Five Essential Specialty Dishes to Try in Shiga Prefecture

Shiga Prefecture is full of places to see, such as Japan's largest lake, Lake Biwa. In addition to the many tourist sites, it is known as a treasure trove of specialty cuisine. This time, we picked up five gourmet food items that you must try.

1. Kamonabe (Kamosuki)

As winter approaches, kamo (mallard ducks) from Siberia arrive on Lake Biwa to pass the winter. Kamonabe (Kamosuki) is a pot dish enjoyed primarily in the area to the north of Lake Biwa, including Nagahama City. The fat that protects the kamo from the cold is sweet and seems to melt in the mouth, and the lean meat is full of umami flavor. It is served with plenty of fresh vegetables such as mizuna and negi scallions. It is in season between mid-November and March. Some restaurants serve grilled liver and sashimi in addition to the pot dish.

2. Omi Beef

This is one of Japan's most famous wagyu beef meats. It uses the historic name for Shiga Prefecture, Omi. The Omi beef cattle are nurtured with love and care in the wonderful environment of nature-rich Shiga Prefecture that is blessed with great water. Omi beef is characterized by a high percentage of marbled meat, a soft texture that seems to melt in the mouth, a rich aroma, and fine grains. Its flavors can be enjoyed in a variety of different dishes, including Japanese classics such as sukiyaki, shabu shabu, and yakiniku.

3. Red Konnyaku

Red konnyaku is commonly served in the Omi Hachiman area. Konnyaku is made from the konjac potato, a type of yam, and is generally grayish in color. Although there is no clear documentation as to why the Red Konnyaku was made red, there are various theories.
One theory is that Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), the famous warrior lord of Azuchi Castle, liked it that way. The argument is that since Nobunaga loved to be flashy and enjoyed strange things, he must have had the konnyaku colored red. The color is actually achieved with an additive called red iron oxide. The konnyaku itself is full of fiber and calcium and is enjoyed a variety of different ways, such as with miso or simmered in dashi stock.

4. Decchi Yokan

Children who historically went for decchi-boko (*1) from Omi Hachiman took yokan (*2) as gifts when visiting home. It has a light, simple sweetness with the bamboo wrapper adding an elegant, subtle aroma.

(*1)The system of sending young boys to live with craftsmen and merchants as apprentices. It was a common practice during the Edo Period (1603 - 1867).
(*2) A Japanese sweet made by adding sugar to azuki bean paste and steaming the mixture or adding agar vegetable gelatin and thickening it.


5. Funazushi

This is a traditional local cuisine of the entire Lake Biwa area. The fish used for this sushi are crucian carp, called "Gengoro-buna" and "Nigoro-buna", caught in Lake Biwa and the entrance of rivers that flow into it, while they have roe between late spring and early summer.
The sushi is made by putting down a layer of salt and sake kasu (the lees left over from sake production) in a pail and laying salted carp with the intestines removed and replaced with sake kasu on it, topped with alternate layers of rice, sake kasu, and carp. The resultant sushi is left for 2 - 3 months to ferment before eating. It has a unique aroma, texture, and flavor that is so good it may get you hooked. It goes perfectly with rice and sake.


All of these items can be enjoyed in restaurants and specialty shops in Shiga Prefecture. We hope you will give them a try.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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