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Lake Biwa

lake biwa, lake biwa marriott hotel
Lake Biwa Japanese: 琵琶湖, Hepburn: Biwa-ko is the largest freshwater lake in Japan, located in Shiga Prefecture west-central Honshu, northeast of the former capital city of Kyoto2 Because of its proximity to the ancient capital, references to Lake Biwa appear frequently in Japanese literature, particularly in poetry and in historical accounts of battles


  • 1 Name
  • 2 Area and use
  • 3 Natural history
  • 4 Archaeology
  • 5 Environmental legislation
    • 51 Eutrophication prevention
    • 52 Wetlands protection
    • 53 Conservation of Reed Vegetation Zones
  • 6 Image gallery
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links


The name Biwako was established in the Edo period There are various theories about the origin of the name Biwako, but it is generally believed to be so named because of the resemblance of its shape to that of a stringed instrument called the biwa Kōsō, a learned monk of Enryaku-ji in the 14th century, gave a clue to the origin of the name Biwako in his writing: "The lake is the Pure land of the goddess Benzaiten because she lives on Chikubu Island and the shape of the lake is similar to that of the biwa, her favorite instrument"3

The lake was formerly known as the Awaumi 淡海, Freshwater Sea or the Chikatsu Awaumi 近淡海, Freshwater Sea Near the Capital Later the pronunciation Awaumi changed to the modern Ōmi as in the name of Ōmi Province The lake is also called Nio no Umi 鳰の海, "Little Grebe Lake" in literature

Area and useedit

The area of this lake is about 670 km² Small rivers drain from the surrounding mountains into Lake Biwa, and its main outlet is the Seta River, which later becomes the Uji River, combining with the Katsura and Kizu to become the Yodo River and flows into the Seto Inland Sea at Osaka Bay

It serves as a reservoir for the cities of Kyoto and Ōtsu and is a valuable resource for nearby textile industries It provides drinking water for about 15 million people in the Kansai region Lake Biwa is a breeding ground for freshwater fish, including trout, and for the pearl culture industry

The Lake Biwa Canal, built in the late 1890s and later expanded during the Taishō period played a role of great importance in the rekindling of Kyoto's industrial life, after a steep decline following the transfer of the capital to Tokyo

Lake Biwa is home to many popular beaches along the north-western shore, in particular, for example, Shiga Beach and Omi-Maiko The Mizunomori Water Botanical Garden and The Lake Biwa Museum in Kusatsu are also of interest

The Lake Biwa Marathon takes place in Otsu, the city at the southern end of the lake annually since 1962

Natural historyedit

Lake Biwa is of tectonic origin and is one of the world's oldest lakes, dating to at least 4 million years ago1 This long uninterrupted age has allowed for a notably diverse ecosystem to evolve in the lake Naturalists have documented more than 1000 species and subspecies in the lake, including about 60 endemic1 Lake Biwa is an important place for water birds About 5,000 water birds visit Lake Biwa every year

There are 46 native fish species and subspecies in the lake,4 including 11 species and 5 subspecies that are endemic or near-endemic1 The endemic species are five cyprinids Carassius cuvieri, Gnathopogon caerulescens, Ischikauia steenackeri, Opsariichthys uncirostris and Sarcocheilichthys biwaensis, a true loach Cobitis magnostriata, two gobies Gymnogobius isaza and an undescribed species of Rhinogobius, two silurid catfish Silurus biwaensis and S lithophilus and a cottid Cottus reinii14 The Biwa trout is also endemic to the lake, but some maintain that it is a subspecies of the widespread masu salmon rather than a separate species14 The remaining endemic fish are subspecies of Carassius auratus, Cobitis minamorii, Sarcocheilichthys variegatus and Squalidus chankaensis biwae14

Lake Biwa is also the home of a large number of molluscs, including 38 freshwater snails 19 endemic and 16 bivalves 9 endemic5

Recently the biodiversity of the lake has suffered greatly due to the invasion of foreign fish, the black bass and the bluegill Bluegill were presented to the Emperor and later freed in the lake as a food source for other fish Black bass were introduced as a sport fish In July 2009, a largemouth bass weighing 22 pounds, 4 ounces about 1009 kg was caught in the lake by Manabu Kurita It has been officially certified by the International Game Fish Association IGFA to tie the largemouth bass world record held solely by George Perry for 77 years


