Lake Biwa Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, eat, stay, and things to do in Lake Biwa, Japan. Explore the rich culture and natural beauty of Japan's largest freshwater lake.

Introduction to Lake Biwa

Located in Shiga, Kansai, Japan, Lake Biwa is the country’s largest freshwater lake, covering an area of 670.3 square kilometers. Its name, “Biwa”, comes from the Japanese instrument that resembles the shape of the lake. Lake Biwa is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, famous for its breathtaking natural beauty and historic significance to Japan.

List of Places to Visit in Lake Biwa

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Miho Museum: A private museum showcasing ancient art and artifacts from around the world.
  • Biwako Hall: A cultural center featuring concerts, theater performances, and international events.
  • Hikone Castle: A national treasure and one of the twelve original castles in Japan.

Natural Attractions of Lake Biwa: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Shirahige Shrine: A picturesque Shinto shrine located on the shore of Lake Biwa.
  • Lake Biwa Flower Fountain: A stunning water and light show held every night at the Otsu Port.
  • Biwako Valley: A ski resort during the winter months and a beautiful hiking destination during the summer.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Lake Biwa

  • Biwako Valley to Okano: A scenic hiking route with beautiful views of the lake and mountains.
  • Lake Biwa Circuit Trail: A 180-kilometer hiking trail that circumnavigates the entire lake.
  • Lake Biwa West Bank Road: A popular cycling route that takes you through picturesque towns and scenic views.

Best Things to Do in Lake Biwa: Activities and Tours

  • Sailing on Lake Biwa: Enjoy a tranquil sailing experience on the calm waters of the lake.
  • Fishing on Lake Biwa: The lake is known for its abundant fish population, making it a perfect place for fishing enthusiasts.
  • Omi-Maiko Beach: A beautiful beach where you can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy water activities.

Week-Long Itinerary for Lake Biwa

Day Activity
Day 1 Visit the Miho Museum and Biwako Hall.
Day 2 Explore Hikone Castle and its beautiful gardens.
Day 3 Take a hiking trip from Biwako Valley to Okano.
Day 4 Try some local cuisine and visit nearby traditional shops.
Day 5 Go fishing on Lake Biwa and relax on Omi-Maiko Beach.
Day 6 Enjoy a scenic cycling route along the West Bank Road.
Day 7 Take a boat tour of Lake Biwa, visit Shirahige Shrine, and see the Lake Biwa Flower Fountain show.

Food and Drink Scene of Lake Biwa

Must-Try Dishes

  • Omi Beef: A type of Japanese wagyu beef, renowned for its marbled texture and rich flavor.
  • Funazushi: A type of sushi made with fermented carp from Lake Biwa.
  • Omi Tea: A locally produced tea known for its high quality and refreshing taste.

Local Beverages

  • Omi Sake: A type of Japanese rice wine made from locally grown rice.
  • Shiga Beer: A variety of beer brewed in Shiga, using natural spring water.

Where to Stay in Lake Biwa: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Biwako Hotel: A luxurious hotel located near the lake with stunning views and convenient amenities.
  • Guesthouse AN: A cozy guesthouse with a Japanese-style interior and a peaceful atmosphere.
  • Biwako Ryokusuitei: A traditional Japanese ryokan (inn) with hot springs and a scenic garden.

What to Buy in Lake Biwa: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Lake Biwa Pearl: High-quality freshwater pearls cultured in the clean waters of Lake Biwa.
  • Omi Traditional Crafts: Pottery, textiles, and lacquerware made by local artisans.
  • Omi Beef: Take home some high-quality beef as a souvenir for your loved ones.

Local Culture and Customs of Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa is home to various traditional festivals and events throughout the year, which offer a glimpse into the local culture and customs. The traditional boat festival, held during the summer months, is a must-see event, showcasing decorated boats and exciting fireworks displays.

Best Time to Visit Lake Biwa

The best time to visit Lake Biwa is during the spring and fall seasons, when the weather is mild and the scenery is breathtaking. In the spring, the cherry blossoms around the lake are in full bloom, and in the fall, the changing leaves provide a picturesque and colorful landscape.

Do’s and Don’ts of Lake Biwa


  • Respect the local culture and customs.
  • Try the local cuisine and engage with the locals.
  • Take care of the environment and pick up your trash.


  • Smoke in public areas or around cultural and historical sites.
  • Disrespect the local culture and customs.
  • Engage in disruptive behavior that could harm the local environment.

Safety and Health

Safety in Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa is a safe destination, with a low crime rate and friendly locals. However, always be aware of your surroundings and take normal safety precautions.

Health in Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa has good healthcare facilities, but it is always a good idea to have travel health insurance before traveling to Japan. Drinking water throughout Japan is safe, including the freshwater from Lake Biwa.

Getting to Lake Biwa: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Lake Biwa

The nearest airport to Lake Biwa is Osaka International Airport, which is about an hour away by car. Alternatively, Kansai International Airport is about two hours away and has more international routes.

Bus Stations Near Lake Biwa

Buses are a convenient and affordable option for getting around Lake Biwa. The main bus station is Biwako Ohashi Station, which connects to various destinations around the lake.

Other Options

The train is another popular option for traveling to Lake Biwa. The JR Kosei Line runs along the west side of the lake, connecting to major cities such as Kyoto and Osaka.

How to Get Around in Lake Biwa

The best way to get around Lake Biwa is by bus, as it connects major tourist attractions and towns around the lake. Additionally, cycling and hiking are popular options, especially during the spring and fall seasons.

Where to Go Next from Lake Biwa: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Kyoto: Famous for its traditional temples and gardens, Kyoto is only an hour away from Lake Biwa by train.
  • Osaka: Known for its vibrant food scene and bustling nightlife, Osaka is roughly two hours away from Lake Biwa by train.
  • Nara: A former capital of Japan, Nara is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is only an hour and a half away from Lake Biwa by train.


Lake Biwa truly offers something for everyone, whether you are interested in exploring Japan’s rich culture or enjoying its natural beauty through outdoor adventures. With its convenient transportation options and unique attractions, it is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Japan.