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Balloons over Biwa make for beautiful pics

by Matthew Holmes

Staff Writer

Sleep in and you’ll miss it. Pilots are briefed at 6 a.m., and 30 minutes later, propane burners will blast and fabric will unfurl as hot-air-balloon teams soar above Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture this weekend.

From Omi-Shirahama beach, the hot air balloons hope for westerly winds to take them toward their destination, the eastern-shore town of Notogawa. Viewing from almost anywhere around the approximately 230 km shoreline is possible, with more than two-dozen crews puncturing the sky with a colorful display of their craft.

Known as “The Mother Lake,” most people in and around Kyoto drink Biwa’s water. UNESCO, through its Ramsar Convention, helps with the ecological conservation of some 1,100 species living in and around it, and at an estimated 4 million years, Biwa is listed among the world’s 20 oldest lakes.

If the weather’s bad on the beach, lift-off will be from rice fields at Adogawa-cho. If just watching isn’t enough, shortly after, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., Aoyagi Elementary School will host tethered tasters for the lucky first 150 people wanting to get a feel for ballooning.

Lake Biwa Hot Air Balloon Crossing will start from Omi-Shirahama Beach in Adogawa, Shiga Prefecture, from 6.30 a.m. on Nov. 26 and 27. The beach is 20 minutes from Omi-Takashima Station on the JR Kosei Line. Aoyagi School is 15 minutes from Adogawa Station on the same line. For more information, call (0740) 22-6111 or visit network.biwako-visitors.jp/event/event_14445_city701.html (Japanese).