Omihachiman – Japan

Quick Facts

  • Sister City Anniversary: July 1986
  • Mayor: Eishou Fujitani
  • Country: Japan
  • District: Shiga prefecture
  • Population: 96,359 (as of March 1, 2010; excludes the Azuchi population)
  • Currency: Yen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Food: Omihachiman has many specialties that are made from abundant natural resources and product of a long history, including: “Omi Beef,” which is one of the top three beefs in all of Japan; “Decchiyoukan” sweets, which were made famous by Omi merchants; “Aka-konnyaku” (red yams), which are associated with Oda Nobunga; “Choji-fu” (wheat gluten), which is very healthy; “Omi rice” and fish from Lake Biwa boiled in soy sauce; and the traditional sushi, with fermented freshwater fish called “Funa-zushi,” which has been enjoyed since the 8th century.
  • Size Compared to Michigan (97,990 sq mi): The total area of Omihachiman is 29.7 sq mi, about two thirds the size of Grand Rapids (45.3 sq mi).

History

Omihachiman is a city in Shiga Prefecture, located on the east side of the largest fresh water lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. Omihachiman is famous as the birthplace of the Omi merchants. Omi merchants (Hachiman merchants) were businessmen who were active throughout Japan, especially during the Edo period (1603-1867) in Tokyo and Hokkaido. Their busness was based on trust. Therefore, they did not loan money at high interest or otherwise take advantage of supply shortages. Their business policy was to meet the needs of the people and to create a business that people could respect. The residential areas these merchants once lived in, have been preserved as nationally important historic buildings. These areas are the main tourist spots in Omihachiman.

Economic Development

There are several factors that contributed to the development of Omihachiman. One major factor was the Hachiman Moat. It was orginally built to protect a castle, however in the 1580’s, Hidetsugu Toyotomi transformed the moat into a canal system and forced boats using Lake Biwa to stop in Hachiman. It became an active trade center, and served as a catalyst for Omi Businesses. Omihachiman has many specialities and souvenirs that are made from their abundant natural resources and are a product of the long history. Omi beef and rice are the most important agricultaral products. Fresh water pearls, manufacturing of prayer beads and shoes are also famous.

Tradition and Tourism

The main focus is tourism and preservation of historical assets. Local folk arts and local specialty foods enchant the visitors. Omihachiman is a lake city fronting Lake Biwa as well as Lake Nishinoko where Suigo boat rides are a major attration. In fact, Omihachiman has the first national vacation village in Japan. The Azuchi Hachiman Canal is considered one of the eight best views of Lake Biwa. It was selected as the first culturally important landscape in Japan. Many people enjoy visiting to relax and escape from the busy city life.

The Sagicho Matsuri festival held in mid-March is one of Shiga’s most famous festivals. There is a parade with works of art floats that are carried around the streets and on the second day collide with each other and try to topple each other over. At night, the floats are set afire, as Sagicho is actually a fire festival.

Hachiman Moat remains a symbol of the Omihachiman citizens and a main tourist atrraction. Many people also enjoy photography and painting while visiting Hachiman Moat, and it is often used as a shooting location for historic dramas.