Welcome to Hikone, a charming city nestled in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Known for its rich history, scenic landscapes, and the magnificent Hikone Castle, this destination offers a unique glimpse into Japan’s cultural heritage.
Hikone is a city that beautifully blends tradition with modernity. Its centerpiece is the iconic Hikone Castle, a designated National Treasure that stands proudly atop a hill overlooking Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake. With its elegant architecture and well-preserved fortifications, Hikone Castle offers visitors a fascinating insight into feudal Japan.
Beyond the castle, Hikone invites you to explore its atmospheric streets, lined with traditional wooden houses and shops. The city’s deep connection to its past is evident as you wander through its historic districts, such as Yume Kyobashi Castle Road, where samurai residences and merchant houses have been lovingly preserved.
Nature enthusiasts will be delighted by Hikone’s proximity to Lake Biwa. The lake, surrounded by picturesque mountains, offers a range of outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, and hiking along its scenic shores.
Hikone’s culinary scene is also worth exploring. Sample local delicacies such as Omi beef, a highly regarded Wagyu beef variety, and savor regional specialties like funazushi, fermented crucian carp sushi.
With its blend of history, natural beauty, and culinary delights, Hikone offers a memorable experience for travelers seeking a glimpse into Japan’s past and present. So, come and immerse yourself in the allure of Hikone, where tradition and tranquility converge.
Hikone City Guide: A Brief History Of Hikone, Japan
Hikone boasts a rich history that stretches back centuries, offering travelers a captivating glimpse into Japan’s past. Here is a brief history of Hikone for travelers to appreciate:
Founded in the 17th century during the Edo period, Hikone emerged as a strategic castle town under the rule of the influential Ii clan. The city’s centerpiece, Hikone Castle, was constructed between 1603 and 1622 by Ii Naokatsu, a member of the Ii clan and a trusted retainer of the Tokugawa shogunate.
The Ii clan played a significant role in the political landscape of Japan during the Edo period. Ii Naokatsu’s son, Ii Naotaka, completed the construction of Hikone Castle and further expanded the clan’s influence. The Ii family retained control of Hikone Castle for generations, making significant contributions to the development and governance of the region.
During the tumultuous period of the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century, Hikone Castle narrowly escaped destruction. The castle’s survival was largely due to the Ii clan’s support of the imperial cause and their relationships with key political figures.
Hikone Castle, along with its unique architecture and historical significance, was designated as a National Treasure of Japan in 1952. Today, it stands as one of the few original castles in the country, showcasing the architectural and defensive features of the Edo period.
The historical districts surrounding Hikone Castle, such as Yume Kyobashi Castle Road, have been carefully preserved, allowing visitors to experience the atmosphere of Japan’s feudal past. These areas showcase traditional samurai residences, merchant houses, and streets that have retained their historical charm.
Hikone’s connection to Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, also influenced its history. The lake provided a crucial transportation route and supported the local economy through fishing and agriculture.
Throughout its history, Hikone has maintained a deep sense of cultural heritage, with traditions and customs that are still celebrated today. The city’s historical significance, as well as its natural beauty, make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a glimpse into Japan’s feudal past and the samurai era.
Hikone Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Japan
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.
Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Hikone, Japan
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.
source: japan-guide.com on YouTube
Top 33 Things To Do in Hikone, Japan For Visitors
Hikone offers a wealth of attractions and experiences for visitors to enjoy. Here are 33 top things to do in Hikone:
- Explore Hikone Castle: Marvel at the beauty and historical significance of Hikone Castle, one of Japan’s few remaining original castles.
- Visit Genkyu-en Garden: Wander through the tranquil landscapes of Genkyu-en Garden, located adjacent to Hikone Castle.
- Discover Yume Kyobashi Castle Road: Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of old Japan as you stroll along this historic street lined with traditional houses and shops.
- Learn at Hikone Castle Museum: Gain insight into the history and culture of Hikone at the Hikone Castle Museum, located within the castle grounds.
- Take a Boat Ride on Lake Biwa: Enjoy a leisurely boat ride on Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, offering scenic views and opportunities for relaxation.
- Visit Hikone Castle’s Tenshu-kan: Explore the Tenshu-kan, a museum within Hikone Castle that showcases samurai artifacts and historical exhibits.
- Experience Hikone Castle’s Night Illumination: Witness the enchanting beauty of Hikone Castle illuminated at night during special events.
- Take a Cruise on the Michigan: Board the Michigan, a historic paddlewheel boat, and cruise along Lake Biwa while enjoying the scenic surroundings.
- Wander through Matsubara Shopping Street: Shop for souvenirs and local specialties along Matsubara Shopping Street, located near Hikone Castle.
- Explore Hachimanbori Canal: Take a stroll along the picturesque Hachimanbori Canal, lined with cherry trees and historic buildings.
- Visit Konki Park: Enjoy the peaceful ambiance of Konki Park, a tranquil green space with walking paths and scenic views of Hikone Castle.
- Attend Hikone Castle Festival: Experience the vibrant Hikone Castle Festival held annually in early November, featuring parades, traditional performances, and historical reenactments.
