Updated: Dec 22, 2022
After our road trip in Jan 2019, where we travelled from Nagoya to Yokohama, my parents requested for another one. And another road trip, here we go!
We’re starting off from Nagoya, but this time, heading up north.
1. Pick up car from Nagano Airport https://www.centrair.jp/en/
The international airport at Nagoya is Chubu Centrair International airport (code name NGO), which is built on a reclaimed island, similar to that of Kansai Airport.
To get to the Rent-a-car counters such as Toyota and Nissan, you would need to walk to the Access Plaza, and head to the ground floor (via the escalator next to the Family Mart). You can stock up drinks and food here.
Follow the red arrows in my customised airport floor map.
You can download a copy of the floor map of the airport here. [pdf link]
We rented a standard-sized car (Car type P1) from Toyota. For 5 days, we paid ¥66000.
We didn’t rent an ETC card this trip. Why? Good question. I should have - it would have made our journey hassle-free, and I didn't need to deal with so many coins all the time.
We drove straight to Hikone 彦根, a small castle town, by the shore of Lake Biwa.
Drive time: 1hr 25min.
Lunch @ Kyara
Shiga prefecture Hikone-shi Honmachi 2-1-7 [Google map link]
11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm. Closed on Tue
Parked at Kyobashikuchi Parking Lot (fee per hour) [Google map link]
Arrived 12noon - Departed 1:15pm.
Food's important - so this is the first thing we do in Hikone.
Ōmi beef 近江牛 is one of the big three Wagyu brands in Japan, alongside with Kobe 神戸牛 and Matsusaka beef 松阪牛.
Just a bit of history and geography (I’m learning as I research for this blog), Ōmi province is the name of an old province which is today’s Shiga prefecture, which Hikone is part of. In the heart of Shiga prefecture, there lies a huge Lake, Lake Biwa. The kanji characters of Ōmi 近江 means ‘an inlet nearby [the capital]’, referring to that large body of water.
It is said that Ōmi beef is one of the oldest brands of Wagyu, dating back to 400 years ago. Since then, certified Ōmi cattle are only raised in the Shiga prefecture.
Because of Hikone’s close ties with Omi beef, it is no surprise that there are so many restaurants in this town serving this prized ingredient. One of them is Kyara 伽羅, which is located along the Yumekyobashi Castle Road, a famed road which leads visitors towards Hikone Castle and gardens. [link to Yumekyobashi Castle Road website]
Walking past the Noren, and towards the front door, we felt like we’re entering a magical space. After entering in, we were seated on tatami mats and attended to by waitresses dressed in kimonos. Visually, I felt as if I was transported to Japan - ancient Japan.
I had the Omi beef Sukiyaki 近江牛 すき焼き鍋膳 (standard size, ¥2750). When it first arrived, I could appreciate the marbling of the raw thin slices of Omi beef.
In minutes, it turned into a tasty shade of brown. In moments, I finished my meal.
My wife and parents ordered the Omi beef steak rice-bowls. There are different grades of beef. The more expensive ones are the Rib Shin リブ芯 and Fillet steak フィレステーキ (¥3900 each), followed by the Roast steak ロースステーキ (¥3300). So juicy, so flavourful!
As the weather was a little bit chilly, we had two pots of Dobin-mushi 土瓶蒸し - one for each couple. The delicate dashi-based broth, accented by fragrant Matsutake mushrooms and Omi beef, really hit the spot as soon as we took our first sip.