Otsu, Shiga → 📍 Lake Biwa → ⛩ Shirahige Shrine, Shiga

Map of the Lake Biwa area with author’s route between Otsu, Shiga and Shirahige Shrine highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

Statue of a very muscular man with his feet on a separate pedestal.

A playground with a slide and a small carved elephant under elevated tracks. 📍 Otsu, Shiga

A wind-blown pine tree on a lakeshore.

A man in rubber overalls fishing in a large lake. 📍 Karasaki Shrine, Otsu, Shiga

Relentless overdevelopment is perhaps the fate of every big lake near a big city, and Lake Biwa is no different from Lake Balaton in Hungary when you walk for hours past gas stations, supermarkets, and apartment buildings in the hot sun. But also like Balaton it has its beautiful spots if you’re patient. In the shade of a wind-blown pine by a shrine, I watched the small, cerulean waves, and I could almost not hear the rumble of the highway.

A building with a sign saying “Dog Wash ZAB”.

Looking inside the automated dog wash at the equipment for washing dogs. 📍 Otsu, Shiga

Manhole cover with picture of sailboats on a lake.

Four fishing rods on a beach by a small tree.

A narrow road lined with flowering azaleas runs by a lakeshore.

A sand beach almost the same color as the water and the sky, with hills on the opposite shore.

Sign of an elephant dressed as a construction worker, carrying a pickaxe in its trunk. 📍 Otsu, Shiga

A menacing-looking black Nissan Skyline R34 with a big wing and custom bodywork. 📍 Otsu, Shiga

That’s one wicked Skyline. I like Skylines. And who wouldn’t like a wicked Skyline?

A barn swallow perched on an iron rod under a corrugated metal ceiling, the light looks artificial and implies that it’s at night.

The rear end of a vintage white Fiat 500 is lit by a streetlamp, it is otherwise dark and there are distant lights on the horizon.

The red torii gate of a Japanese shrine stands in the waters of a lake at night. 📍 Shirahige Shrine, Takashima, Shiga

As night fell, Lake Biwa shed its daytime vulgarity and regained its serenity. I walked on the shore, past great pines, star-lit wavelets lapping against the sand. The mountains left barely a gap for Highway 161, and when I reached the shrine after midnight, its great torii floating above the lake, I saw not what its builders had intended, but a reminder of industrial Japan. A non-stop rumble of trucks bisected the shrine, running right between its wooden buildings and the floating torii, and I wondered what the lake gods thought of us now.

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.