- Discover Shiga Prefectural Hikone Art Museum: Admire contemporary and modern artworks at the Shiga Prefectural Hikone Art Museum.
- Relax at Matsubara Onsen: Unwind in the soothing hot springs of Matsubara Onsen, known for its healing properties and serene atmosphere.
- Visit Daishiji Temple: Explore Daishiji Temple, a serene Buddhist temple known for its tranquil gardens and historic structures.
- Explore Kodera Yokocho Alley: Delve into the nostalgic ambiance of Kodera Yokocho Alley, a narrow street lined with small shops and eateries.
- Experience Hikone Castle Kyokusui no En: Witness the traditional Japanese poetry event known as Kyokusui no En, where participants compose poems while sitting beside a flowing stream.
- Attend Hikone Gion Festival: Join the lively Hikone Gion Festival held in July, featuring vibrant floats, traditional music, and lively street parades.
- Visit the Hikone Castle Pine Tree Garden: Admire the ancient pine trees that surround Hikone Castle and enjoy a peaceful stroll through the garden.
- Explore Saiko-ji Temple: Discover Saiko-ji Temple, known for its beautiful autumn foliage and serene atmosphere.
- Take a Cycling Tour: Rent a bicycle and explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace, enjoying the scenic landscapes and cultural sites.
- Visit Oku-Ishiyama Hot Spring: Relax in the soothing waters of Oku-Ishiyama Hot Spring, nestled amidst the mountains surrounding Hikone.
- Experience Hikone Sweets: Indulge in Hikone’s delectable sweets, such as Hikone Manju, a traditional sweet bun filled with sweet bean paste, or Hikone Yaki, a local specialty of grilled rice cakes.
- Explore Hikone Municipal Kita Elementary School: Visit Hikone Municipal Kita Elementary School, a historic school building known for its unique architecture and nostalgic atmosphere.
- Attend a Tea Ceremony: Immerse yourself in the art of tea by participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at one of the tea houses in Hikone.
- Discover Shigaken Hikone Intangible Folk Cultural Property Center: Learn about Hikone’s traditional crafts and cultural heritage at this center, which showcases various traditional arts and crafts.
- Visit Kurokabe Square: Explore Kurokabe Square, a charming area with shops housed in Western-style buildings. Browse for handmade crafts, glassware, and local products.
- Explore Shigaken Hikone Castle Museum of History: Dive into Hikone’s past at this museum, which showcases the city’s history, culture, and the development of Hikone Castle.
- Participate in a Samurai Experience: Dress up in samurai attire and participate in a samurai experience, learning about samurai traditions, practicing sword techniques, and gaining insight into their way of life.
- Enjoy Lake Biwa Museum: Learn about the natural history and ecology of Lake Biwa at this museum, which features interactive exhibits and displays on the lake’s flora and fauna.
- Explore Hikone Lakeside Park: Take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic in Hikone Lakeside Park, enjoying the beautiful views of Lake Biwa and the surrounding landscapes.
- Attend a Cultural Event: Check the local event calendar for traditional performances, festivals, or cultural workshops that offer a deeper understanding of Hikone’s cultural heritage.
- Take a Day Trip to Nagahama: Venture to nearby Nagahama, another historical city on the shores of Lake Biwa. Visit Nagahama Castle, explore the Nagahama Bon Kouraku-en Garden, and stroll along the charming streets lined with traditional shops and cafes.
These 33 activities and attractions provide a diverse range of experiences, allowing you to delve into Hikone’s history, culture, natural beauty, and culinary delights. Enjoy your time exploring the city and creating lasting memories in this captivating destination.
What To Eat and Drink in Hikone, Japan
When it comes to culinary delights, Hikone offers a range of delicious dishes and beverages that showcase the region’s flavors. Here are some must-try foods and drinks in Hikone:
- Hikone Manju: Indulge in Hikone’s famous specialty, Hikone Manju. These sweet buns are filled with a variety of fillings, such as red bean paste, matcha (green tea) cream, or sweet potato. They make for a delightful snack or souvenir.
- Omi Beef: Savor the renowned Omi Beef, a local Wagyu beef variety known for its tenderness and rich marbling. Enjoy it as a steak, sukiyaki, or shabu-shabu, and relish the melt-in-your-mouth experience.
- Funazushi: Delve into the unique flavor of Funazushi, a traditional fermented sushi made with locally caught crucian carp. The fish is marinated in salt and rice, resulting in a distinct and acquired taste.
- Hikone Soba: Try Hikone Soba, a type of buckwheat noodle dish that is a specialty of the region. The noodles are typically served in a flavorful broth and garnished with various toppings like green onions, tempura, or sliced pork.
- Hikone Udon: Enjoy a bowl of Hikone Udon, a local variation of thick wheat noodles served in a soy-based broth. The noodles are often accompanied by toppings like tempura or green onions.
- Omi Beer: Quench your thirst with Omi Beer, a local craft beer produced in Hikone. Try different varieties, such as pale ale or wheat beer, and appreciate the quality and flavor of these locally brewed beverages.
