The artworks are showcased in houses and factories throughout the old town district. Most of them were built in the Edo period with traditional craftsmanship. We hope you enjoy the slow pace and laid-back streets the town offers as you walk between venues.
Fuji-ya belongs to a branch of the Fujita family, whose main residence used to be where the restaurant Sennaritei is currently located. The exact year of construction is still unknown, but we can assume that this well-located and rather successful merchant house is one of the oldest buildings in Omihachiman, and that it is dated from the mid or late Edo period (1692-1867). It was already part of the Biennale in 2010 as an exhibition venue. Today, thanks to Mr Fujiki’s careful maintenance work, it has become a space that keeps the original building’s spirit alive.
Kanekichi butchers, founded in 1896 and famous for its Omi beef, owns the villa nowadays. Though the previous history of this machiya is unknown, it is believed to have been owned by a lumber merchant who prospered during the Edo period. The impressive beams of the building give it a calm and solid aspect. An additional point of interest is the light entering through the skylight in the back of the warehouse, and giving it a sense of mystery.
Just a four minute ride up the tram, the observation lodge provides a 360 degree view and overlooks the town of Omihachiman with its traditional grid layout. On the top of the mountain, the Hachiman-yama castle had a short, sad history as it fell only 10 years after construction when the lord of the castle, Hidetsugu, committed suicide by harakiri. All that remains today is a stonewall of the castle keep and traces of the nishinomaru. As you walk through the remains, witness the history of its rise and fall. You will experience of the artwork from an entirely new perspective.
The temple on top of Mt. Hachiman is the last Nichiren buddhist temple. It was built during the Azuchi Momoyama period by Hidetsugu Toyotomi’s mother (Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s older sister) and is dedicated to the soul of Hidetsugu’s bodhi. It was originally built in Kyoto, and then moved to its current location in 1961. From the temple overlook, you can enjoy superb views of Omihachiman and Lake Biwa.
The Komura House is known in the business as “Konku”. It is a contraction of the name “Kon’ya no Kuzaemon” (Kuzaemon Dyers). The first generation moved from the Azuchi castle during the Tenshô era, in 1585, and established their dyeing business in the region.
The starch would be washed away from the dyed fabric in the largest harbour of the Hachiman canal, between Shinmachi & Tamaki. Then, the fabric would be pasted to drying boards in the Komura House.
Across the country, Hachiman merchants are especially famous for their light green mosquito nets; it is believed that they were dyed in this house, as well as tatami edges and kasuri kimonos (patterned kimonos). The Kuzaemon house prospered for 19 generations, until it became a sake business during the Meiji era.
The main building was built approximately 180 years ago, during the Koka era (mid-19th century). The adjacent building (construction date unknown) is a sukiya-style structure with a traditional Japanese rock garden and was used as a retirement residence.
Ban Shoemon was a Hachiman merchant from the early Edo period, known by his trade name Oogiya.
During the Kan’ei era (1624-1644), he opened his business in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, where he sold linen, tatami mat straw covers, and mosquito nets.
Five generations later, Ban Koukei inherited the family business at the age of 18, and opened a branch in Awaji Nichome, Osaka.
He was interested in academic studies, and frequented scholars such as Motoori Norinaga, Ueda Akinari, and Yosa Buson.
Although the Ban clan took pride in the prosperity of its business, it could not survive the troubled times of the Meiji Restoration and ended in 1887.
Former OGIKICHI’s Storehouse for unrefined soy source
A signature soy sauce brewery in Omihachiman; the kura was a storehouse for mash. There was a period when the brewery produced nearly 50,000 masu of soy sauce a year, but they went out of business in the Showa period. Concrete walls were built in the storehouse, which later served as a kitchen to prepare lunch for the local school. With the concrete removed, it has now returned to the mud walls and bare floor of its original state, making it a rare and valuable building.
This large space used to be the Nishikatsu Sake brewery, a business of 300 years.
Regrettably, they stopped operating in 2008. It is the only sake brewery original to Omihachiman. In 2012 it was given the name “Machiya Club” and has since been operating as a hub for local business and promoting urban renewal. The place feels like a maze, with many rooms that were once used for various purposes involved in the process of brewing sake.
