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.
Omihachiman Recent Events
September 2018 (Grand Rapids, MI)
In September 2018, we welcomed two retirees from our sister city, Omihachiman, who stayed with two retired 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 at Rose’s on Reeds Lake, where afterward, all enjoyed a ride on one of the host family’s pontoon boats. Our guests brought Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss an official letter from the mayor of Omihachiman, as well as a gift, which we were happy to deliver in person to Mayor Bliss shortly after our guests’ departure. Grand Rapids’ own Meijer Gardens was the proud venue for the meaningful Farewell Celebration, at which Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder eagerly initiated the next 50 years of relationship-building.
Get to know our sister city by learning more about Omihachiman projects.
The Omihachiman Committee plays a central role in connecting West Michigan with Japan.
We are proud of our history as Grand Rapids’ first sister city committee. Since our establishment in 1986, our committee has provided a crucial service to our community by overseeing person-to-person exchanges, providing educational presentations on Japanese language and culture, offering translation services and strategic counsel to local businesses and nonprofits, and more.
This work is made possible by the tireless efforts of our volunteer committee members, who share a passion for advancing U.S.-Japan ties by cultivating friendship between Grand Rapids and Omihachiman. Our committee meets the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Schuler Books on 28th Street SE.
2019 COMMITTEE MEMBERS
- Sara Simon – Chair
- Mayumi Balfour
- Anette Baron
- Don Bultman
- Dr. Naoki Kanaboshi
- Ken Marotte
To receive updates on J-Chat dates and topics, or if you are interested in partaking in our exchanges either as delegate or host, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay connected to our sister city news and announcements with our blog. Click here to read our blog.