The Hachiman-bori Canal and Vories Museum

Photo Credit: OMIHACHIMAN TOURISM ASSOCIATION


【 CONTENTS 】

A popular filming location for Japanese Samurai dramas’

The Hachiman-bori Canal
The Hachiman-bori Canal during twilight

Omihachiman is an old, historical city in Shiga prefecture to the east of Kyoto. A nephew of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who was the first unifier of Japan, built a castle here in the late 16th century. Since then the city has developed as a merchant district and a significant place for trading between Osaka and Edo (old Tokyo). Hachiman-bori is a famous canal where many Japanese Samurai dramas’ have been filmed. Film makers develop scenes using Rurouni-Kenshin (wandering samurai), in a live-action version of the famous samurai manga character.

Himure-Hachiman Shrine
Himure-Hachiman Shrine
Photo Credit: OMIHACHIMAN TOURISM ASSOCIATION

The Hachiman-bori Canal and Himure Hachiman Shrine are both important historical landmarks that signify the longevity of the town. The influence of an illustrious person who immigrated from overseas to Omihachiman 100 years ago is also obvious when we explore this city.

William Merrell Vories

William Merrell Vories traveled over the Pacific Ocean from The United States to Omi-hachiman in 1905 when he was 24 years old.

Statue of Mr. Vories
Statue of Mr. Vories
Photo Credit: Biwako Visitors Bureau

He came here to start a Christian mission and was an entrepreneur, educator, writer, architect who loved music. He introduced the western mind and culture to this traditional region through his many qualifications. He also left many monuments that are still visible today. It is noteworthy to add that he became a naturalized Japanese citizen during World War II. Consequently, the city made him its first honorary citizen in 1958 and the local people respect him as the “Omi merchant with blue eyes”.

I visited a school designed by Mr. Vories.

Hyde Memorial Hall at the Omi Brotherhood School
Hyde Memorial Hall at the Omi Brotherhood School

The following buildings designed by Mr. Vories can also be seen in Omihachiman;
The Kyu-Hachiman Post Office (upper left), The Omihachiman City Museum (upper right), Andrews Memorial Hall (lower left), The Hachiman-Shogyo High School (lower right), The Muraoka House, and The Omihachiman Church.

Vories architecture
Vories architecture
Photo Credit: Biwako Visitors Bureau

The Architecture of Vories are simple structures with a warm atmosphere. If you are interested in his work in Japan, please visit this web site (Japanese text only).

Let’s take a break at a local café.

The famous confectionery company Taneya, is based in Omihachiman city. The company has two stores in town called “Taneya” and “Club Harie”. Taneya is more Japanese style and Club Harie has a western look, both facing each other on opposite sides of the street.

Taneya and Club Harie

I dropped by “Club Harie”(Japanese text only) to visit another one of Vories’ buildings. Unfortunately I was unable to get inside the building, because visitors need advanced reservations. I visited a tea room called the Himure café, and enjoyed a cup of tea while viewing the exterior of the building and the miniature houses perhaps designed by Mr. Vories.

Club Harie

Club Harie

Nowadays, we can travel between our countries more easier than before, thanks to new technologies. To understand and respect each others cultures, we might be able to learn something from Omihachiman through its Japanese and Western traditions that began almost a century ago.

Omihachiman and Hikone (home to a castle, which is a national treasure) are very close to each other (about 15 minutes by JR train), so we recommend visiting both places in the same day.

Map

Miyauchicho, Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture

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AUTHOR

Kumo

Writer / Translator

I love travelling and tourists! Where to next? Wherever it is, I hope to find a good onsen (hot spring bath), delicious drinks, and friendly people. I enjoy telling Japanese stories in English, and it fills my life with plenty of learning opportunities!

Information

Access Take JR Biwako Line from KYOTO to Omihachiman (about 30 mins) Take JR Tokaido Line (Shinkansen) from TOKYO Maibara (about 135mins) and transfer to JR Biwako Line to Omihachiman (about 20 mins) About a 30 minute walk from JR Omihachiman Station to Club Harie Himure cafe