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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

Japan: Lake Yogo, Tranquility a Stone's Throw from Lake Biwa

Updated: Mar 8

Lake Yogo, often referred to as the "Mirror of the Sky," is a small lake located north of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Although much smaller than Lake Biwa, it maintains a close and interesting relationship with the latter, both geologically and in historical and cultural terms. Another gem for minimalist lake photography.

Japan: Lake Yogo, Tranquility a Stone's Throw from Lake Biwa

Relationship with Lake Biwa

Geologically, Lake Yogo and Lake Biwa are both situated in a region characterized by significant tectonic activity. Lake Yogo is considered a caldera lake, formed in the crater of an extinct volcano. Although their formation is not directly connected, the presence of these two lakes in the same geological region indicates the intense volcanic and tectonic activity that has shaped the landscape of this part of Japan.

History and Culture

Historically and culturally, Lake Yogo is known for its legends and folklore. One of the most famous legends associated with this lake is that of the "Nure-Onna," a mythical creature similar to a mermaid or serpent. This legend, like many others associated with lakes and waterways in Japan, reflects the cultural importance of water and natural landscapes in Japanese mythology.

Ecological Importance

Though smaller, Lake Yogo also plays a significant role in the local ecosystem. It is home to various species of plants and animals, contributing to the biodiversity of the region. Its proximity to Lake Biwa means that the two lakes can share certain species or ecological characteristics. Its ecosystem resonates with that of the Wetland located to the north of Biwa, although it is less characterized by its depth and size. Read my article on this subject.

Equipment: NISI Filter Kit. High-definition circular ND filters, waterproof, stain proof, and anti-scratch. The reference brand for long exposures. Comes with a carrying bag. Check it out here.

Winter Destination

For visitors and photographers, Lake Yogo offers an interesting contrast to the vast Lake Biwa. Its smaller size and tranquil setting provide a different perspective on the landscape of Shiga Prefecture. For a photographer specialized in minimalist and timeless landscapes, Lake Yogo offers a peaceful and less explored backdrop compared to the larger and more frequented Lake Biwa.

Naturally, and as always, it is in winter that one should preferably visit to fully appreciate the unique and soothing atmosphere of the place. The circumference of Lake Yogo is about 6 kilometers, making it entirely possible to walk around it. This is something I highly recommend, especially if you venture there on a snowy day. The spectacle is grand, and the absence of noise is almost unreal.

The road is very narrow, and it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to pass another vehicle when snow is piled along the road by maintenance services. Having experienced reversing for several hundred meters in a snowstorm without visibility, I can only strongly recommend leaving your vehicle at the entrance in the free parking lot.

What to Photograph on the Shores of Yogo

The photographic subjects along Lake Yogo are relatively limited and highly dependent on the light available during your visit. Several interesting trees dot the shore, and the mountainous background adds character to the images.

At the southern end of the lake, there is an interesting structure for long exposure enthusiasts. It's part of a technical pumping station and consists of a multitude of wooden poles connected by ropes. However, it can be quite difficult to approach if the snow is abundant.

In Japan, during winter, one never really knows where one is stepping when walking in thick snow. On numerous occasions, I have suddenly sunk a meter or more to find my feet in an icy stream that was simply covered by a snow bridge. It's impossible to predict...

And believe me, it's a wake-up call. Not to mention that you have to continue walking with water-filled shoes in freezing conditions. It's nothing serious, but it's very unpleasant for photographing afterwards, especially when you have to remain still for long minutes.

Regardless, Lake Yogo is highly recommended as a detour for photography or simply for a walk in a peaceful setting. You won't find temples or shrines there, but rather a pleasant and natural atmosphere in a green setting with Mount Ohira Yama as a backdrop.

Useful Information

Lake Yogo is located 15 kilometers from the Kohoku Mizutori service station, where you will likely stop to photograph the Biwako Wetland. Parking is free, and you will find facilities to refresh or warm up. This is especially appreciated in winter.

Once you arrive on the shore of Yogo, you will also find a tourist center. Note that the approach is from the north of the lake via National Route 365.

Finally, if you visit in the spring, you will also pass near a beautiful garden of blue hydrangeas, directly on the shore of Lake Yogo, which is worth a visit.

My equipment: GITZO Mountaineer S3. The ultra-stable and lightweight carbon tripod. The ultimate reference for landscape photography and long exposures. A purchase for a lifetime. Check it out here.


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