Answers to many of our commonly received questions are answered below, and organized into the following categories:
About Biwako Backroads
Biwako is the Japanese name for Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Our area in northern Shiga Prefecture sits along the northeast shores of the lake. Shiga is also just north of Kyoto along the popular tourist route between Kyoto and Tokyo. The other half of our name, “Backroads,” reflects our love for the rural surroundings, which offer a refreshing sidetrack from larger tourist destinations as well as a chance to experience the nature and unique local culture and community of smalltown Japanese life.
We focus on places that would be difficult for visitors to access without a guide, so our routes don’t cover typical tourist spots. We believe this approach offers a more honest experience of everyday Japanese life. By bringing guests into our local community, our goal is to share unique local traditions and cultures, but also to help preserve and sustain them in the face of increasingly rapid modernization.
This depends on the specific tour. For example, bike tours are greatly affected by weather, so we stop conducting them in the winter season. All other tours are basically conducted year-round with a few exceptions, such as closing for the New Year holiday from Dec 30th to Jan 3rd.
We are located in Maibara city, which is centrally located on Japan’s main island and serves as a junction point connecting many nearby cities and regions such as Gifu, Nagoya, Kyoto, Fukui, Kanazawa. JR Maibara Station operates on the JR Tokaido line, and also features a Shinkansen stop. By Shinkansen, Maibara is just 20 minutes from Kyoto, and under 30 minutes from Nagoya.
About Our Tours
Most of our tours start at JR Maibara Station, where our guide will meet you just outside of the main ticket gate. Depending on your exact itinerary, if there is any alternate meet up location, we’ll be sure to confirm with you in advance.
Unfortunately we don’t provide our own baggage storage, but there are public coin lockers available inside JR Maibara Station. Your guide can assist in locating them when you meet up.
The level varies by tour, but typically include a light to medium level of physical activity. Our bike tours cover about 13-15km cycling distance. Walking tours cover a 3-5km distance. If you’re hoping for a more active workout, we also offer other customs tours such as mountain hiking, etc. Please inquire for more details.
Any comfortable, weather-approrpriate clothes and walking shoes are fine. For bike tours, however, we don’t recommend skirts or very short or flared pants. In case of rain, we recommend bringing your own rain gear, although ponchos are available as well for your convenience.
Children are welcome, but minimum age varies by tour. We accept 12 years and older for our half-day bike tour and walking & hiking tour. For our brewery town tour, all ages are welcom. Please check the child prices of each tour.
All tours includes professional guides who speak English and Japanese, equipment (bikes, helmets, rain ponchos), entry fees to various facilities, and insurance. Half-day tours generally include light refreshments, and one-day tours sometimes include lunch in the tour fee. See specific tour pages for more meal details. Tour fee normally does not include train fees, either to the meeting point or during the tour.
We have a team of trained guides who are also local area residents, and can share their own knowledge and stories of the area with you. As they are fluent in both English and Japanese, the guides also help you bypass language barriers to better interact and connect with the local culture and community.
All guides are fluent speakers of both Japanese and English. We don’t currently have guides who speak any other languages.
Yes, we’re happy to give solo tours. However, our prices start from groups of two, so our solo customers may join by paying the fee for two.
Yes, currently, all Biwako Backroads tours are private. This means we don’t combine groups together for any tours; your tour will include only the guide and your own group members.
About Reservations & Payment
As a general rule, we accept reservations 7 days before the planned tour date. However, we may be able to accommodate late bookings after the 7-day deadline if there are still openings available, so please feel free to ask.
Please request reservations through our reservation form. We will then contact you to confirm within 24 hours. With our confirmation, your reservation will be finalized. Please be aware that your reservation request submission does not finalize your reservation.
We accept cash (in Japanese yen); major credit cards or debit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, AmeEx, Diners, and Discover; as well as Apply Pay and Google Pay.
You will be asked to pay on site, directly to your guide, when you meet up and prepare to begin the tour.
Yes, we provide paperless receipts available online and delivered via email.
Yes. Bike tours in particular are most succeptible to weather cancellation. Please see our Terms and Conditions for more specific cancellation information.
Yes. We offer an equivalent half-day walking tour course to visit a small brewery town (course details here). If interested, please select the option to accept an alternate tour for weather cancellation when you request reservation via our booking form.
No. Earlier than 7 days before the scheduled tour date, you may cancel your reservation for any reason, without any fees or charges. However, we do apply cancellation fees during the 7 days before the tour date, with rates increasing each day as the tour date approaches. See Terms and Conditions for exact cancellation fee rates.
Other Misc. Questions
Yes. There are other great places to visit here and explore on your own. For example, Hikone Castle, which is over 300 years old and is now designated as a National Treasure, or the Kurokabe Square shopping district in Nagahama. Feel free to ask us for more suggestions before your visit!
As this is not a tourist destination, we have far fewer accommodations than what you will find in bigger cities, but there are a number of local accommodations here that cover a range of prices and styles. Please ask for more info, and we’ll happily advise to help you find the right place to stay!