By Cathy Cawood
Kansai is known for its warm climate from spring to fall, and it can sometimes be difficult for a tourist to bear the heat in summer. However, there is a very simple way to take advantage of the hot weather without abandoning your sightseeing: why not take a trip to the lake?
Lake Biwa is located about half an hour away from Kyoto in the Shiga prefecture and is the biggest clear water lake in Japan (about 670 square kilometers). It's the third oldest lake in the world and hosts more than 1100 animal species. What's really nice about lake Biwa in the summer is that you can easily take a train from Kyoto station, or any city in its surroundings, and reach one of the lake's many beaches in very little time.
One of those beaches is Omimaiko beach, located at Omimaiko station on the Biwa line. The ride is direct from Kyoto Station, takes about 45 minutes and would cost you only 670¥ for each trip. The beach is a five minutes walk from the station and is very easy to find.
Omimaiko beach is a great place to visit if you want a quiet place to explore and to relax in the sun. Omimaiko is not a very populated area, neither a popular spot among tourists, so there are great chances it won't be crowded unlike bigger beaches when you visit it. The town itself is really small and cute, but don't expect the shops to be open during non-holiday season. However, there are small barbecue spots where you can enjoy a nice picnic with your friends!
The beach itself is beautiful. The water is amazingly clear and blue, and is animated by soft waves. It also happens to be quite warm for such a big lake. In the background, you can see a couple of hills fading into the horizon and there is an oyster field on the southern side of the beach. A few kilometers away, there is a jet-ski rental shop so you might have the chance to see some people drive in the lake - or maybe rent one yourself! Also, don't be surprised if you run into a cat relaxing in the sun: there are plenty of them in this area and they walk freely around town.
Overall, this place is very peaceful and relaxing. I highly recommend it if you need a break from town, and look for a nice area to take a swim on a hot, sunny day. However, think about bringing some food if you're not visiting during holiday season as most of the shops will be closed, and maybe a pair of beach sandals as the small rocks composing the sand can be a little hard to walk on barefoot in certain spots.
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