Shiga Prefecture mulls name change to draw more visitors

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

What’s in a name? For Shiga Prefecture, it’s a question of identity, and one that residents will have a formal opportunity to consider changing next month.

Shiga Gov. Taizo Mikazuki said Monday the prefecture will conduct a survey in June of 3,000 residents, asking them if they feel it necessary to change the name of the prefecture, partly to raise its profile as a destination for domestic tourism, which is booming in neighboring Kyoto.

Possible names include “Omi Prefecture,” which was suggested by a local Liberal Democratic Party member. Omi is the historical name for the province, while Omi beef is prized among connoisseurs as one of Japan’s finest.

Another option is to rename it “Biwako Prefecture,” a nod to the fact that the prefecture is home to Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest body of fresh water.

The June survey will ask residents if they think the name of “Shiga” is adequate and whether they think it should be changed. It will solicit suggestions for what the new name might be. The results will be compiled by August.

It isn’t the first time the prefecture has explored the possibility of a name change. In 2010, 150 residents were canvassed on the question, but 78 percent said they liked the name “Shiga.” However, a 2013 survey by Nikkei Research showed that Shiga ranked 37th nationwide in terms of name-brand recognition.