The year started off good. My first weekend back from the holidays, and fully recovered from jet lag, I hopped on the Shinkansen to visit one of my best friends in Osaka. She has been living in Osaka for the same amount of time as I have in Tokyo, so whenever I go there, I leave the planning and scheduling to her. This time I had only one request: not Osaka. Don’t get me wrong, I like Osaka with all its delicious food and crazy Dotonbori area, but I had already seen it on multiple occasions and I really wanted to explore the rest of the Kansai area. So, we got in the car and on Saturday, we ventured to Shiga-ken 滋賀県.

I had never heard of Shiga-ken before. It’s quite a rural area, and we passed by at least a dozen fields. Wherever you looked, there was green and nature. The Shiga prefecture is known for its Lake Biwa 琵琶湖, and especially the activities around the lake area. Our main goal of coming all the way out here, was taking the ropeway to the top of Mt. Hōrai 蓬莱山 to have a breathtaking view of the area. Unfortunately, the ropeway ticket sales closed at 3:30pm, and we arrived at 3:35… The frustration was real. But we tried to make the most of it. We walked around the foot of the mountain and paid a visit to the Shirahige Shrine 白鬚神社 to admire the torii gate that seemed to be floating in the middle of Lake Biwa.

On Sunday, I really wanted to go to Kyoto and find spots that were quite special and out of the ordinary, as I had already seen most of the famous tourist attractions. We arrived in Kyoto, and after devouring a delicious bowl of udon and paying a visit to a local jewellery store, we took a cab to Mt. Yoshida 吉田山 and hiked to the top to find this cafe called Mo-An 茂庵. We arrived at the top as the sun was already starting to set over Kyoto. I ordered matcha and we just stared in silence at the stunning view.

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