami.

747: A temple building was built in Ishiyama along the Seta-gawa River at the wish of Emperor Shomu, which late became Ishiyama-dera Temple.

788: Saicho made a temple building in Mt. Hiei, which later became Enryaku-ji Temple. Sakamoto, at the foot of the mountain flourished as its temple town.

794: After the extinction of the Imperial Palace Omi Otsu, its site was called 'Furutsu,' but an imperial decree was issued to call it Otsu again on the occasion of the transfer of the national capital to the city of Heian-kyo.

In the Heian period, Otsu became a port to handle people and products heading for Togoku (eastern Japan) and Hokkoku (northern Japan) from Heian-kyo. The strife between Enryaku-ji Temple and Onjo-ji Temple (Mii-dera Temple) intensified, and armed priests emerged. Ishiyama-dera Temple served as a setting of lots of the Heian literature.

1096: The Eicho-Tokai earthquake occurred. There were heavy damages such as the collapsed bridge of Seta.

1184: It lost against Yoshinaka KISO, Kanehira IMAI and his servants, MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, and MINAMOTO no Noriyori at the Battle of Awazu.

In the Muromachi period, the power of Enryaku-ji Temple increasingly became big, and it was successively set on fire by powerful people such as Yoshinori ASHIKAGA and Masamoto HOSOKAWA. Otsu, Sakamoto and Katata flourished in water transport of goods, and the Katata Navy was active.

1571: Nobunaga ODA attacked and burned Mt. Hiei. He had Mitsuhide AKECHI build Sakamoto-jo Castle, which guarded Lake Biwa.

1586: Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI disposed of Sakamoto-jo Castle, and had Otsu-jo Castle built in the present Hamaotsu.

1600: Around the same time as the Battle of Sekigahara, the Battle of Otsu-jo Castle occurred, which made the castle town of Otsu-jo Castle burned down.

1601: Ieyasu TOKUGAWA disposed of Otsu-jo Castle and had Zeze-jo Castle built between Otsu and Seta.

In the Edo period, Otsu was restored. The base of Otsu hyakusosen, the union of ship operators traversing Lake Biwa, was established there, and it became the hub of water transport of Lake Biwa. And Otsu-juku (a shogunal demesne), a posting station of Tokai-do Road, flourished in transport of goods and traffic of people. Otsu paintings and Otsu abacus became its local specialities. The castle town of Zeze-jo Castle under the Zeze Domain became famous for Shijimi clam gathering and Zeze-yaki pottery, but the finance of the domain was always tight.

1662: The earthquake at the west coast of Lake Biwa occurred. Many buildings collapsed and many people died from the coast of Lake Biwa to Kyoto. The buildings of the Zeze-jo Castle collapsed.

1698: The Katata Domain was founded, which lasted until 1826.

1868: Otsu Prefecture was established.

1869: A steamer line was opened between Otsu and Kaizu.

1870: Zeze-jo Castle was demolished, and the Zeze Domain became Zeze Prefecture in the following year.

1872: Shiga Prefecture was established, and Otsu became its prefectural capital.

1880: Osakayama Tunnel was opened, which made the railroad connected with Kyoto.

1889: A railroad replacing the ferry boat between Otsu and Nagahama was opened, which made the Tokaido Main Line opened.

1890: Lake Biwa Canal was completed. The water transport was connected from the coast of Lake Biwa to Kyoto.

May 11, 1891: The Otsu Incident occurred.

October 1, 1898: Otsu City was established by enforcement of municipal organization.

1905: Nango Weir (present Setagawa Weir) was completed.

May 10, 1932: Shiga Village was incorporated.

April 1, 1933: One city and two towns - (the old) Otsu City, Zeze Town and Ishiyama Town - were newly incorporated, which became the new Otsu City.

April 1, 1951: Ogoto Village, Sakamoto Village, Shimosakamoto Village, Oishi Village and Shimotanakami Village were incorporated.

April 1, 1967: Seta Town and Katata Town were incorporated.

1994: Enryaku-ji Temple was registered as a World Heritage site along with Kinkaku-ji Temple and Kiyomizu-dera Temple under the 'Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage' (World Heritage Convention).
(Registered in December)

April 1, 2001: It was designated as a special city.

October 10, 2003: It was designated as the 10th ancient capital in Japan under the Ancient Capitals PreservatiLaw.

March 20, 2006: Shiga Town was incorporated.

March 18, 2008: The thousand-year anniversary of the Tale of Genji in Koto Otsu was held.

April 1, 2009: it was designated as a core city.


As traditional industries, there are noteworthy items mentioned below as well as Otsu paintings, Otsu abacus, Matsumoto-kawara roof tiles (sangawara, kanryakugawara), Zeze-yaki pottery and Konan-yaki pottery.

Zeze tea

Matthew PERRY liked it when it was served on board during the arrival of his black ships, and it became the first item imported to the U.S.


Lansing (Michigan, USA)

It was affiliated as a sister city on October 1, 1969.

Interlaken (Bern, Switzerland)

It was affiliated as a sister city on October 1, 1978.

Würzburg (Bayern, Federal Republic of Germany)

It was affiliated as a sister city on February 13, 1979.

Mudanjiang (Heilongjiang, People's Republic of China)

It was affiliated as a sister city on December 3, 1984.

Gumi (North Gyeongsang, Republic of Korea)

It was affiliated as a sister city on April 12, 1990.

Omi Maiko

One of the top 100 beautiful stretches of sandy beaches dotted with pine trees.

