Hikone Travel Guide
A small city of just 100,000 people, Hikone is home to an Edo Period castle. One of the few original structures left (not reconstructions completed using inauthentic methods), it draws its share of tourists during the year.
This doesn’t take away from its tranquility, though – if you live in nearby Kyoto, a trip to Hikone makes for a wonderful city break/day trip.
Come check out our Hikone intrepid travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Hikone, Japan.
After getting settled in Hikone, make Hikone Castle your first stop in this historic city. Unlike the many Japanese castles that succumbed to the ravages of the Meiji Restoration or the many wars of the past, this specimen has made it through to the present day in one piece.
Set on a hill high above the surrounding area, this Edo Period keep has been around since 1622. It served its purpose until 1868 when the Meiji Restoration mandated its closure. Thanks to the diligence of its caretakers (and luck, especially during the Second World War), most of its buildings have gotten through the years with only preventative maintenance being done to them.
Thanks to the multiple styles of architecture contained within this structure, it has been named a national treasure, so be sure not to miss this attraction during your time in Hikone.
Once you have finished exploring the main structure, spend some time learning about this keep’s history at the Hikone Castle Museum. Situated in the structure where the local lord both lived and conducted official government business, this institution contains exhibits which show off armour, weapons, decorative crafts, books, and documents that were used throughout the Edo Period.
In addition to this, several rooms have been made up to appear as they would have during the time when the lord of the castle called this place his home. One of these spaces contains a performance stage, where plays are held during the spring months.
Hikone Castle wasn’t the royal keep in the Hikone area. Another once stood nearby, but now, only ruins mark where Sawayama Castle once existed. Once the domain of Ii Naomasa, a shogun that ruled the region before the start of the Edo Period, it was razed after the forces of this castle lost a decisive battle at the turn of the 17th century.
Located a 10-minute walk away from Hikone station, the paths that lead to and through these overgrown ruins are lined with trees that are ablaze with colour in fall. If you are in the area during this season, be sure to pay a visit.
Those looking to drop by a religious point of interest during their time in Hikone should put Ryotanji Temple on their to-see list. Although it does cost roughly 400 yen to enter, the peaceful ambience of this Buddhist temple is worth the price of admission.
Within, you’ll find a simple interior with a tatami floor, but it is the exterior that makes this temple special. With a well-kept Zen garden, cemetery, carved artwork, and best of all, a lack of crowds, you’ll be able to find balance if you were having a hectic day prior to your visit.
Looking to take in a Shinto hall of worship before moving on from Hikone? Make room in your schedule for the Shiga Prefecture Gokoku Shrine. Dedicated to the souls of departed soldiers in the wars of the past two centuries, it is a place where locals come to pray for peace in the world.
Remembering everyone from the 19th century Boshin War straight through to World War II, it is a place that temple lovers and war history buffs won’t want to miss.
After your visit to Hikone Castle, ensure that you stop by Genkyuen Garden before leaving the area. Located adjacent to the castle grounds, it was created back in 1677 by the lord after a visit to China inspired him.
Created in the Japanese style, it features a pond with islets, with each being connected by bridges. After you have finished enjoying the brilliance of this place, there is a tea house that serves pots of the steaming drink for 500 yen, so be sure to partake if you have the time.
On your walk back down from Hikone Castle, stop to take in the Ii Naomasa Statue. Built to honour the shogun who ruled over the area prior to the Edo Period, it is a beautiful monument located in the middle of the main shopping area of Hikone.
That neighbourhood is known as Yume Kyobashi Castle Road. Featuring shops and restaurants styled to appear like buildings that would have been common during the Edo Period, it is a wonderful place to shop or enjoy a meal before retiring for the night or heading home.