9 SPECIAL PREFECTURE
Life here revolves around the pristine waters of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake. Hikone Castle, overlooking the bay, is a designated national treasure. Small boats still ply a maze of canals at Omi Hachiman, a merchant town which holds a raucous festival every March. One of the lake’s icons is the red torii of Shirahige Shrine, which seems to float in the water. And you’ll find an authentic ninja village in Koka, dating back to the 15th century.