Shigaraki Hights Railway has started operating an ad-wrapped train which is themed with a new TV drama series “Scarlet”

An ad-wrapped train which is themed with Scarlet, a new TV drama series broadcast at NHK, became operational on September 29. The story of the drama unfolds in Shigaraki, depicting the life of a female potter. The ceremony was held at Shigaraki Station of Shigaraki Hights Railway, where Erika Toda, an actress playing the protagonist, attended.

At the ceremony, Ms. Toda says, “I hope the viewers will feel pottery's attraction and profundity through the drama. I would like to keep focused on my role for half a year just like this train." She cracked a decorative paper ball together with the participants including Hiroki Iwanaga, mayor of Koka City where Shigaraki is located.

On the train’s exterior, an enlarged image of Toda spinning a pottery wheel and of a title logo is printed. On the interior, pieces of illustration of pottery colored with yellow and orange and the actress's signatures can be seen. The train is to be operated until March 28 next year.

Scarlet is the 101st NHK morning drama series, which is to start broadcasting from September 30.

(Sankei Shimbun, September 29, 2019)



Prefectural Government set up a study group on fermentation as the next key industry

The Shiga Prefectural Government (SPG) set up the Study Group on the Development of the Fermentation Industry in Shiga on September 6, intending to nurture the fermentation field as a key industry expected to lead the local economy. Shiga has so-called "fermented food culture" represented by funazushi (fermented crucian carp sushi), and it is largely believed that this food culture has helped the prefecture acquire NO.1 regarding healthy life expectancy across the nation.

The SPG is to have consecutive discussions with business leaders on the current situation regarding the fermentation industry and a possible industrial development plan, exploring the possibility of expanding business opportunities for growth.

The study group was attended by 7 experts including Professor June Shima of Faculty of Agriculture, Ryukoku University, fermented food producers, cooking specialists, chamber of commerce and industry representatives.

The first meeting was held on September 6 at “Unoya,” a public hall once used as a Japanese sake brewery, formerly owned by former Prime Minister Uno and now owned by Moriyama City Office. It was reported and confirmed that traditional fermented foods such as funazushi, Japanese sake, and soy sauce were produced in the prefecture and that there were several universities and research institutes specialized in agriculture and biotechnology as well.

“If small-scale enterprises network themselves with each other, it will revitalize the fermentation industry in the area as a whole,” says Kotaro Ikeshima, owner of HAPPY TAROU JOZOJO, which produces and sells koji (malted rice) and miso (fermented soybean paste).

"Small businesses are better at creating unique products, and this should be their strength," adds Tsuyako Kokabu, president of Kokabu Farm, which handles sweets using cheese.

“Local people think it is usual for them to consume fermented foods, but this can be appealing to people out of Shiga,” explains Takashi Aoki, secretary-general of Takashima City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which organizes study groups and shops.

Considering that the fermentation industry deals with various fields such as chemicals, medicines, and agriculture, the study group confirmed at the first meeting that the study field would cover medicines, cosmetics, bioplastics, bioethanol, and environmental cleanup.

The SPG is to organize several meetings to discuss the current situations and challenges, intending to incorporate an industrial development plan on the fermentation industry into the Shiga Industrial Development Vision, which will be revised within FY 2019.

(Sankei Shimbun, September 7, 2019)

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Cool Biz Campaign has begun at Pref. Goverment

"Cool Biz" is an energy saving campaign, which encourages office workers to wear outfits appropriate for the office yet cool enough to endure the summer heat. On May 1, the Shiga Prefectural Government began the campaign, and most of the employees attended the office, wearing tie-free outfits.

In the past, the campaign would start on June 1 and end on September 30. However, in cooperation with the national government requesting the public to save electricity, the Prefecture has extended the campaign by two months since 2011, with its period covering from the beginning of May to the end of October. During this period, the Prefecture will set air conditioner temperatures at 28 degrees Celsius inside its buildings, and visitors are strongly encouraged to wear light dress.

