I’ve been to a lot of castles in Japan. Some I’ve written about (like Matsumoto Castle, back in 2013) but most end up in the thousands of backlogged photos I have optimistically squirreled away hoping to “blog about it someday.”
(spoiler alert: “blog about it someday” really means “yeah, it’s probably never going to happen but I feel guilty and maybe I really will someday when I have more free time [insert forced laugh].”
So. Hikone Castle.
Hikone Castle is a gorgeous three story Edo-Period castle located on the shores of Lake Biwa, in the Shiga prefecture. Apparently, it is one of only 12 original castles left in Japan (ie, survived the post feudal era without being destroyed and reconstructed).
I’m not much of a history buff (sorry) but the general story is that in the late 1500s Ii Naomasa was awarded Sawayama castle for his help in the battle of Sekigahara. But Sawayama castle had a pretty awful location, so he decided to build a new one – Hikone castle. He died shortly after and his son, Naotsugu, finished the castle in 1622.
Hikone castle has some pretty interesting architecture and some great defensive strategies.
The inside is also (apparently) awesome… but Ryosuke and I made the mistake of visiting during Golden Week and “crowded” doesn’t even begin to describe the castle.
In fact, there was a 60 minute wait to just get into the castle itself. Which they (helpfully) pointed out as we were buying our tickets.
In the picture above, Ryosuke is pretending to be “Hiko-nyan,” the mascot of Hikone and Hikone castle. Hiko-nyan’s name is a cross between Hikone (the city) and “nyan,” the sound a cat makes in Japanese. There was this really catchy Hiko-nyan song that Ryosuke sang non-stop while we were in Hikone. Ugggghhhh.
Anyway, we didn’t feel like waiting in line for over an hour so we skipped the inside of the castle and just walked around the grounds.
And explored a smaller nearby three storied structure.
And we took pictures and chatted with a couple of the “guards” walking around.
There was a surprising number of people in historic outfits parading around the ground taking pictures with whoever wanted to snap a shot – which was nice. I later learned that not all of them were hired by the castle… some of them were just old folk who liked dressing up!
Our tickets included entrance into Genkyuen Garden.
Genkyuen garden was built on the grounds of Hikone castle in 1677. The central feature is a lake and winding path, surrounded by cherry blossom trees and nature. It was pleasant. You know, for a garden.
Ryosuke and I sat in the garden for about twenty minutes people watching and trying to imagine what it would be like to live here. All in all, it was a nice two hour trip and well worth the price of admission.
We drove by again at night and the castle was lit up.
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Open 8:30AM to 5:30PM (last entry at 5:00PM), 365 days a year.
1000 yen (castle, garden, museum)
Closest station is Hikone Station (15 min walk). You can also drive, they have parking for 500yen.