For a brief time during the Heian Era, from 667 to 672, the capital of Japan was situated on the banks of beautiful Lake Biwa at Ōtsu, now the capital of Shiga Prefecture.

Ruling from Ōtsu, the 38th emperor of Japan, Emperor Tenji (626-671), strove to complete the important Taika Reforms aimed at centralizing power of the imperial household.

The impressive Ōmi Shrine, built in dedication to Emperor Tenji, is a popular touristic destination with its beautiful red pavilions.

The shrine is also known for hosting tournaments of competitive karuta, a card-based game of concentration and speed, often played at New Year's time, and recently popularized by the manga Chihayafuru (later made into anime and live-action film). Emperor Tenji composed the first poem of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu poetry collection which formed the basis of the karuta game.

Now, with the New Year season just six weeks away, Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel is hoping guests will enjoy an opportunity to experience this rich tapestry of traditions and cultural heritage with a special hotel plan combining a stay in one of its newly renovated rooms with a truly unique photography session within the actual grounds of Ōmi Shrine.

In a special area within one of the buildings of the shrine, a platform eight tatami mats wide has been constructed with a gold-leaf folding panel and a cloth partition screen. On this stage, guests are invited to wear a replica of the jūnihitoe, an elegant and complex twelve-layered robe commonly worn by court ladies in the Heian Era. Ladies wearing this garment are depicted in many of the cards which make up the standard karuta deck. Each guest participating in the plan will have 30 minutes to take pictures.

This plan is the perfect way to enjoy your time in Ōtsu as well as Kyoto and other attractions which are less than an hour away by train.

Plan Details


Now until March 31, 2018, excluding Mondays (unless a national holiday) and excluding the period between Dec. 18 and Jan. 15


One Room, Two Occupants: 10,000 JPY per person (Lake view), 10,900 JPY ("Sky" view)

One Room, One Occupant: 16,700 JPY per person (Lake view), 18,400 JPY ("Sky" view)

Breakfast and costume fitting / photography session at Ōmi Shrine included. Price includes tax and service fees.

Inquiries and reservations: 077-521-1111

You can even catch a special taxi decorated with characters from the anime Chihayafuru to take you to your destination.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.