"We hope not only our employees but also people who visit Prefectural Office or attend Prefecture-organized meetings will feel comfortable wearing casual outfits," says Takeo Sugii, Director of Global Warming Issues Division, who was also wearing a tie-free outfit.

(Sankei Shimbun, May 2, 2014)



Shiga's rice has been adopted by Cathay Pacific Airlines

Mizukagami, a new breed of rice developed in Shiga, has been adopted by Cathay Pacific Airlines and All Nippon Airways as in-flight meals for some of their international flights, and 300 servings per day have been provided for first class and business class passengers since April 15.

Last year, Shizuaki Mori, head of chef, Cathay Pacific Catering Services (H.K.) Ltd. had a chance to sample the rice at the occasion of a sales promotion campaign in Hong Kong led by executive officers of Union of Kansai Governments. "This rice is springy and tasty, and this doesn't become dry and brittle even after getting cold. This is cut out for in-flight meals," says Mori, who is from Nagahama, Shiga.

The rice is provided for 19 Cathay Pacific Airlines flights plus 5 All Nippon Airways flights per day, which depart from 5 airports in Japan including Kansai International Airport.

"I am proud of confidently providing the Shiga-produced rice. I would like to help Shiga-produced foodstuff expand its markets overseas,"commented Mori, who graduated from Torahime High School in Shiga and was trained at Nadaman, a Japanese food restaurant in Osaka.

(Asahi Shimbun, April 16, 2014)



200 thousand rape blossoms are out at a German themed park in Hino

200 thousand rape blossoms are out at Buruume no Oka, a German themed agricultural park in Hino, Shiga, heralding the coming of spring. The flowers will be in full bloom until the middle of April. The admission fee is 800 yen for adults and 400 yen for children.

The rape blossoms suffuse a corner of the park with their lively yellow color, adding a tranquil color combination to the German themed park. "How beautiful !," families visiting the park cheered the scenery, taking photographs in and around the flowers.

The park opens from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. For details, call 0748-52-2611.

(Chunichi Shimbun, April 6, 2014)    



Shiga's tourism industry sees huge potential in Muslim tourists

A seminar on how to show hospitality to Muslim tourists from the ASEAN countries was held at Piazza Omi in Otsu for the first time in Shiga Prefecture, providing tips on religious practices including food and worship which should be considered.

There were 39 participants from local hotels, restaurants, and tourism-related companies. During the seminar, they did some tasting of a lunch box made for Muslims who are prohibited from eating pork and were informed that Muslims pray their daily prayers five times a day.

The seminar was organized by the Biwako Visitors Bureau, a prefecture-level tourism association, in response to the new policy adopted by the Japanese government in July 2013 to ease visa requirements for the ASEAN countries where Muslims constitute one of the major religious communities.

(Chunichi Shimbun, February 27, 2014)



Shiga has the greatest number of McDonald's restaurants per 100,000 people - but why?

With sales figures falling from the previous year, Sarah Casanova, CEO of McDonald's Company Japan, unveiled the company's plan to enhance the overall appeal of their products to increase the number of customers who buy at the existing McDonald's restaurants, according to Nikkei Newspaper.

The fast food giant currently operates about 3,300 restaurants nationwide, and the average number of restaurants per 100,000 people is 2.58. Among 47 prefectures in Japan, Shiga surprisingly has the greatest number - 3.7 restaurants which is 1.43 times more than the national average. The second is Tokyo with 3.46 restaurants, followed by Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara.

Why is Shiga ranked top? McDonald's closes non-profitable small restaurants in downtown and opens profitable suburban-type restaurants with drive-through to attract families in recent years. Shiga has become one of the suburban areas for commuters to major cities such as Osaka and Kyoto in the Kansai Region, and families busy with child-rearing tend to reside in such areas. Shiga is currently ranked in second place regarding the number of child-rearing households and children per capita nationwide. It can be largely seen in Shiga that young parents take their children to McDonald's on weekends.

