Photo by: japanvisitor.com
Sister City Anniversary: July 1986
History & Economic Development
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.
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.
Tourism & Traditions
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.
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.
September 2018 (Grand Rapids, MI)
In September we welcomed two retirees from our Sister City, Omihachiman, who
stayed with two retiree couples in Grand Rapids for the momentous Shiga/Michigan 50-year anniversary exchange (1968-2018) This placement was important, as both of our guests had expressed a desire to observe, and even partake in, American retirement life. They made friends for life and plan to visit each other in the future. A variety of activities were enjoyed during their time here, and we hosted a special dinner held at Rose’s on Reeds Lake, where afterwards, all enjoyed a ride on one of the host familie’ boats. Grand Rapids’ own Meijer Gardens was the proud venue for the meaningful Farewell Celebration, at which Shiga governor, Taizou Mikazuki and Governor Snyder, eagerly initiated the next 50 years of relationship building. Our guests brought Mayor Bliss a mayoral letter as well as a gift, which we were happy to deliver in person to Ms. Bliss shortly after our guests’ departure.