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Omi Hachiman Guide

Japan flag. Japan City Guides: Omi Hachiman

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Omi Hachiman 近江八幡

  • A well-preserved canal town on the Tokaido route.
  • Close to Japan's largest lake - Lake Biwa.
  • Omi Hachiman has many interesting museums.
  • Population around 50,000.
  • An easy day trip from Kyoto.

Sightseeing: Things to see and do in Omihachiman

Omi Hachiman's Haku-un-kan.

Omi Hachiman is a small castle town in Shiga Prefecture located along the ancient highway that ran from Tokyo to Kyoto. Omi Hachiman was built in 1585, under the auspices of a nephew and retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, close to the eastern end of Lake Biwa, which is the largest lake in Japan.

Prior to the invention of the train and automobile, Omi Hachiman was a hub for canal transportation, delivering goods and people to nearby Kyoto. Omi Hachiman developed into a commercial town following the construction of a castle by Toyotomi Hidetsugu in the 16th century.

The town was divided until the mid-nineteenth century by Hachiman-bori (pictured below right). North of this canal lived samurai, south the common people. Other areas were reserved, for example, for merchants, who supplied the market in nearby Kyoto.

Today Shin-machi Dori Street is the area where the former merchants lived. In particular, the grand home of the Nishikawas, a local family, is now open to the public. The Kyodo Shiryo-kan, a local history museum, is nearby. Next door is the History and Folklore Museum.

Omi Hachiman street.

On Hachiman-bori are white-walled storehouses (kura) and 19th-century houses such as Haku-un-kan (pictured top right), which was designed by William Vories (1880-1964), an American missionary and architect who left a legacy of elegant homes and buildings in Kyoto and its surroundings including the original Kyoto YMCA building of 1908. The Haku-un-kan is located directly in front of the canal, which if crossed will take you to several shrines and the ropeway.

Another place of interest is the Kawara Museum, or Tile Museum, that features tiles from all parts of Japan. For a more complete list, please see below.

Today, the Omi Hachiman's old quarter near the canal is a well-preserved area that is well suited for tourism. It is also frequently used as a film location for period dramas.

Tel: 0748-32-6181
Open: 9 am 5:00
Adults: 500 yen

Omi Hachiman's canal.

Kyodo Shiryokan
Tel: 0748-32-7048
Open: 9 am 4:30
Adults: 500 yen

Kawara Museum
Tel: 0748-33-8567
Open: 9 am 4:30
Adults: 300 yen

William Vories Museum
Tel: 0748-32-2456
Open: 9 am 4:30
Adults: Free Admission

Hachiman-zan Ropeway
Tel: 0748-32-0303
Open: 9 am 5:00
Adults: 700 yen round trip.

Himure-hachimangu Shrine
Tel: 0748-32-3151
Next to the ropeway

Getting to Omi Hachiman

From Kyoto Station, JR's Shin Kaisoku express train takes 33 minutes to Omi Hachiman Station. One-way fare is 650 yen.

From Tokyo, it takes 2 hours 20 minutes to Maibara Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. From there, it is 22 minutes from Maibara Station to Omi Hachiman Station by JR Tokaido Honsen Line.

From Omi Hachiman Station, you can take a bus--a 10-minute ride but with infrequent service--into the old section of town, a cab if you are in a group, or walk the two miles or so. Maps are available at the Station.

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