So you've always dreamt of cruising down a calm stream on a wooden boat in the Edo period, looking all pretty in your kimono as the autumn leaves rustle by the traditional Japanese houses. Well, time travel doesn't exist but lucky for you, Hachiman-bori does.
Tucked away from the busier cities like Osaka and Kyoto, Omi-Hachiman seems to be stuck in time. More accurately, the Showa Period. This 4750 metre long canal once supported the main traffic flow in the Omi-Hachiman city. It connected the castle on Mount Hachiman and Lake Biwa. The narrow width that ranges from 5-10 meters granted this scenic route an intimate atmosphere.
The canal is about a 10 minutes bus ride away from Omi-Hachiman train station. Catch the bus from berth number 3. Alight at the 8th stop, and be overwhelmed by traditional Japanese architecture. Most of these have shops selling souvenirs, local crafts and products on the first floor. You can find a kimono rental shop here as well!
If you are coming from the Omi-Hachiman train station, I suggest that you head over to the tourist information counter to get a copy of the area map and bus timings. The super friendly and informative English-speaking staff will help show you (very meticulously) how to get to wherever it is you want.
The highlight of the canal would have to be the half hour boat ride along the canal. There are no proper signs pointing to the exact pick-up location so you will have to either ask around or look out at where the boats are heading. The boat men do not speak English but the whole process of queuing, paying and getting on the boat was pretty straight forward. You basically look for the next boat timing on the chalkboard and pay just before you get on the boat.
Do note that passengers will be required to take their shoes off. There is a shoe rack on the boat provided for you. Also, the interior of the boat is very simple (just a tatami mat). Yes, you will have to sit "on the floor" for about half an hour. Other than that, it was a very pleasant experience.
The mix of black-brown wood and white painted walls of the surrounding architecture make good backdrops. This location has been used in many films and dramas like Korouni Kenshin.