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James Clarke | profile | all galleries >> Kansai Sights >> Otsu tree view | thumbnails | slideshow | map

Otsu

Otsu is the capital city of Shiga prefecture. It's a very picturesque city built on the shores of lake Biwa. Only 9 minutes by regular train from Kyoto and 39 minutes from Osaka, a lot of people live here and commute Kyoto or Osaka for work.

The cost of living and restaurant eating is much cheaper in Otsu than in Kyoto or Osaka. I've had a 5 course Chinese banquet at lake front restaurant for the same price as what coffee and cake cost in a cafe with no view in Kyoto! Otsu is a great place to escape the crowds and relax with a stroll along the lake taking in the city views or go for a cruise on the lake. I really can't understand why this place doesn't get mentioned in travel guides like Lonely Planet or Rough Guides, it's top place to relax and save heaps of money.

Access to Otsu is via the JR Biwako line, although Otsu station is a bit of a walk from the lake front attractions. A closer station to the waterfront is Hama-Otsu on the Keihan Keishin and Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto light rail/tram lines. If you're coming from Kyoto or Osaka you can transfer to the Keihan Keishin Line at Yamashina (one stop from Kyoto), the trip from Keihan Yamashina to Hama-Otsu takes 14 minutes and is more scenic than JR line, the cost is 240yen. Keihan is a private railway and you can't use a Japan Rail Pass on it.

Alternatively you can change on to the Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto line at Zeze and Ishiyama from the JR Biwa-ko line or at Ostukyo on the JR Kosei line. Unlike every other Keihan line for some reason the last time I went on the Ishiyama-Sakamoto line (June 2011) they weren't accepting the private railway prepaid Kansai cards (Magnetic cars, I call them "Witch Cards" because the ticket gates which accept them have a little witch mascot on them). I'm not sure if the chipped (RFID) PITAPITA or ICOCA cards work on this line either, I'll have to check next time.

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Entertainment Complex
Entertainment Complex
Little Boats For Hire
Little Boats For Hire
A Swimming Pool and Aoyama
A Swimming Pool and Aoyama
Towards the Bridge
Towards the Bridge
Approaching the Prince Hotel
Approaching the Prince Hotel
Along the Lakefront
Along the Lakefront
Office Block
Office Block
Following the Road
Following the Road
Fishing on the shore of Biwa-ko
Fishing on the shore of Biwa-ko
Colourful building with Lake Views
Colourful building with Lake Views
Cruiser in the harbour
Cruiser in the harbour
Towards the Lake
Towards the Lake
The Green Grass of Otsu
The Green Grass of Otsu
'Thomas The Tank Engine' Tram
'Thomas The Tank Engine' Tram
Another View of Otsu
Another View of Otsu
Otsu
Otsu