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Nagahama Travel Guide: Cute Old Castle Town With Artisanal Glassware, Great Food & More!

Nagahama Travel Guide: Cute Old Castle Town With Artisanal Glassware, Great Food & More!

Date published: 24 December 2019

In the vicinity of JR Nagahama Station in Shiga Prefecture, there are many distinctive shops, including restaurants as well as glass shops lining the streets in the form of old merchant houses and storehouses evoking an ambiance of the good old days of the Edo period.

Here we will leisurely visit the Nagahama area and especially the Kurokabe Square, a spot renowned for glassware. This is an excellent place for a day trip from Kyoto or Nagoya!

Table of Contents
  1. Nagahama: Land of daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi
  2. Kurokabe Square: The main tourist attraction in Nagahama
  3. Kurokabe Glass Shop: All types of glassware from both Japan and abroad are found here
  4. Kurokabe Glass Studio: watch artisans at work!
  5. Lunch at Torikita: Locally popular Oyakodon [chicken and egg rice bowl] shop at a price you cannot beat!
  6. Marui Shokupan Specialty Shop: Long-established Local Bakery
  7. Kaiyodo Figure Museum: Showcasing nostalgic heroes of yesterday to popular characters of today!
  8. Convenient spots for taking a short rest and buying souvenirs

Nagahama: Land of daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Nagahama City is located in the northeastern part of Shiga Prefecture. It is famous for being the site where Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whose name at the time was Hashiba Hideyoshi, had his first castle as a daimyo (feudal lord).

▲Large glass mosaic of Hideyoshi and Nagahama Castle on the wall of the West Exit of JR Nagahama Station
▲ All of the small parts are made of glass. Very detailed.
▲ Statues depicting an encounter between Hideyoshi (left) and Ishida Mitsunari (right) in front of the station. Nagahama is also the birthplace of Mitsunari.

Nagahama prospered as an inn town on the Hokkoku Kaido, a highway that connected the area with Edo (present-day Tokyo) during the Edo period. Old-style houses of the period line the street giving the area a retro feeling and are a short 5-minute walk from the station.

▲The Hokkoku Kaido began in the east of Shiga Prefecture, circled up the Japan Sea coast and continued on to Niigata.
▲The old-style houses look as though they traveled through time to the present.

Kurokabe Square: The main tourist attraction in Nagahama

Many merchants came and went to Nagahama because it employed a system called Rakuichi-Rakuza [free markets and open guilds] which did not tax commercial transactions. The system was maintained after the Edo period and into the Meiji era and as it brought economic prosperity to the city, many banks established branches here.

One of these was the 130th National Bank Nagahama Branch. The wooden Western-style building was built in 1900 and due to its black plaster exterior it was commonly called the Kurokabe [Black Wall] Bank.

▲During the Meiji Era the name was changed to Meiji Bank, and during the Showa Era it was also used as a Catholic church.

In the middle of the Showa Era, large stores opened in the suburbs one after another, and Nagahama became less prosperous. At about the same time, fearing that the Kurokabe Bank would be demolished, concerned citizens in the community began a movement for its preservation by forming the Kurokabe Co., Ltd. This was the beginning of efforts to revitalize the community.

The Kurokabe Bank became the Kurokabe Glass Shop when it was newly opened in 1989.

▲The black plaster was repainted to restore the appearance of how it looked when it was the Kurokabe Bank.

The area where glass shops, workshops, cafes, and other businesses are gathered around the Kurokabe Glass Shop is called Kurokabe Square, and it is now one of the largest sightseeing spots with nearly 2 million visitors each year. Many tourists from outside the prefecture visit on holidays.

Kurokabe Glass Shop: All types of glassware from both Japan and abroad are found here

Designated a Tangible Cultural Property, the interior of the Kurokabe Glass Shop is the same as it was when it was the Kurokabe Bank. Domestic glass items are displayed on the first floor and foreign glass items are offered on the second floor.

▲ Stylish retro lamps hang from the ceiling

The same glass items will have different designs and colors depending on the country from where they come. On a fine day the glass objects are especially beautiful when bathed in sunlight.

