Lake Biwa System

Photos of Lake Biwa

About Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa, located in Shiga Prefecture, is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. It is also Japan’s oldest lake, dating back roughly 4 million years, and is one of around 20 ancient lakes around the world.

The lake forms an invaluable natural environment, including more than 60 unique species, and supports the lives of 14.5 million people in the Kinki region.

Diagram of integrated system

What is the Lake Biwa System?

This is a sustainable system of interrelated activities centered on Lake Biwa, including the fishing, agriculture and forestry industries, as well as the food culture brought about by these livelihoods.

The connections between forests, rivers, rice paddies, and the lake itself are more than one thousand years old and are of the utmost value even on a global scale. In July 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) accordingly designated these connections as a “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS)”.

Lake Biwa Fishery Photos

Fishing – Traditional Lake Biwa Fishing

Eri fishing is a representative example of Lake Biwa’s traditional fishing industry, with a history dating back over one thousand years.

It is a passive fishing method that utilizes fish behavior to lead them to a trapping area (tsubo) where they are caught.

With the limited nature of aquatic resources in mind, only the necessary size and quantity are caught by this sustainable fishing method, which has been passed down to the present day.

Nigorovna Photos

Agriculture – Environmentally Friendly Agriculture

To protect Lake Biwa’s water quality and ecosystem, farmers practice environmentally friendly and organic agriculture that manages wastewater and reduces the use of agricultural chemicals and chemical fertilizers. “Fish cradle rice paddies” also support fish that swim up from Lake Biwa to lay eggs in the rice paddies.

These activities contribute to the preservation of biodiversity by protecting aquatic resources and nurturing an abundance of living creatures.

Photos of tree planting activities

Forestry – Preservation of Water Source Forests

Planting trees in the mountains surrounding Lake Biwa helps prevent flooding and drought while also maintaining the breeding area for lake fish that migrate upstream to spawn in the river.

This preservation of water resources involves not only foresters, but also various other actors, such as fishermen, local residents, and businesses.

Sushi-kiri festival photos

Food Culture – Traditional Food Culture and Festivals

Local food culture is centered around narezushi, a fermented lake fish marinated in rice, such as funazushi.

Narezushi is an important preserved food that has also been used as gifts and as offerings during festivals.

Such food culture and festivals promote strong ties among the local population and the transmission of the Lake Biwa System, which depends upon the participation of multiple actors.


Biwa Lake to Land Integrated System(GIAHS)