– International Exchanges Start After Finding: Austria and Lake Biwa Similar in Shape –
Shiga Prefecture has been promoting tourism and cultural exchanges with the Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO) since last year. It is planning to introduce Austria’s charms by setting up a sales booth for Austrian specialty goods during the “Omi Spring Biwako Classical Music Festival 2022” at the Biwako Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Shiga, in collaboration with ANTO on April 30 (Saturday) and May 1 (Sunday), 2022 — a coordinated effort to share tourism information, sell specialty goods and so forth.
– Overview of Omi Spring Biwako Classical Music Festival 2022
Dates: April 29 (Friday) (pre-festival event), 30 (Saturday), May 1 (Sunday), 2022
Venue: Biwako Hall Center for the Performing Arts
Content: While taking thorough measures to prevent infection and spread of COVID-19, concerts will be held among distinguished artists and orchestras in large and small halls. Furthermore, sales of specialties are also planned at the booth dedicated to Austria.
– ANTO’s tweet a trigger:
On “Lake Biwa Day (July 1)” in 2021, there was an interesting tweet from ANTO’s Twitter account saying, “Lake Biwa and Austria are similar in shape.” It became a hot topic and appeared in newspapers, catching the attention of Shiga Prefectural Government officials. The exchanges between Shiga Prefecture and ANTO started after the prefectural government officials, who felt it was a “serendipitous article,” contacted the Austrian tourist office.
On July 9, 2021, the Biwako Visitors Bureau in charge of promoting tourism and products of Shiga Prefecture presented Shigaraki-yaki ceramic “tanuki” (Japanese raccoon dog) ware, a product of Shiga Prefecture’s traditional pottery industry, to ANTO as a gift. ANTO sent a thank-you tweet and hosted a voting event to pick an Austrian name for the raccoon dog figurine. It was named “Gustav” after Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). It has appeared on ANTO’s Twitter account time and again ever since, playing a part in bilateral exchanges.
According to a local media outlet handling information on Shiga Prefecture, the location of Vienna, Austria’s capital, in the country matches that of Chikubu Island in Lake Biwa. The island is one of Japan’s scenic historic sites and is known as a “power spot” (place of spiritual energy) with a mysterious temple. One cannot help but feel closer to Vienna and a fateful encounter with Austria’s capital.
– Cheering for an Austrian athlete in the women’s road cycling event at the Tokyo Olympics
After Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer won gold in the women’s road cycling race at the Tokyo Olympics on July 25, 2021, the Biwako Visitors Bureau invited ANTO officials to visit “CocoShiga,” a base in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district for disseminating information on Shiga Prefecture, on Aug. 6 and presented a bicycle-riding Shigaraki-yaki raccoon dog figurine named “Cycling tanuki-chan” to them. An Austrian section was set up there for a limited time. Similarities between Shiga Prefecture and Austria (beautiful lakes, cycling routes (e.g. Biwaichi), music and culture, pottery, lake-fish dishes, etc.) were displayed on a panel, and Austrian souvenirs and other items were introduced.
– ANTO officials visit Shiga Prefecture
On Oct. 7 and 8, 2021, two ANTO officials visited the Shiga Prefectural Government and Shigaraki in Koka City. They toured the Biwako Hall and a Shigaraki ware kiln, and experienced Shiga Prefecture’s charms such as cycling along Lake Biwa. Shiga officials who received the Austrian visitors conveyed their gratitude for wonderful discoveries and disseminating information on the prefecture. They pledged to cooperate in promoting tourism exchanges.
There is the Biwaichi Cycling Route (total distance of about 200 km) encircling Lake Biwa. It is popular among cyclists from Japan and abroad because they can enjoy cycling while feeling nature. Hoping to see the gold medalist cycling on the route in the future, a “Biwaichi invitation” was sent to her. In Austria, there is a 135-km cycling road (part of it in Hungary) encircling Lake Neusiedl, a World Heritage site. It is hoped that exchanges will be promoted through cycling once the coronavirus goes away.
– Shiga vice governor visits Austrian Embassy
In December 2021, Shiga Vice Gov. Koji Ejima visited the Austrian Embassy and expressed his gratitude for starting exchanges following tweets posted on “Lake Biwa Day,” introducing information on the prefecture and publicizing “Biwaichi” and so on. Confirming the shape of Lake Biwa, Stephan Heisler, Deputy Head of Mission at the Austrian Embassy in Tokyo, said with a touch of surprise that the lake and Austria look similar in shape. Ejima sounded him out about holding events featuring common themes on forthcoming “Lake Biwa Day.” In reply, the Austrian envoy said the two sides should go ahead and discuss specific plans. Efforts will be made to expand cooperation toward fiscal 2022 by discussing what types of exchanges can be possible.
– Event in Tokyo to share Shiga Prefecture’s charms
In a bid to increase the number of individuals interested in Shiga Prefecture, an event was held in Tokyo’s Minato Ward from March 9 to 13 to advertise the prefecture’s charms. In the PR booth, exchanges between Shiga Prefecture and Austria and relevant efforts were introduced, while Omi beef, a pride of Shiga Prefecture, was cooked in the style of Austrian cuisine called “schnitzel” and served in a cafe booth.
Source: Shiga Prefectural Government