▲ Many different types of beautiful cut glass
▲A rich selection of glass accessories in many color variations

The glass pens at Kurokabe Glass Shop are especially popular. These finely detailed works of art are made entirely of glass.

▲Grooves in the nib of the pen hold ink enabling it to be used for writing.
▲ Prices begin at 3,780 per pen (including tax). They are so cute you may want to buy all of them.

There are also flowers made of glass that will never wilt....

▲Glass flowers from the Czech Republic (prices begin at 864 yen per flower, including tax)

Cute pill cases with finely detailed flowers are sure to tickle a girl's heart.

▲ Italian pill cases (prices begin at 3,456 yen including tax)
  • Kurokabe Glass Shop
    黒壁ガラス館
    • Address 12-38 Motohama-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0749-65-2330
    • Open: 10:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (Until 5:00 p.m. November ~ March)
      Closed: Open daily

Kurokabe Glass Studio: watch artisans at work!

You can actually observe glass artisans crafting art objects in the Kurokabe Glass Studio that is adjacent to the Kurokabe Glass Shop.

▲Molten glass from a 1,300-degree furnace is wrapped around the end of a tube
▲The craftsmen quickly transform the molten glass into works of art.

Currently there are about 10 glass artisans working here. Watching the artisans blowing glass, making stained glass, and etching glass is so enjoyable that it is easy to lose track of the time.

▲ You can also buy the works made by the artisans here.
  • Kurokabe Glass Studio
    黒壁ガラススタジオ
    • Address 12-38 Motohama-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0749-65-2330
    • Open: 10:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (Until 5:00 p.m. November ~ March)
      Closed: Open daily

Lunch at Torikita: Locally popular Oyakodon [chicken and egg rice bowl] shop at a price you cannot beat!

About now it is time for lunch. There is one shop in Nagahama where you really get good value for your money in spite of being in a tourist area. So without further ado, let’s go there!

Torikita is just a few minutes’ walk along the Ekimae Avenue extending from JR Nagahama Station. On holidays and weekends there is already a long line of people waiting to get in when the shop opens at 11:30.

▲ Established in 1931. Easy access from the station.
▲All twenty seats inside are almost always fully occupied. But the turnover is fairly fast thanks to the efficiency of the owners.

The shop is famous for its Oyakodon and Kashiwanabe. These cost only 580 yen and 420 yen (tax included in both)! And you can order both dishes together for just 1,000 yen, which is really reasonable. Originally the shop served torisuki (sukiyaki made with chicken) at tables on tatami mats, but a few generations ago it switched to its current shokudo [diner] style.

▲ Various bowl and noodle dishes are also offered on the menu, but it is most famous and popular for its oyakodon. Incidentally the literal translation means “parent and child bowl”.

They kindly allowed me into the kitchen so I could observe how they made the popular oyakodon.

▲Soup stock is made by stewing chicken bones for four hours
▲Several small gas cooking plates are used, one for each order

The soup stock mixed with other condiments is put into a pan together with domestically raised chicken and onions and then cooked.

▲ A lightly whipped egg is then poured onto the ingredients

Less than 30 seconds after the egg has been poured into the pan, the contents are then slid onto a bowl of hot rice. It happens in the blink of an eye. This timing is the secret to the deliciously soft and fluffy texture of the oyakodon.

▲ The hot rice further adds flavor making this a sumptuous meal.
▲ All finished! It is also possible to ask for a boiled egg instead of a raw egg yolk to be placed in the center.

The egg and rice blend perfectly with each bite. The flavor of the chicken is gentle yet firm. Mixing the egg yolk in the center first further gives it a rich flavor.

▲ The egg is fluffy and the chicken plump. Once you dig in to this dish you can’t stop.

The Kashiwa-nabe [vegetable hot pot] has ginger in it which gives it a fresh taste. This dish also has a minimum of seasoning to allow the full flavor of the chicken and soup to come out.

▲ It goes really well with the oyakodon and provides an added depth of flavor.

The taste is out of this world! If you visit Nagahama you should really be sure to visit this shop. Try to come in the evening on a weekday as you are more likely to get a seat then.

