Needing only an hour from central Kyoto, Biwako Valley on the western side of Lake Biwa can be visited on a day trip. Standing at 1100 meters, there are activities for all regardless of age. From children to senior citizens, Biwako Valley has lots to offer depending on the period of the year.
On some weekends, special events and temporary food stalls are set up. A ten minute ropeway ride to the top offers amazing views of Lake Biwa and the surrounding town below. I visited just at the start of spring and there was still snow remaining halfway up the mountain. However, it was very foggy that morning and the staff advised that generally the skies in the afternoons are usually clearer than the mornings in spring. There is a huge buffet restaurant with more than thirty varieties of food made from seasonal and the area’s specialties. It was packed with tour groups during peak hours, hence advisable to drop by before lunch.
There are two main seasons, the winter season and the green season. In winter, Biwako Valley turns into a snow resort boasting eight different courses, which are suitable for beginners to advanced skiers and snowboarders. For non-Japanese speaking ski and snowboarding learners, there are lessons conducted in English as well.
In the green season (from April to middle of December), a host of summer activities like zip lining and sky walking cater to the adventurous. For more children or family orientated activities, try walking horizontally on a rock wall, riding a bicycle without pedals for children, water slides or swinging on hand-made wooden swings. There are even the nostalgic children games like hula hoops or soccer balls for rent. Pets are not forgotten. In the midst of all the natural greenery lies a dog run, which has vast open spaces for dogs to expend their energy for some exercise.
Amidst the wide-ranging activities, having a good meal usually takes a back seat. Do take a break and enjoy the spectacular view while having a good cup of tea or coffee or their own bread or sandwiches at the Biwako Terrace Cafe.
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I still clearly remember the day I first landed in Japan, and since then it has been my goal to set foot in all 47 prefectures. I try to look for less touristy areas, preferring the countryside to the city. I'm always amazed by the many Haagen Dazs and ice cream flavors available only in Japan.