If we love Japan for the attractiveness of its cities, for its typical architecture and for the breathtaking beauty of its landscapes, gastronomy is undeniably a reason to visit the country. The culinary offer is varied and each dish immediately gives the feeling of having been prepared with incredible delicacy. Only a short distance from Kyoto, a stay in Shiga Prefecture, home to Japan's largest and oldest lake, Lake Biwa, promises to satisfy even the most demanding taste buds. And among the flagship products of this prefecture with its authentic charm, there is the Omi beef and the unmistakable sake.

Experience culinary moments around one of the best beef in the world, the Omi beef

Lovers of good food and especially meat may have already heard about the quality of Japanese wagyu. Wagyu simply means "Japanese beef". There are several different names depending on the region, more than 200 even. The most famous types of beef are Matsuzaka beef, Kobe beef, but here we are interested in Omi beef, which is the former name of the current Shiga prefecture.

The history of Beef Omi goes back more than 400 years. It was presented and appreciated at the table of Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and later at the table of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Its name is the fruit of a long battle, since it was first introduced from the port of Kobe during the Meiji era to supply the tables of Tokyo, and was then unfairly called "Kobe beef". But the arrival of the railway lines during the 19th century allowed it to be exported to other regions from Shiga, and thus to regain its original name.

Omi beef is carefully raised in the abundant wilderness around Lake Biwa. There are now about 80 cattle farms in the area. The animals are fattened using traditional and artisanal methods and carefully selected feeds, including hay made from rice straw. Finally, producers must also ensure that these splendid black-haired Japanese steers avoid all forms of stress. One of the key places in Shiga Prefecture where you can enjoy a very good Omi beef is in the city of Otsu. After strolling through this charming lakeside town and passing by to admire the Miidera Temple, it is advisable to join a table at Matsukiya, a restaurant specializing in Omi beef and run by a house established since the beginning of the Meiji era. It is mainly thanks to this must-see address that the beef name "Omi" has been able to spread throughout the country. In this restaurant, the team takes great care in selecting and purchasing the highest quality Omi beef, which is matured at low temperatures to extract the best flavour from it. It is a nicely marbled meat, a typical aspect of Omi beef. It is also noted that the fat in the meat has such a low melting point that it melts in the mouth and has a light taste. Beef Omi is characterised by the richness of its flavours. Melting and delicious, it is appreciated all over Japan and its cuisine is enriched by its long history and know-how derived from Japanese traditions

Relaxing around the traditional and emblematic alcohol of Japan: sake

What could be more pleasant after a nice day's walk than to sit in a brasserie and relax over a drink with friends. In Shiga Prefecture, there are a variety of experiences ranging from peaceful walks on the shores of Lake Biwa to the discovery of castles such as Hikone and its Japanese garden. You can also go deep into the cedar forests, which reveal their most beautiful colours on the hiking trails of Mount Hiei.

When it's time to meet up in a brewery, it's hard to pass up on sake, the Japanese drink par excellence and recognized throughout the world. Shiga Prefecture is a place in Japan where nature has all the elements necessary to make sake. This is why one has the opportunity to taste some delicious local beverages. Sake is 80% water. It is therefore essential to use quality water, such as that found in the mountain springs surrounding Lake Biwa. The abundance of water in the region is also conducive to the cultivation of rice, another important element used in the brewing of sake.

In the towns of Otsu or Takashima, sake tasting is a moment to live, relive and share. For budding oenologists, it is an opportunity to grasp all its organic specificities and subtleties. In Shiga, it is also a perfect accompaniment to Omi beef-based dishes, provided of course that you get professional advice on which type of sake to choose.

Fukui Prefecture, adjacent to Shiga Prefecture where traditional industries have long existed, also has interesting traditional industries and cultural facilities unique in the region

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