Weekend in Nagahama

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We enjoyed a summer get-away at Lake Biwa this weekend. I randomly selected a destination - Nagahama in Shiga-ken - from one of the travel websites and it turned out to be a great place to visit.

The town was bustling with tourism and activities, but not in the usual Japanese "100 omiyage shops in a row" way. This town was full of historical buildings and artisans' ateliers. There is an active hive of glass artists who have decorated part of the town with stained glass lights and kaleidoscopes. Shops around Kurokabe square sell wares ranging from lampwork beads to mouth-blown bowls and just about everything in between. I especially liked the etched constellation glasses, but didn't buy them. We enjoyed a lesson in burnerwork at the Kurokabe Glass Workshop, and made our own swirled glass drops.

There were interesting shops all along the fully occupied shotengai - a juice bar with handwritten illustrated signs touting the benefits of each ingredient, two independent clothing designers, two shops with minerals and stones, a bookstore where a writers group was meeting, a showcase of Senen-Q where a quick burn made me feel much better, a store selling nothing but tasty bean and nut snacks, a tiny old shop full of incense, a place with beautiful umbrellas, and of course a few omiyage shops for the unimaginative visitors.


Nagahama has good food specialties, too: red konyaku, biwa masu (trout) fresh form the lake, saba somen, and chocolate-filled mochi all of which were quite delicious. They also have a local brewery that makes some very respectable beers including a golden ale that tasted faintly of teaberry.

Saturday night was a confluence of festivals (yukata, eco, & beer) and people were out having fun. We learned how to tie some new furoshiki wraps, watched awesomely costumed dance teams going through their paces in the street, met three young American men doing a summer program at the bunraku puppet school just outside town, and ran into a bunch of long-time Kyoto gaijin who were biking around Biwako. Drank with them at the beer festival before tottering our way back to the hotel.


Sunday morning we took the ferry over to Chikubushima to climb the stairs to the top of the temple complex. I had my hoop with me, but there wasn't any room at the temple to use it. When we got back down to the pier, I hooped for half an hour while we waited for the ferry. I got a lot of strange looks and eventually convinced some people to share the fun - members of the band I'd danced to at the festival the night before.

It really was a refreshing weekend away. When we left Nagahama on Monday morning, it felt like we'd been gone a lot longer than two days. What a treat.

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A puppet school! Sounds like a fantastic place to me. So many independent shops and artists. Glad you had a good getaway. And...your hair is cute! I didn't know you cut it.

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