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I used to live in Otsu for a couple of years, and it was always very safe. There're a couple of things though that I'd describe more as annoyances.
First, those ultra-nationalist guys. It's easy to recognize them because they always travel in black vans with flags and many large Kanji characters painted on them. They usually drive slowly and play martial music very loud, so all the neighborhood knows when they're around.
The other thing that might be an inconvenience are the yakuzas. They're also easy to spot. They just look very flamboyant compared to the rest of the population. They usually have a perm hairstyle, might wear dark glasses, might wear lots of golden chains, might grow a mustache, might be missing one finger (amputated when they commited a mistake)... and if you happen to see them shirless, they're always heavily and colorfully tatooed.
In order to avoid problems with them, just make sure you're not on their way, try to keep a low profile.
Some of these yakuza guys (but not all of them) are looking for fights, so it's a good idea not to be on their way.
As for the ultra-nationalists, they're usually not very well educated people. It doesn't matter that you run into them. They might be kind of scary (and annoying) to most Japanese, but if you just ignore them, you should be okay.
Written Dec 23, 2003
I think that it is a tourist trap to go on this cruise cos it is expensive
(JPY5000 per person) with low quality food. It was a "buffet" dinner. Inverted commas because if you do not rush to the food table before everyone else does, you will end up with cheap food nobody want to try. This is because, no refill for the food. Once it is finished, no more food for you then. This is way below my expectation for a buffet.
For views on the lake, well, too dark to see for most part of the journey. Not very impressive to me. Perhaps I have been to the highlands in Scotland.
Unique Suggestions: Stand near to the food table and rush to it when it start. Expect to stand and eat.
Fun Alternatives: For that money, you can try a mini kaiseki in Kyoto.
Updated Feb 23, 2003
Lake Biwa, especially at Otsu part, is the favourite place for fishing for Kansai people. You can easily get many big and fresh fish in this lake. You can do fishing from the shore or rent small boat to go fishing at the middle of the Lake. You also can do picnic with your friends and families at the shore of this lake.
Equipment: Your fishing equipment. There are no rental for the equipment.
Written Feb 19, 2005
Favorite thing: Otsu itself is not a great tourist destination. However, it's very close to Kyoto (about 20 minutes by train), which has hundreds of places of interest.
If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Kyoto temples and museums, you might want to hop into the train and head for Otsu. This city is right in front of Lake Biwa, and you'd probably enjoy walking along the sidewalk that stretches along the shore.
For lunch, you could just buy some boxed lunch at 7-Eleven and eat sitting on the grass or one of the benches facing the lake. Or you could eat at one of the two shopping centers near Keihan Hamaotsu station.
There's also a boat restaurant that leaves from the pier near Keihan Hamaotsu station, but I've never tried it. I didn't feel attracted because they try to give the imression it's an American boat, complete with caucasian entertainers. I think they call it the Mississippi.
Nothing wrong with white people. But if you go sightseeing in Japan, I think the last thing you want to see is a Deep South inspired show.
Updated Dec 23, 2003