Lake Biwa Cultural Park

Nagisa Park

Ojigaoka Park

Nagara Park

Zeze Park (Zeze-jo Castle Ruins)

Museums and halls

Museum of Shiga Prefecture, Biwako Bunkakan

The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga

Otsu City Museum of History

Mitsuhashi Setsuko Art Museum

Kinoshita Museum of Art

Otsue Museum

Tantan Museum

Omi Jingu Shrine Clock Museum

Zeze-yaki Museum

Otsu City Science Museum

"Aqua Biwa" Museum

Biwako Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Shiga

Tanakami Regional Museum

Tanakami Mineral Museum

Mt. Hiei Kokuhoden (national treasure house)

Takebe Taisha Homotsuden (treasure house)

Tachiki Ongakudo music hall

Enryaku-ji Temple

It is the head temple of Tendai sect. Its sango (the name of a group of Buddhist temples to which the temple belongs) is Hiei-zan (Mt. Hiei). The founder was Saicho.

Onjo-ji Temple (Mii-dera Temple)

It is the head temple of the Tendaijimon sect. Its sango is Nagara-san (Mt. Nagara). It is the 14th temple of 33 Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.

Enman-in Temple

It is the 25th temple of the 36 Fudoson in Kinki.

Ishiyama-dera Temple

It is the 13th temple of 33 Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.

Shobo-ji Temple

It is the 12th temple of 33 Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.

Saikyo-ji Temple

It is said to have been founded by Prince Shotoku.

Shoju-raigo-ji Temple

Gichu-ji Temple

It has graves of MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka and Basho MATSUO.

Choan-ji Temple

This temple is related to Eshin Sozu Genshin.


It is a Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings.

Enryaku-ji Temple Sakamoto Honbo Garden

The following ten gardens are designated as National Scenic Beauty.

Sogonin garden
Hoshakuin garden
Shigain monzeki garden
Futsujoin garden
Kyubyakugoin garden
Kyuchikurinin garden
Rengein garden
Ritsuin garden
Jitsuzobo garden
Juryoin garden

Ukimi-do Hall

Myoo-in Temple

Jishu-jinja Shrine
Shikobuchi Daimyojin (Great God) (Setsumatsu sha [smaller shrine managed under the shrine], one of the seven Shikobuchi shrines)

Takebe Taisha Shrine

Ichinomiya (shrine with the highest ranking in the area) in Omi Province.

Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine

The main halls of Nishihongu and Higashihongu are National Treasures, and it has fourteen buildings and three objects as the Important Cultural Property.

Hiyoshi Toshogu Shrine

It is the birthplace of Gongen-zukuri style and called Nikko in Kansai. Its main hall, kara-mon gate (Chinese-style gate) and sukibei (transparent fence) are the National Important Cultural Property.

Karasaki-jinja Shrine

It is one of the Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Omi).

Takaanaho-jinja Shrine

Tenson-jinja Shrine

Its festival is called Otsu-matsuri Festival, which is one of the Big Three Festival of Lake Countries.

Nagara-jinja Shrine

Mio-jinja Shrine

Omi-jingu Shrine

It has also the Clock Museum, in connection with the historical event that Emperor Tenchi installed a water clock (rokoku) for the first time in Japan.

Chikatsuo-jinja shrine

This shrine is related to Basho MATSUO.

Shinozu-jinja Shrine

Its front gate was moved from Zeze-jo Castle, and is the National Important Cultural Property.

Sakunado-jinja Shrine

It is a Myojin Taisha (the highest-ranked shrines defined by the ancient Engishiki law) enshrining Haraedo no okami.

Kasuga-jinja Shrine

Its main hall is the National Important Cultural Property.

Sekinosemimaru-jinja Temple

It enshrines a deity of music performance and accomplishments. It is famous for Noh song Semimaru.

Ogura-jinja Shrine

Kanda-jinja Shrine (in Mano, Otsu City)

Modoroki-jinja Shrine

Ono-jinja Shrine, ONO no Takamura-jinja, ONO no Tofu-jinja Shrine

Hassho-jinja Shrine (in Ikadachi, Otsu City)

Hassho-jinja Shrine (in Hachiyado, Otsu City)

Juge-jinja Shrine (in Kido, Otsu City)

Juge-jinja Shrine (in Kitakomatsu, Otsu City)

Karausuyama-kofun Tumulus

It is supposed to be the grave of ONO no Imoko, and it has ONO no Imoko Park.

Sakamoto-jo Castle Ruins

This castle was built by Mitsuhide AKECHI.

Otsu-jo Castle Ruins

Zeze-jo Castle Ruins

The Honda clan of the Zeze Domain lived in this castle.

Site of Osaka no Seki (The Gate of Meeting Hill)

Lake Biwa cruise

Biwako Kisen and other companies operate from Otsu Port.

Otsu Marina

Ogoto Hot Springs

Biwako Hot Spring

Otsu Biwako Keirin Velodrome

Biwako Kyotei Boat Race

Biwako Valley

Hira Genki-mura


Sanno-sai Festival (main festival: April 12 to 14 every year)

Biwako Otsu Summer Festival

Biwako Fireworks Festival (August 8 every year)

Senko-sai Festival (boat parade: August 17 every year)

Otsu-matsuri Festival (main festival: the day before the Health Sports Day every October)

Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Kansai Interscholastic Ekiden relay race
Asahi Regatta
Prince Takamatsu Memorial Cup bicycle race


The scene of sound in Japan Best 100: Mii no bansho (the evening bell at Mii)

[Original Japanese]