People started to live around this lake about 26,000 years ago and created a unique culture and history with this lake at the center. Let’s look into how the lake affected people by examining submerged remains, castle and festivals.
People started to live around Lake Biwa 26,000 years ago, in the Late Stone Age, living off the abundant natural resources of the lake.Since then, people formed a unique culture during successive eras. Those people’ lives are recorded in many submerged remains. For example, under the surface of the lake there are sunken ships with various cargos, a place for water rituals, and an ancient village submerged by earthquakes or floods.
At the bottom of the lake near the Seiran district of Otsu City, there are submerged remains of a mound of fresh water shells, called Awazu submerged remains, from about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago (early to mid Jomon period). Shell mounds are found where ancient people piled up their food waste, and many Seta clams ,fish bones, animal bones, and chestnut shells have been discovered through excavations.Through this, we know that people in this era ate more nuts than they hunted animals.
It’s believed that there were once more than 1300 castles in Shiga Prefecture, among the most numerous in all Japan. Most were built on top mountains, but after Nobunaga Oda rose to power, large castles were built for the purpose of controlling trade and travel on and around Lake Biwa. Nobunaga built Sakamoto castle (Otsu City), Nagahama castle (Nagahama City), Omizo castle (Takashina City), and Azuchi castle (Omihachiman City/Higashiomi City) to surround the lake and, with them, developed an effective water transportationv network on the lake.
In Shiga Prefecture, developed area such as Otsu, Hikone, Nagahama and Omihachiman hold major feastivals. In the Otsu feastival, which has been celebrated since the Edo period, one can see an assembly floats, called ”Hikiyama”, with 3 wheels sporting splendid decorations. Mechanical dolls also make the floats unique. This festival evokes the notion that Otsu owes its development and prosperity to its position as a port town on the lake and as a trading post on the Tokaido road.
This page is partly sourced from “Learn about Lake Biwa,” a short handbook of Lake Biwa published by Shiga Prefecture on March, 2018.Some pictures are provided by Lake Biwa Museum.
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