On the other hand, Mos Burger, one of McDonald's competitors, has the smallest number of its restaurants in Shiga. Mos Burger seems to avoid Shiga because of the strong presence of McDonald's. Looking into the food-service industry helps us understand each company's history and strategy.

(Zaikei Shimbun, November 24, 2013)



Hikonyan is to visit Paris in July

Hikonyan, the popular mascot of Hikone City, is to participate in Japan Expo, an exhibition featuring Japanese pop culture held at Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center, Paris, from July 4 to 7. This is the third time for Hikonyan to make an appearance overseas, following Hawaii and South Korea.

Hikonyan will be giving a 20-minute-performance with younger members of Hikone Chamber of Commerce in armor on July 4 and 6 respectively, with the aim of promoting the city's local specialties and historical heritage including Hikone Castle. In addition, Hikonyan is expected to show up at a booth run by the city in the venue, where brochures of city's tourism in four languages including French will be distributed.

Prior to that, a send-off party was organized on June 25 at Hikone City Office, where Takashi Okubo, mayor of the city, and Shozo Kitamura, president of Hikonyan Fan Club, attended. "I hope Hikonyan will become more popular through this mission to Europe," said Mayor Okubo. Pressident Kitamura responded, "we will definitely impress Parisians."

Hikonyan is scheduled to show up at Hikone Castle as well when it is supposed to be in Paris. According to the city, the mascot will be "teleported" back and forth between the two countries, which makes the four days hectic. 

(Chunichi Shimbun, June 26, 2013)



Shiga's temples and shrines attracted 1.42 million visitors during New Year holidays

On January 4, the Shiga Prefectural Police Headquarters disclosed that Shiga's 15 major temples/shrines had attracted 1.42 million visitors during the first three days of New Year holidays. The number of visitors, which is the largest since 2008, has increased by approximately 77 thousand compared to the previous year. The Police conjectures that the good weather conditions contributed to the increase.

There are 5 temples/shrines that respectively attracted more than 100 thousand visitors. Taga Taisha Shrine, Taga, attracted 485 thousand visitors, with its number having increased by 10 thousand compared to 2012. Tarobogu Shrine, Higashiomi, had 130 thousand visitors, with its number having risen by 10 thousand as well. Otsu's two shrines didn't witness a drastic change from the previous year: Omi-jingu Shrine with 150 thousand visitors and Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine with 105 thousand visitors. On the one hand, Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine, Nagahama, lost its visitors by 11 thousand, resulting in attracting 145 thousand visitors.

(Kyoto Shimbun, January 4, 2013) 



Hikone Castle Museum welcomed the 3 millionth visitor

The number of visitors to Hikone Castle Museum, Konki-cho, Hikone, reached 3 million on December 24, and its commemorative ceremony was held at the museum the same day, conferring a written recognition of the 3 millionth visitor on Maki Yabusaki, a 31-year-old woman from Tokyo.

The memorable moment was celebrated by smashing a decorated ball when Yabusaki was about to enter the museum. "I was surprised to learn that I was the 3 millionth visitor. I like history, and have visited numerous castles. Of those, Hikone Castle looks more powerful than the others," Yabusaki commented with a delight on her face.   

At the ceremony, which the city's mascot Hikonyan attended as well, gifts in addtion to the written recognition were given to the Tokyoite, and Mayor Koyo Shishiyama made a speech saying "On Christmas Eve, we have reached a significant milestone. With this, we hope to gain momentum to get Hikone Castle listed as a World Heritage site in the future."

Hikone Castle Museum, built at the special historic sites of Hikone Castle, opened in February 1987, and 25 years have passed since then. The museum marked milestones with the 1 millionth visitor in FY 1996 and the 2 millionth visitor in FY 2007. 

(Sankei Shimbun, December 25, 2012)