Known for its beautifully preserved old town and canals where traditional boat cruises crisscross throughout the historic townscape, Omihachiman in Shiga Prefecture’s history dates back to the 1500s when the warlord at the time, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, ordered his nephew to build a family base in Omi province.
They built a castle and town, and established it as a commercial hub which prospered due to its advantageous geographical location on the shores of the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa, and near the Nakasendo, which connected Kyoto with Edo (modern-day Tokyo).
Today, Omihachiman is about a 35-minute rapid train ride from Kyoto Station via the Biwako (Tokaido) Line. The landscape still retains that old merchant town charm, thanks to extensive preservation efforts by local residents. For an additional bonus, how about a stay in a traditional machiya outside of Kyoto?
Meet “Machiya Club – Culture & Stay, Omihachiman.”
Situated in the town center of Omihachiman and a short walk away from the canals, it’s a great place to have a taste of machiya living, with modern comfort.
Machiya Club - Culture & Stay
Machiya (町家) are traditional wooden Japanese townhouses, that can be used both as a place of business and also a residence, and built before 1950, when the traditional carpentry methods were passed over due to the enactment of a law requiring new building safety codes. Today, machiya are a reminder of Japan’s architectural past.
Machiya Club, housed in a building originally part of a sake brewery, dates back to the late Edo period. Originally beginning as a local community project, other than accommodations, there are also arts, crafts, and souvenirs housed in the same building, and you can also opt in for an experience trying on kimono, or making traditional crafts with local artisans.
Enjoying the architecture
There are two rooms in the main building, and another three in the annex, some looking out into beautiful Japanese gardens. Rooms are decorated with art pieces and also items made by local Shiga artists.
Especially charming would be the Hachiman-no-ma, a modern tatami room, huge by Japan’s hotel room standards, yet still charming with exposed rafts and the retention of old elements such as the heavy stone doors, shoji doors, and simple decor.
It’s hard not to run around with a phone snapping photos of everything and anything, but it’s also a place where you won’t even be tempted to turn on the television, as you’re sufficiently entertained by the little trinkets all over the inn.
The private dining room with tall ceilings and a glass chandelier overlooks the quiet tranquil garden, inciting a feeling of peace and joy, and is absolutely perfect for that cup of morning tea or coffee while looking into the greens.
Soaking in old sake barrels
My personal favorite aspect of Machiya Club was the bath rooms. Most rooms have their own private bathroom, with different tubs repurposed from old sake barrels. A little difficult to climb into at first try, it’s an experience to feel like a little sake koji floating in a big deep barrel, while unwinding after a day of touring the town.
Meals can be an elaborate affair here, with the inn partnering with Kolmio Café nearby for a Western-style option. They also accommodate dietary restrictions or requests if made in advance.
If you prefer a Japanese-style breakfast, put in a note when booking a room, to opt in for their breakfast from local restaurant Hisago Zushi, which serves Japanese cuisine with local ingredients sourced from around Omi.
Their Japanese-style breakfast was delicious and delivered directly to the dining room in the form of a beautiful bento, with a great miso soup to balance it out. A must-try for those wanting a traditional Japanese breakfast.
There are also other partnerships with local restaurants for dinner, and meal plans that you can book for in advance when making reservations.
Omihachiman is a rather cozy town, and it is recommended to make reservations or to plan your meals in advance as a lot of restaurants tend to close early.
The traditional and scenic townscape of Omihachiman is perfect for walks, and also a boat tour down the charming canals. Boat companies offer tours down Lake Biwa amidst the blues of the waters and the green landscapes, and you can also enjoy something different each season.
There are tons of cute little shops for those who love shopping, and for beef lovers, Omi beef, one of Japan’s top three wagyu, and known for its even marbling, is scrumptious and there are tons of restaurants around town that offer beef sukiyaki, even if closing hours tend to be a little earlier at around early evening instead of after usual dinner hours.
Other additional tips to enjoy your experience
If you’re hoping to add Omihachiman as an option while touring around the Kansai region, opt for the JR WEST All Area Passor JR Pass for Whole Japan to tour around easily without worrying about travel costs. Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara are all short trips away, and you could start off using Omihachiman as a starting or ending point.
There are also one-day tours for Kyoto if you want Omihachiman to be your travel base, or if you’re looking to pop into Kyoto just for a day.
Regardless, take a trip down Omihachiman if you are looking for a different experience away from the crowds, you might just find your new favorite city in Japan.
・Language Support: English
・Number of rooms: Total 5 rooms
・Hours: Check-in 3:00 p.m./Check-out 10:00 a.m. (Last check-in time at 6:00 p.m.)
Machiya Club – Culture & Stay近江八幡まちや倶楽部 ー文化と出会う、まちなかの宿
- Address 21 Suwaichonaka, Omihachiman, Shiga 523-0862
Omihachiman Station (25 minutes away by foot, or 5 minutes by taxi)
- Phone Number 0748-32-4672
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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