Life doesn’t get much better than spending a warm June weekend camping on the shores of Lake Biwa.
Japan, with its four seasons, experiences the most comfortable temperatures during the late spring/early summer months of May and June and then again during September and October in the autumn. These times of year, with their 20-degree or so temperatures, provide the perfect moments to spend time in the open air – seasons when you don’t get cold and you don’t get sweaty. Kansai has so many places where you can enjoy the outdoors, but one that people go back to time and time again is Shiga Prefecture’s Lake Biwa with its stunning scenery and camping spots. Take the car and go camping with your family, or get together a big group of friends for a barbecue by the lake (though swimming isn’t permitted until around mid-July).
Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, covers an area of around 670 km² and provides water for 14 million people in Kansai, as well as for industrial uses.
From this huge body of water flows a river that starts out as the Seta River in Shiga, becomes the Uji River as it passes through Kyoto and then finally becomes the Yodo River that runs through Osaka and out into Osaka Bay. The lake is home to 491 plant and 595 animal species – plus, most likely, many more that have not yet been discovered – and 50,000 waterfowl spend the winter around its shores.
For people, the lake and its surrounding area offers many attractions, from beautiful white sand beaches, parks and forest-covered mountains to watersports, onsen, shrines and temples. The main lakeside cities are Otsu, Hikone, Nagahama, Maibara and Takashima, with Otsu being the most accessible from the Kyoto and Osaka direction, but exploring further than Otsu offers access to stunning scenery that makes the extra distance worthwhile.
As for the practical side of things, driving is much easier, but day trips or overnight trips by train are certainly possible. Some campsites offer barbecue and even tent hire, so if you don’t have access to a car there’s no need to carry heavy bags. Expect charges for camping and sometimes for parking and barbecue area use too, but these charges are usually reasonable. See below for further details. And if you’re looking for inspiration for other things to do in the area, check this very useful website from the Biwako Visitors Bureau: en.biwako-visitors.jp
Mutsuyazakihama Auto Campground
An open, 450m-long campsite by the lake.
Day camping and overnight camping available.
Reservations: required during high season only.
Camping: elementary and junior high school students ¥300, adults ¥500.
Parking: ¥1,000 per standard-size car, ¥500 per motorbike.
Open: April to October
Address: Warasono 336, Shin-Asahi-cho, Takashima, Shiga 520-1511. Tel.: 0740-25-6464
Access: By train: take the JR Kosei Line to JR Shin-Asahi Station, then take the Kazaguruma-mura bus for about 10 minutes and get off at Kazaguruma-mura. By car: about 40 minutes from Hokuriku Expressway’s Kinomoto IC.
Parking capacity: 100 spaces
Takarabune Family Campsite
Enjoy the superb view from Omi Shirahama Beach and bathe in the nearby Takarabune Onsen. Tents and barbecue equipment hire available. For extra comfort rent an air-conditioned bungalow. Pets welcome.
Parking: (standard-size car) ¥2,000
Tent pitch: (guest-owned tents only) ¥2,500
Accommodation: bungalow ¥10,000–¥20,000, cottage ¥30,000 (per night).
Entry: ¥300 Parking: (standard-size car) ¥1,000
Tent pitch: (guest-owned tents only) ¥1,500
Onsen: adult ¥700, child ¥350
Onsen open 10am–2.30pm, 6.30–8.30pm.
Address: 2248-2 Shimo-Ogawa, Adogawa-cho, Taka-shima, Shiga. Tel.: 0740-32-1293.
Access: By train: take the JR Kosei Line to Omi-Takashima Station and then walk for about 40 mins.
By car: about 30 mins from Kosei Highway’s Shiga IC.
Iwana no Sato Eigenji Ground
Fish in a stream and enjoy a barbecue surrounded by the rich natural environment of the Sukuza Mountains.
Reservations: not required.
Fishing fee: adults ¥4,200, children ¥2,600.
Barbecue area use fee: Adults ¥500, children younger than elementary school-age ¥300.
Open: 7am–5pm all year round.
Address: 67 Kozuhata-cho, Higashiomi, Shiga 527-0214. Tel.:0748-27-2072.
Access: By train: JR to Omi-Hachiman Station or Yōkaichi Station, then bus or taxi for about 15 mins. By car: about 20 minutes from Meishin Expressway’s Yōkaichi IC.
Aoyagi Hama Camping Field
Camping: 1 car/1 tent (Open: April to November.
Address: 657 Daimotsu, Otsu, Shiga 520-0512.
Access: By train: 20-minute walk from JR Shiga Station. By car: 3 minutes from Kosei Highway’s Shiga IC.
By Life in Kansai