Hikone Castle: A fun day trip in the Shiga Prefecture

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 shiga japan travel

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 shiga japan travel

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.

hikone castle shiga japan travel

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.

hikone castle shiga japan travel

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!

hikone castle shiga japan travel grace ryosuke couple

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.

hikone castle shiga japan travel

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.

hikone castle japan

HOURS OF OPERATION:

Open 8:30AM to 5:30PM (last entry at 5:00PM), 365 days a year.

ENTRANCE FEE:

600 yen (castle, garden)
1000 yen (castle, garden, museum)

ACCESS:

Closest station is Hikone Station (15 min walk). You can also drive, they have parking for 500yen.

 

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

12 Comments on Hikone Castle: A fun day trip in the Shiga Prefecture

  1. oooh, Hikone Castle looks really nice! :D

    and it’s on the right side of the Biwa lake that I might even convince my friends (and sister) to go there this summer, as we’re going to make a day trip to the Lake anyways :D

    yeah… going anywhere during Golden Week is pretty crowded (I went to Nikko on Kodomo no hi) But it’s still nice to use the free time when you can, even when there’re lots of people together with you :D

  2. “The Shiga prefecture” heehee

    I live next to “the Shiga” so it gave me a chuckle

  3. Castles are amazing. All the stories around them—aaaahhh~ <3

  4. We loved Hikone Castle! We were there on a slightly rainy day and had a great time wandering aimlessly around. There was barely anyone there so we got to go inside. It was very fascinating, but with extremely steep stairs!

  5. I was so excited when I saw that you guys were in Shiga, I wish you could have done a meetup here. I visited Hikone castle last year during Golden Week with my husband, and just like your trip, it was packed, so we didn’t even buy tickets, we just walked around the park-like area outside and took pictures from there.
    One thing, thought, it’s not “THE Shiga prefecture,” it’s just “Shiga prefecture.” Just like it’s not “the Japan” or “the Paris.” You can say say that you visited ‘the Northeastern part of Shiga prefecture’ but for some reason ‘the Shiga prefecture’ is extremely grating; I noticed you said the same thing in your youtube video about your trip here.

  6. Richard // 24 May, 2016 at 3:26 am //

    Thanks for sharing some info about a castle I had never heard of before. Looks like it is well worth seeing next time I go to Japan!

  7. It’s Castle Week in the blogosphere! Thanks for sharing. I hate standing in line, too, which is why we skipped Westminster Abbey and a few other sites in London.

    I am surprised Ryosuke didn’t insist on checking out Hikone toilets, though… Too bad! I’d have compared pictures with him. :)

  8. Gonna apply for a study abroad program in a year or two to go out to Hikone via JCMU! Really taking a liking to the area, and it’s very close to Kyoto and Osaka so I can visit those places too!

  9. Long time reader, 1st time posting. Love the blog by the way.
    When I went to Japan, I knew most other castles where under construction/repairs so I went here. Steep doesn’t even describe the level of angle of the stairs in this Castle. And they are polished wood, and you are in your socks. Great way to break your neck. If you ever watched the early 80’s miniseries shogun, they filmed in Hikone. Can’t duplicate that crazy curve to the main entrance anywhere else.

    One thing I found unfortunate was the lack of English, especially in the nearby museum. I took random pictures of items, and found out a year later that a screen they had on display showed the fashion at that time, and 4 Chinese ascetics (math, song, poetry….I forget the 4th). It was pretty rare.

    (Ryosuke, never change. Poop hats 4ever!)

  10. I found your blog/videos about a month ago… A couple weeks before heading back to Japan for the first time in over 20 years. I am back home now already (calif) and so so so incredibly sappy happy reading about your castle visit. It’s just a castle visit right? ? Love Japan so much. Thanks for sharing your life so I can stay connected far away here in the US. Look forward to catching up on your videos too! ?

  11. Gah, castles are so cool!!! <3 Thanks for sharing! :D

  12. The hikonyan song… now I can’t stop singing it!!! Hikonyan nyan!!!

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