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)



Otsu City to bear the cost of renovating the exterior of JR Otsu Station

The City of Otsu has signed an Memorandum of Understanding with JR West on May 8 to share the cost of renovating the exterior of JR Otsu Station, starting to rehabilitate the timeworn station itself and its surrounding area.

Mayor Naomi Koshi and Kyoto Branch Director Ushio Kurahara held a joint-press conference. Koshi underscored the importance of the renovation project, saying “We will not only renovate the exterior but also improve the area. This is just the beginning.” Director Kurahara added, “We would like to make the building seem friendly to citizens rather than surprising.”

The construction project costs one hundred million yen and will be equally borne by three organizations: the city government, the national government, and JR West. The project is scheduled to be started in autumn and to be completed in March 2016. Although the design of the building has not been determined, JR West, in consultation with the City, will attract tenants to the station building which is now deserted. The City plans to rehabilitate the surrounding area by conducting land reallocation and cruise tours in Lake Biwa Canal.

According to a survey targeted at passengers as well as companies in the area in 2014, 56.6% of the respondents answered that the renovation of the exterior should be first priority, and 55.7% of the respondents answered that the station should be proper enough to be a symbol of the capital city of Shiga Prefecture.

JR Otsu Station opened in 1975 and hasn’t experienced any major renovation project since then. The average passengers per day in 2014 is 35,306, ranking as the 6th busiest station in the prefecture.

(Chunichi Shimbun, May 9, 2015)



Omi-Ohashi Bridge to be toll-free in December 2013

Omi-Ohashi Bridge, a toll road connecting Otsu and Kusatsu, will start being toll-free on  December 26, 2013. Having consulted with the national government, the Shiga Prefectural Government came to a conclusion that there is no legal ground to continue collecting tolls after the said day.

The Omi-Ohashi Bridge Management Review Committee, a committee that consists of experts expected to advise the prefecture of optimizing the management of the toll-road, was briefed by the prefecture about the conclusion at its third meeting on Ocotober 30.

The committee members expressed their concerns about traffic congestion and financial burden, however, all of them shared the same perception that becoming toll-free is inevitable.

"We understand that making the bridge toll-free is the only choice under the present legal system, but we are skeptical of it considering the effectiveness of the management. We hope that national government will create a new system, " says Chairperson Hiroshi Tsukaguchi, professor at Ritsumeikan University, referring to the committee's desire to propose policy recommendations urging the national government to take further action.

(Kyoto Shimbun, October 30, 2012)



JR West will construct a new station in Kusatsu

It turned out on August 8 that West Japan Railway Company, also referred to as JR West, will construct a new station on the Tokaido Main Line between Minami-Kusatsu Station and Seta Station. The company had already informed Kusatsu City Office of the plan, and they will start talking about where and when to construct the station.

According to JR West, the distance between Minami-Kusatsu and Seta is 2.7 kilometers. The company has raised the prospect of increasing passengers from the area, because of residential suburbs expanding as well as Ritsumeikan University's new campus near Minami-Kusatsu.

JR West has been proceeding to construct new stations throughout its boundaries, having opened Sakura Shukugawa Station in 2007, Suma-Kaihinkoen Station, Shimamoto Station, and Katsuragawa Station in 2008. 

(Sankei Shimbun, August 8, 2011)

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Traffic accidents deprived 78 people's lives in 2010

The Shiga Police Headquarters announced that traffic accidents deprived 78 people's lives in 2010, outnumbering the previous year. The number of traffic deaths had been decreasing in the past 5 years, but this trend was reversed last year.

The number of traffic accidents was 9,027, which increased by 175 compared to the previous year. Among them, 11,647 people were injured, which increased by 221. The largest population involved in the traffic deaths was people aged more than 65 years old: 37 people were killed.

(Mainichi Shimbun ,January 8, 2010)

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14 municipalities freeze road construction due to abolishment of road-designated taxes

Shiga Prefectural Government on April 11 unveiled how 26 municipalities in Shiga are dealing with abolishment of road-designated taxes which is now known as a major issue at national level.

14 municipalities out of 26 have decided to freeze road construction due to predicted decrease of road-tax revenues. 10 other municipalities will make decisions based on watching how the current situation changes. 

Otsu City, included in the former, will face deficit of 700 million yen. If projects other than road construction are deeply affected, the deficit will expand to 1 billion yen. Grants coming from the central government, used for roads, city planning, education and festivals, stem from road-designated taxes.

"Road construction is necessary, but the only project we can put off is the road construction," says a city official.

(Chunichi Shimbun, April 12)   

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Stations' names changed: But debate is still going on

Japan Railway Company renamed Shiga's two stations on March 15. Nishiotsu and Ogoto were changed into Otsukyo and Ogoto-onsen. Local communities hope the two new names would attract more tourists.

Otsukyo means a capital city located at Otsu. Otsu was Japan's capital city in the 7th century. Ogoto-onsen means hot spring of Ogoto. This area is traditionally known for its hot spring.

Ceremonies were held at the both stations. An unveiling ceremony of a wall painting depicting ancient Otsu was conducted at Otsukyo. On the other hand, ashiyu, a hot spring pond where passengers can conveniently soak their foot, started being used at Ogoto-onsen.

However, there is still a debate over the name of Otsukyo. Some experts deny Otsukyo, saying that Otsukyo can't be seen in ancient documents. Some say the concept of kyo didn't exist at the time.

Keiko Okada, a member of a committee established to protest the name, says, "We should be shamed of the name based on groundless historical facts. This confusion will continue."

(Kyoto Shimbun, March 16, 2008)

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