Japan Atlas: Nature 
Lake Biwa

Location: Shiga Pref. 

 Area: 670 sq km (259 sq mi) 

 Maximum depth: 
103.8 m (340.5 ft) 

 Annual fishery production: 
catches 2.608 ton; value 2.66 billion yen (20.5 million dollars; $1=\130) 



The Largest Lake in Japan Offers Many Riches  

Lake Biwa, in Shiga Prefecture covering 670 square kilometers (259 square miles), is the largest lake in Japan. The lake is also said to be one of the oldest in the world, dating back some 5 to 6 million years. The bottom of the lake has been and still continues to subside due to diastrophism, and so the lake has avoided being choked with sediments that rivers carry into it.  

The area around Lake Biwa was once called Omi. Adjacent to the country's political center, Kyoto, Omi district used to be transportation hub between east and west Japan since ancient times. Rice produced in regions facing the Sea of Japan were carried by ship through Lake Biwa to Kyoto and Osaka. In the Edo period (1603-1868), although the transportation of rice was switched to marine routes, various products from northern Japan were still brought to Kyoto and Osaka via the lake and as economy of the country continued to grow, water transport on Lake Biwa flourished, and Omi district thrived in commerce.  

Surrounded by mountains, Lake Biwa has long been known as a place of beautiful scenery with green mountains and crystal-clear water, and is featured in many poems and paintings. For example, the lake appears in every one of the eight selected beautiful landscapes in Omi district known as "Omi Hakkei."  

Photo: Lake Biwa in the sunset (Shiga Prefecture). 

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited. 

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