  • Torikta
    鳥喜多
    • Address 8-26 Motohama-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0749-62-1964
    • Open: Monday, Wednesday ~ Friday 11:30 a.m. ~ 2:00 p.m., Saturdays, Sundays, holidays 11:30 a.m. ~ 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.
      Closed: Tuesdays, Obon, New Year’s holidays

Marui Shokupan Specialty Shop: Long-established Local Bakery

If you walk south along the Hokkoku Kaido from Torikita you will come to a shop with an impressive signboard.

This is the Tsuruya Pan Marui Shokupan Senmonten that opened in April 2016. Literally translated, the name of the shop in English would be “Tsuruya Table Bread Round Bread Loaves Specialty Shop”.

This shop sells only round loaves of bread. Once you see them you will never forget their distinctive round shape.

▲ Round plain bread (1 loaf 340 yen, half loaf 180 yen, quarter loaf 100 yen (all prices include tax)

Tsuruya Bread is famous nationally for its “Salad Bread”.

Various types of bread, including vegetable bread and rusks, are arranged and displayed at the front of the store.

▲There are also many types of sweets, all of which I would like to buy.

These make excellent snacks as well as good souvenirs. With so many delicious items to choose from you may want to buy quite a few.

  • Tsuruya Pan Marui Shokupan Senmonten
    つるやパン まるい食パン専門店
    • Address 15-31 Asahi-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0749-62-5926
    • Open: 7:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
      Closed: Wednesdays, end of the year and beginning of new year

Kaiyodo Figure Museum: Showcasing nostalgic heroes of yesterday to popular characters of today!

Heading back in the direction of Kurokabe Square this time we will go to the shopping district.

Here is located a figure museum operated by the world-famous figure-maker Kaiyodo.

▲The eye-catching exterior is a popular photo spot

Kaiyodo Figure Museum Kurokabe Ryuyukan is the world’s first museum devoted solely to figures. It opened in 2005 to introduce the attractions and production process of figures to everyone.

In particular, you can enjoy thousands of figures ranging from animals and dinosaurs and other creatures to nostalgic heroes, the latest anime characters and Buddhistic statues.

▲ The exhibition is changed from time to time
▲ In the shop on the first floor, there are many popular figure products and original capsule toys that can only be found here.
  • Kaiyodo Figure Museum Kurokabe Ryuyukan
    海洋堂フィギュアミュージアム黒壁 龍遊館
    • Address 13-31 Motohama-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0749-68-1680
    • Open: 10:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (April ~ October), 10:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (November ~ March)
      Closed: at unscheduled times
      Admission fee: Adults 800 yen, Children 500 yen (both prices include tax)

Convenient spots for taking a short rest and buying souvenirs

There are many good places to visit in the Nagahama area.The 96CAFE, which is pronounced “Kuro Cafe” in Japanese, and the Kurokabe AMISU are two such places located next to the Kurokabe Glass Shop mentioned earlier. There are good places to take a short rest and look for souvenirs.

▲Terrace seats at the 96CAFE

This casual cafe has a menu featuring local Shiga dishes and is open at all hours.

▲ The black Kurokabe Soft Ice Cream Cone (400 yen, including tax) has a chocolate flavor
▲Omi Beef Curry has seasonal vegetables and Omi beef in a curry sauce (1,500 yen, tax included)
  • 96CAFE
    96CAFE
    • Address 11-28 Motohama-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0749-65-4844
    • Open: 10:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (Until 5:00 p.m. November ~ March)
      Closed: Open daily

Kurokabe AMISU across the street has a large selection of special products and handicrafts from all parts of Shiga Prefecture. The items offered were selected for their fine craftsmanship.

▲The name of the shop, AMISU, means “choice”
▲These cute boxes contain the local confection called Kurokabe Komachi (540 yen each, tax included) and are perfect for gifts!
  • Kurokabe AMISU
    黒壁AMISU
    • Address 8-16 Motohama-cho, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0749-65-2330
    • Open: 10:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (Until 5:00 p.m. November ~ March)
      Closed: at the end of the year

The Nagahama area is easy to get about because everything is close together. This is a place that is ideal for a day-trip because there are so many things to see and do. Visiting the many shops you are certain to feel the history and culture of this famous old town.

Text by:Ishihara Ai

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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