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December 24, 2019 - Higashi Omi - Shiga Prefecture
For the morning of my fifth day in Japan, I decided to visit Higashi Omi which is located a few kilometers from Goshako Station on the Omiji Line. This town is not really on the tourist trail due to it's location. Do note that today's sites are mainly Japanese Heritage listed as Gokasho Kondo.
My first stop for the day was the Hikoshiro Residence and I've just noticed that my picture includes the person opening the gate at the start of the day. This residence costs 300 yen or 1000 yen for a 5 site combo ticket.
This impressive residence and garden were built by Hikoshiro Fujii who was given the Japanese rights to produce artificial silk. As you can expect - this allowed for large profits which could be spent on the house we see above.
My second stop for the day was the Kampo Museum which has a lot of Calligraphy exhibits. For those who find calligraphy boring - there is a lot more to this large museum which really seems out of place in the middle of the Shiga countryside.
It costs 500 yen to enter this museum and the main building is 6 stories in size - so it basically towers over every other building in the vicinity. The museum is run by the Japan Calligraphy Education Foundation and seems to have rolling exhibits. My only question is why is this place not in Tokyo or Kyoto as it would be crawling with people.
Another strange room of the Kampo Museum included old cars, European Royalty furniture and other things which seem to be suited for a palace. Note that English translations are rather slim but most of what you see does not really need translations.
The third spot I visited was the Omi Merchant Museum which costs 300 yen to enter or is also a part of the 1000 yen combo ticket. Note that this was the most disappointing of the sites as many of the exhibits were closed and the one large room open was mainly in Japanese and was language heavy. An informative English booklet was given though.
The fourth site I visited in Higashi-Omi was the Shigeru Residence which costs 300 yen to enter or 1000 yen for the combo ticket. This site was mainly paid through the owner running a dry goods store in different cities in Japan. Note that this is the only residence that has no pond - if that's something important to you.
One thing that was unexpected is when I first came to this residence the person in charge told me to wait a minute - then a tour guide ended up taking me around the 3 residences who spoke pretty good English.
The fifth stop of the day was at the Jungoro Residence which once again costs 300 yen to enter or 1000 yen as a part of a combo ticket. This family started in the merchant business as owning a department store but they made their fortune by opening stores in South Korea.
Apart from having a nice garden, there is also a large number of dolls which have been made from many of the different styles found all over Japan.
My last stop for this post was the Uhe Residence which costs 300 yen to enter or 1000 yen with the combo ticket for 5 sites. There is also a combo ticket for the last three sites for 600 yen as well.
This large and impressive villa and garden was home to one of the more wealthy families who made a lot of their money in Silk from memory. Note that the nicest garden from the last 3 sites is found here - they even got me to feed the carp!
Another thing of interest is not all of the residences which are impressive are in the hands of the local government - some are still used as residences by the traditional owners. This may change with time.
Higashi-Omi or Gokasho Kondo is an impressive little town if you like traditional merchant residences and nice streetscapes. The town is starting to be set up for foreign tourists with a good information pamphlet given and signs in English explaining prices which was helpful. In the afternoon - I made my way to Omi-Hachiman.
Hikoshiro Residence (http://www.city.higashiomi.shiga.jp/0000000103.html)
Kampo Museum (http://kampokan.com/english/)
Jungoro Residence (http://www.city.higashiomi.shiga.jp/0000000106.html)
Uhe Residence (http://www.city.higashiomi.shiga.jp/0000000104.html)
Shigeru Residence (http://www.city.higashiomi.shiga.jp/0000000108.html)
Omi Merchant Museum (https://e-omi-muse.com/omishounin-boy.html)