Canals at Dusk

A man punts to where he will leave his boat for the night.

A man punts to where he will leave his boat for the night.

A short 30 minute train ride from Kyoto, Omihachiman has an air of quiet culture, that belies its history as a samurai stronghold, and a contemporary pilgrimage site for hordes seeking German cake.

The remains of the Hachiman castle moat, transformed into the canal system of today.

The remains of the Hachiman castle moat, transformed into the canal system of today.

Over the last few centuries, the canals have been at different times bastions of castle defense, hubs of busy commerce and sewers before a prescient push by local merchants started the campaign for renewal. The beautiful (much cleaner) canals of Hachiman moat can today be enjoyed on foot, or in a small tour boat.

Fallen autumn foliage speckles the water.

Fallen autumn foliage speckles the water.

During the day, these stepping stones are frequently filled with the chairs and equipment of watercolourists.

During the day, these stepping stones are frequently filled with the chairs and equipment of watercolourists.

Times of day and year affect the atmosphere along the Hachiman moat in different ways. Visiting on a late November evening, with the colours of the autumn leaves and sunset is definitely something I can recommend. Mid-November is also when Shichigosan, the Japanese festival celebrating children age 7, 5, and 3, is celebrated and the area was busy with well-dressed families in kimono and suits, visiting the nearby Himure Hachimangu shrine.

Himure Hachimangu shrine

Himure Hachimangu shrine

Omihachiman’s most recent claim to fame however, and one of the main reasons many Japanese outside of Shiga visit this area is due to one thing: Baum Kuchen from Club Harie.

Baum Kuchen is a cake made from rolling thin layers of cake batter on a spit. Wikipedia observes: “The characteristic rings that appear when sliced resemble tree rings, and give the cake its German name, Baumkuchen, which literally translates to “tree cake” or “log cake”. “

While Baum Kuchen is not a novel snack in Japan, (older Japanese while often give out little individually packaged cubes of the cake as snacks) Club Harie has managed through effective TV and magazine marketing to make it oshare (fancy/trendy). Despite there being Club Harie franchises dotted throughout nearby towns, like Hikone and Nagahama, the aim of many visitors is to visit the first shop, the birthplace, of Club Harie – handily located alongside the Hachiman Moat in Omihachiman.

The unmistakable lure of brick and good lighting only adds to Club Harie's oshare qualities.

The unmistakable lure of brick and good lighting only adds to Club Harie’s oshare qualities.

For those coming on the train, there is a bus from Omihachiman station that takes 5 minutes to reach the canals area. This pdf with a handy walking map recommends taking the bus going towards Chomei-ji Temple, getting down at the Obata Kamisuji stop. This pdf has some more in-depth information about the various temples and historic sights nearby, if you can pull yourself away from Baum Kuchen.

Been to Omi-hachiman, have another place to recommend in Shiga or just want to say hi, please leave a note in the comments!

 

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11 thoughts on “Canals at Dusk

  1. Nice photos. Have you tried the “fresh, just outta the oven baum kuchen”? It’s so much nicer than the usual, cold, dry, vacuum-packed ones. Served warm on a cold wintry day, it’s quite the treat with some hot tea.

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  2. A wonderful series of photographs. My favourite is the first one, I just love the serenity and peacefulness of the scenery with the man and his boat.

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  3. We just returned from a trip to Japan and visited Omihachiman and Club Harie while there. However our hosts had us cross the street and get fresh hot mochi balls, produced by the same company, rather than baum kuchen. I have little experience with mochi, but these were fantastic. I would also recommend the gondola ride to the top of the mountain for beautiful views over Lake Biwa and a lovely little hike up to a shrine at the very top.

    Thanks for your photos and writing. It is so fun to see someone else who discovered this lovely town that gets few western tourists! After 11 days in Japan, our favorite photo out of 800 is one we took of the canal with fall leaves in Omihachiman. I can totally believe that people often paint it!

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  4. Hey Felicity! I was just looking at your photos again and I noticed the plants in front of Club Harie. We noticed the same ones in their courtyard and asked our local guides what they were and no one knew. I thought they looked a little like persimmons with extra knobby bits. Do you know what they are?

    Thanks!
    Lisa

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    • Hey Lisa! Thanks for your comments! I’m pretty sure that’s called Foxface in Japan, (though it has a much more… evocative name in English). It’s very much an autumn plant, and often part of ikebana displays. ^^

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  5. Pingback: Escape Kyoto Episode 1 | Where Next Japan

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