Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ooohs and Aaahs by the Lake

Lake Biwa (琵琶湖), the biggest lake in Japan, is just a short train ride from Kyoto. At the beginning of August, Otsu, the biggest city on the shores of the lake, has a fireworks show that's worth seeing. So we decided to take a look. Plus it was a chance to check out the lake, which we had never done.

The initial plan was to go early, rent bikes and ride around the lake and then, in the late afternoon, grab a spot for the fireworks. Well, the problems is, there is no bike path or even foot path along the lake in Otsu. On the closest road to the lake, you can barely see the water most of the time. It felt like we were biking in any old urban area in Japan, so the ride lost its appeal pretty quickly. I didn't even bother to stop and take pictures of the lake.

We were gonna eat lunch by the lake but ended up at Omi Shrine (近江神宮) instead:

Squint real hard and you'll see that I'm wearing my "Hiroshima Loves Peace" t-shirt. Unfortunately, it was August 8; I was two days late.

After lunch, we cycled around town and found some streets near the JR station that reminded Yuki of side streets in Kyoto. Many of the buildings looked old school:

By 4 p.m., the main street from the station to the lake was closed to cars and food stalls were beginning to open. Lots of people were making their way down to the show. Crowd control was very impressive. Also impressive was the statue of the exhibitionist near the station:





We realized we didn't have a picnic blanket or a plastic sheet to put on the ground so we ended up spending a good chunk of time hunting one down. Back by the lake, we found a spot to our liking, laid out the plastic sheet and held it down with rocks and pins and went back to the station to return our bikes. It's great that you can just leave your plastic sheet on the ground and no one would mess with it. When we picked out our spot, our part of the lakeside park was already covered with (mostly) blue sheets.

The walk back to the park was jumble of people:

We grabbed some food and sat down on our sheet for a two-hour wait until the show. At dusk, I spotted the riverboat Michigan:

I wonder how much it costs to watch the fireworks from the boat. Finally, showtime arrived. The first few rockets were weak. I started to think that we had waited for two hours for a shitty show. And that's when the sky lit up with bursts:

I tried to get some good snaps of the show but ended up failing about 90 percent of the time. That's a horrible batting average.

The fireworks show I can compare it to is the Niigata City fireworks show over the Shinano River. I used to think that one was the most impressive. Biwako's leaves a lasting impression, too. It's worth a trip back to the lake next year.

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