The Biwako Express is a limited express service run by JR West that connects Osaka Station with locations in Shiga Prefecture. There are three Biwako Express services that run on weekdays only. There is one morning service that runs from Maibara Station to Osaka Station, and two evening services that run from Osaka Station to either Kusatsu Station or Maibara Station. All services stop at Shin-Osaka Station and Kyoto Station on the way. This train is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. At Osaka Station the Biwako Express departs from Platform 10.
Table of Contents
The Biwako Express runs along the JR Kyoto Line and the Biwako Line and makes limited stops at the following stations.
Osaka – Shin-Osaka – Kyoto – Yamashina – Otsu – Ishiyama – Kusatsu – Moriyama – Yasu – Omi-Hachiman – Hikone – Maibara
The key destinations and transfer points are listed below with full fares and example journey times given from Osaka Station.
Shin-Osaka Station is the terminus of two high-speed shinkansen lines: the Tokaido Shinkansen line from Tokyo, and the Sanyo Shinkansen line from Fukuoka in Kyushu. Regular JR lines connect the station with other cities in the Kansai region, and the Midosuji Subway Line provides a link to major destinations within Osaka City.
Train fare: 810 yen
Train time: 4 minutes
Kyoto is one of Japan’s best preserved historical cities and has many sites of interest including shrines, gardens, palaces, and museums. Among the major tourist attractions here are the Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji Temple, Tofukuji Temple, the Byodoin Temple in Uji, and Kyoto Railway Museum.
Train fare: 1,210 yen
Train time: 29 minutes
The most famous temple in the Yamashina area is Zuishin-in which is known for its plum blossom grove and for the colorful Hanezu Odori dance which is performed here on the last Sunday of March each year. Transfer at Yamashina Station to the JR Kosei Line, the Keihan Keishin Line, and the Tozai Subway Line.
Train fare: 1,590 yen
Train time: 35 minutes
Otsu is the capital city of Shiga Prefecture and has a number of sites of interest including the 8th century Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Miidera Temple at the foot of Mount Hiei, or Enryakuji Temple at the top of Mount Hiei.
Train fare: 2,150 yen
Train time: 40 minutes
To visit Ishiyamadera Temple, transfer here to the Ishiyama Sakamoto Line at Keihan Ishiyama Station and exit at Ishiyamadera Station. The temple dates from 747 and there is a story that the world’s oldest novel, Genji Monogatari ,was written there.
Train fare: 2,150 yen
Train time: 44 minutes
Kusatsu’s main attractions are the Lake Biwa Museum and the Mizunomori Water Botanical Garden. Transfer here to the JR Kusatsu Line which runs as far as Tsuge Station in the city of Iga, Mie Prefecture.
Train fare: 2,320 yen
Train time: 50 minutes
Omi Hachiman has many well preserved traditional buildings and a number of elegant late 19th century and early 20th century buildings that were designed by the American architect William Merrell Vories.
Transfer here to the Ohmi Railway Yokaichi Line which runs a local service between Omi Hachiman and Yokaichi Station where it links back to the Ohmi Railway Main Line.
Train fare: 2,670 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 4 minutes
Hikone’s main attraction is Hikone Castle: a listed national treasure and one of only 12 original castles in Japan. A small area to the south of the castle has been rebuilt in a traditional Edo period style and here you can find many galleries, craft shops, and restaurants. Transfer at Hikone Station to the Ohmi Railway Main Line.
Train fare: 3,770 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 18 minutes
Transfer here to Tokaido Main Line services bound for Ogaki and Gifu, the Hokuriku Main Line for Fukui and Kanazawa, the Tokaido Shinkansen, or the Ohmi Railway Main Line. Nearby Mount Ibuki is popular for hiking, climbing, and skiing. In order to reach it, take the Tokaido Main Line and get off at Omi-Nagaoka Station.
Train fare: 3,770 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 23 minutes
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Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.