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Death and Lake Biwa

This past weekend, Justin, Taro, and I embarked on a weekend trip, excited to finally have the opportunity to snowboard/ski this season. We were hoping to get an early start on snowboarding in Shiga prefecture, but rain on the coast did not translate into snow in the mountains. High winds prevented us from any other options than leaving or waiting for the conditions to change. Having packed fishing equipment for our contingency plan, we opted to go explore the famed Lake Biwa and try our luck.

On the way we got lost and saw abandoned buildings and fading remnants of a once vibrant lakeside community. Perhaps Lake Biwa is a bustling vacation destination, but on that gray, rainy day it set the mood frequently encountered in Stephen King's short stories set in Castle Rock. Driving to the lake on a narrow, windy road through old neighborhoods, full of ancient, weather-beaten wooden houses, we were pursued by a wailing ambulance and passed the woman summoning it.

Taro had mentioned that it is against the law to catch and release black bass. If you catch one, you must kill it or throw it in a netted enclosure where it is certain to die of starvation. This regulation also applies to bluegill. Right now, there is great concern about the dwindling stocks of native fish in Lake Biwa for good reason. The bass and bluegill predate on and compete with the natives, so programs like this are essential for finding a new balance. Unfortunately, we did not contribute to eradicating anything at all.

It was really sad to see the forgotten boats, rotting and growing thick coats of algae. This pile of ripped up fiberglass (located next to the "No Littering" sign) is a sad testament to a society that prizes convenience over long-term responsibility.


The first three skulls were found at the lake, near to the fiberglass pyre and fish traps. The last one was resting underneath Sumoto Castle (on Awaji-shima).

A catfish skull.

The skull of a dog- yet another reminder of a waribashi society.

A heron skull.

An inoshishi(boar) skull, complete with tusks.

The high winds, cold rain, doomed fish, and other depressing things didn't seem to have any effect on our day. They just served as interesting things to contemplate or discuss on another road trip. We ate fish sausage "hot dogs" with curried cabbage, explored random country roads, and ended up going snowboarding at a different nearby resort. The odyssey finally ended the next morning at 7, when we finally went to sleep after drinking at Bill's Bar on its closing night. We didn't wake up until well after 3P.M., and it felt good.

Comments (4)


Wow, totally engrossingly gross. Why is the economy so crappy at Lake Biwa? Does the fishing suck? Do they stock trout? Do they stock anything at all besides dead boats and throwaway animals?
What a bleak winter scene, but it's good you enjoyed your FISH sausages! I'm worried you're turning native, adam!


Um, not to be a nitpicky bastard or nothin', but that's not a heron skull. Looks like a cormorant of some sort.
Otherwise, nifty photos. Skulls are awesome.


What you have labeled as a catfish skull is actually the fused lower spine and pelvis (the notarium and the synsacrum) of a bird.


Haha, I had no idea! Looked like a catfish skull to me... Thanks for pointing that out.

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