The Awazu site, a submerged shell-midden of Lake Biwa, is an important archaeological site of Jomon period It goes back to the beginning of the Initial Jomon period ca 9300 BP It lies near the southern end of Lake Biwa, close to Otsu City, at a depth of 2 to 3m from the bottom6

The site shows the use of plant and animal food resources by Jomon peoples It also demonstrates the importance of nut consumption in this period

Shell Midden No 3 is dated to the Middle Jomon period An abundance of horse chestnuts was uncovered here c 40% of the total estimated diet This indicates that, by this later period, a sophisticated processing technology was mastered in order to remove the harmful tannic acid, and make this food safe for consumption7

Ishiyama is another such site of early Jomon period on Lake Biwa6

Environmental legislationedit

Various environmental laws cover Lake Biwa:

Eutrophication preventionedit

Legislation to prevent eutrophication was enacted in 1981 and first enforced on July 1, 1982; therefore, this day is called "Lake Biwa Day びわ湖の日, Biwako no Hi" The legislation established standards for the nitrogen and phosphorus levels for agricultural, industrial, and household water sources emptying into the lake They also banned people from using and selling synthetic detergents which contain phosphorus

Wetlands protectionedit

The lake was designated as a UNESCO Ramsar Wetland 1993 in accordance with the Ramsar Convention The object of this treaty is to protect and sensibly use internationally valuable wetlands The Kushiro marsh 釧路湿原, Kushiro Shitsugen in Japan is under this treaty now

Conservation of Reed Vegetation Zonesedit

Reed colonies on the shore form give Lake Biwa its characteristic scenery The reeds play an important role in purifying water as well as providing habitat for birds and fish At one time there were large areas of reeds along the shores of Lake Biwa, which local government surveys recently found to have halved in size due to encroaching development This Shiga Ordinance for the Conservation of Reed Vegetation Zones to protect, grow, and utilize the reed beds has been in force since 1992

Image galleryedit

See alsoedit

  • Eight Views of Omi
  • Biwako Line
  • Biwako Quasi-National Park
  • Birdman Rally 1977–, the yearly televised homemade glider and human-powered flight competition
  • Biwa town, a town on the northern shore of Lake Biwa and its name was named after Lake Biwa
  • FC Mi-O Biwako Kusatsu, a football club based in Kusatsu, Shiga, facing the lake
  • Tourism in Japan
  • Lake Hamana, a lake in Shizuoka Prefecture, its old name was "distant fresh-water sea"


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tabata, R; Kakioka, R; Tominaga, K; Komiya, T; Watanabe, K 2016 Phylogeny and historical demography of endemic fishes in Lake Biwa: the ancient lake as a promoter of evolution and diversification of freshwater fishes in western Japan Ecology and Evolution 68: 2601–2623
  2. ^ "Biwa, Lake" Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias 
  3. ^ Yoshihiro Kimura 2001 Biwako -sono koshō no yurai- Lake Biwa, the origin of its name Hikone: Sunrise Publishing ISBN 4-88325-129-2
  4. ^ a b c d Kawanabe, H; Nishino, M; and Maehata, M, editors 2012 Lake Biwa: Interactions between Nature and People pp 119-120 ISBN 978-94-007-1783-1
  5. ^ Segers, H; and Martens, K; editors 2005 The Diversity of Aquatic Ecosystems p 46 Developments in Hydrobiology Aquatic Biodiversity ISBN 1-4020-3745-7
  6. ^ a b Francesco Menotti, Aidan O'Sullivan, The Oxford Handbook of Wetland Archaeology OUP Oxford, 2013 ISBN 0199573492 p181
  7. ^ Habu, Junko; Matsui, Akira; Yamamoto, Naoto; Kanno, Tomonori 2011 "Shell midden archaeology in Japan: Aquatic food acquisition and long-term change in the Jomon culture" PDF Quaternary International 239 1-2: 19–27 ISSN 1040-6182 doi:101016/jquaint201103014 

External linksedit

  • Department of Lake Biwa and Environment, Shiga Prefecture
  • Lake Biwa Environmental Research Institute
  • Ramsar site database
  • gobiwako - Travel Guide of Shiga Prefecture, Japan
  • Lake Biwa World Wildlife Fund
  • Review of Criodrilidae Annelida: Oligochaeta including Biwadrilus from Japan
  • Live Webcam of Biwako
  • Japan's Secret Garden NOVA / PBS
  • Fishing World Records

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