The Kita Shichiemon house served mainly as a tatami and hemp wholesale distributor beginning in the Edo period. The local daimyo, Nobunaga Oda, once ordered their tatamis for his personal use. Kita Shichiemon prospered in the tatami business and distributed mats throughout Japan until the mid Taisho period (1912-1926). Such a fine hall demonstrates the success of both the Kita Shichiemon’s business and the Omi merchants.
TERAMOTO’s Residence (BB Shop)
ローレント・フォート 藤井誠治 伊藤幸久 小曽川瑠那 草木義博 田中哲也 度會保浩
Laurent Fort / Seiji Fujii / Yukihisa Ito / Runa Kosogawa / Yoshihiro Kusaki / Tetsuya Tanaka / Yasuhiro Watarai
Teramoto’s House is believed to have been one of the first tiles factories in Omihachiman. The omoya (central area) is estimated to be 180 years old. During the Genroku period (1688~1704), the Jinbei Teramoto family from Fukakusa (Kyoto) set up a branch in Omihachiman and started the tiles business.The tiles museum next to the Teramoto residence used to be part of the factory, until it went out of business around 1980. Tools such as wood casts or spatulas used by artisans from those times can still be found in the warehouse.
After the war, the Tobashi Businesses Association and the Kawahara Choka Businesses Association merged and formed the Hikone Ginza shopping district. The Disaster Prevention Architecture Block Development Project, started in 1961, launched the construction of modern buildings in the area. The first completed building was the Ginza Theatre.
The Nomura building used to be a stationary store.
In 1876, 65 houses formed the Hikone red-light district. It evolved from a licensed red-light district and a geisha quarter, to a prostitution area, and into a bar area.
The remaining buildings remind us of those times, for instance with the typical structure of their red window bars.
TANIYAMA family’s Residence Ashigaru kumiyashiki (residence for general samurai)
The Ashigaru house under Hikone Castle was a series of houses that surrounded the castle and played a role in protecting Hikone Castle and the castle town. It is an existing Seri-gumi Ashigaru-gumi houses.
The Smith Memorial Hall is a Japanese style chapel built in 1931 on the former central moat of the Hikone castle (now the outer moat known as Sotobori). Percy Almerin Smith was an American pastor of the Grace Episcopal Church of Hikone (from the Anglican Church in Japan), who also taught English at the former Trade school of Hikone (now the Economics department of the University of Shiga).
With some financial contribution from both countries, Smith invested large amounts of his personal funds to build this celebration of Japanese and American exchanges on Christianity. It was also a way for him to express his gratitude and honor his parents.
The Keyaki Koden, the lord’s second residence, is known as the Genkyu Rakuraku-en and is designated as a national scenic spot. It was built in 1677 by Ii Naooki, fourth daimyo of the Hikone domain. Ingeniously arranged spaces such as the Great Library, the Earthquake room, the Thunder room, or the Rakuraku room, remain today. It is said that the palace’s name comes from the expressions “To enjoy the mountain and enjoy the waters” and “To enjoy the people’s enjoyment” (The character 楽 raku evokes enjoyment and comfort.). The name Rakuraku gained popularity during the Bunka era (1804-1817), when twelfth daimyo Naoaki built the Rakuraku Korekan, from which we can see Mount Sawa and the lake.
The Genkyu-en Garden is located north-east of the castle. It is a daimyo teien, a type of garden created by feudal lords in the Edo period. It was built in 1677 by Ii Naooki, fourth daimyo of the Hikone domain, and replicates lake Biwa and the Eight Views of Omi, which were themselves inspired by the Eight Views of Xiaoxiang from China.
Every year, mid-September, visitors come to experience a custom unique to Genkyu-en Garden: the “Moon gazing evenings”.
The west area of the main keep is known as the Nishi-no-maru (or west keep). A three stories turret was built at its west end, atop a 10 meters high stone wall. To the east of the turret grows a grove of cherry trees, which is especially popular in the spring during hanami season.