- Omi Rice: Sample Omi Rice, a brand of rice grown in the fertile fields surrounding Hikone. Known for its high quality and flavor, Omi Rice is a staple ingredient in many local dishes.
- Local Sake: Hikone and the surrounding region are known for their sake production. Explore local sake breweries and savor a glass of Hikone’s finest sake, appreciating the craftsmanship and distinct flavors.
- Hikone Oden: Warm up with a comforting bowl of Hikone Oden, a hot pot dish consisting of various ingredients like boiled eggs, tofu, vegetables, and fish cakes simmered in a flavorful broth.
- Hikone Yaki: Treat yourself to Hikone Yaki, a local specialty of grilled rice cakes. These crispy and savory rice cakes are often topped with soy sauce or sweet miso paste.
When visiting Hikone, make sure to try these delectable dishes and beverages, as they offer a unique taste of the region’s culinary heritage. Explore local restaurants, izakayas, and food stalls to fully immerse yourself in the flavors of Hikone.
Top Restaurants In Hikone, Japan
Hikone offers a variety of restaurants serving both traditional Japanese cuisine and international dishes. Here are some top restaurants in Hikone to consider for a memorable dining experience:
- Manko Honten: Known for its mouthwatering Omi Beef, Manko Honten is a popular restaurant that specializes in grilling and serving high-quality Wagyu beef. Enjoy the tender and flavorful beef cooked to perfection.
- Hikone Castle Teahouse En: Located within Hikone Castle’s grounds, Hikone Castle Teahouse En offers a serene setting to enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony experience. Savor matcha tea and seasonal sweets while taking in the beautiful surroundings.
- Konakara Hikone: This restaurant is renowned for its wide selection of fresh seafood, including sashimi, sushi, and grilled fish. Konakara Hikone offers a cozy atmosphere and attentive service, ensuring a delightful dining experience.
- Chugoku Hanten: If you’re in the mood for Chinese cuisine, Chugoku Hanten is a great choice. The restaurant offers a diverse menu featuring classic Chinese dishes, such as dim sum, stir-fries, and noodle dishes.
- Kikuya: Kikuya is a long-established restaurant in Hikone that specializes in Hikone Soba, a local specialty of buckwheat noodles. Enjoy the handmade soba noodles served in a variety of styles, accompanied by flavorful broths and fresh toppings.
- Ichiwa: Visit Ichiwa for a taste of Hikone’s renowned Funazushi. This traditional sushi restaurant serves Funazushi, a fermented sushi made with locally caught crucian carp. Experience the unique flavor and texture of this regional delicacy.
- Kanazawa Ramen: Craving ramen? Kanazawa Ramen is a popular ramen shop in Hikone known for its rich and flavorful bowls of noodle soup. Choose from various ramen styles and toppings to satisfy your cravings.
- Café Le Temps: For a cozy and relaxing atmosphere, head to Café Le Temps. This charming café offers a selection of light meals, desserts, and beverages, including coffee and tea, perfect for a leisurely break during your exploration of Hikone.
- Kyoryori Miyoshien: Indulge in traditional kaiseki cuisine at Kyoryori Miyoshien. This elegant restaurant showcases seasonal ingredients in beautifully presented multi-course meals, allowing you to savor the delicate flavors of Japanese cuisine.
- Toraya Hikone: Finish your culinary journey with Japanese sweets at Toraya Hikone. This confectionery shop offers a wide range of traditional Japanese sweets, including wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) made with local ingredients.
These restaurants in Hikone provide a variety of dining options, allowing you to experience the local specialties, savor traditional Japanese cuisine, and explore international flavors. Whether you’re seeking Omi Beef, Hikone Soba, or Funazushi, these establishments promise a delightful gastronomic journey.
Tours For Visitors To Hikone, Japan
When visiting Hikone, there are several tours and experiences available that can enhance your visit and provide a deeper understanding of the city’s history, culture, and natural beauty. Here are some popular tours for visitors to Hikone:
- Hikone Castle Guided Tour: Join a guided tour of Hikone Castle to learn about its historical significance, architectural features, and the stories behind its construction. Knowledgeable guides will provide fascinating insights into the castle’s past and its importance in Japanese history.
- Lake Biwa Boat Tour: Take a scenic boat tour on Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake. Enjoy the serene beauty of the lake and the surrounding landscapes while learning about the region’s natural history and folklore.
- Hikone Samurai Experience: Immerse yourself in the world of samurai with a hands-on samurai experience. Dress up in traditional samurai armor, practice sword techniques, and learn about the samurai’s way of life through demonstrations and interactive activities.
- Hikone Cycling Tour: Explore Hikone and its surroundings on a cycling tour. Pedal through the city’s historic streets, visit Hikone Castle, and venture into the scenic countryside, taking in the beautiful landscapes and cultural sites along the way.
- Hikone Local Food Tour: Embark on a food tour of Hikone, where you can sample local delicacies and culinary specialties. Explore the city’s markets, food stalls, and restaurants, and savor a variety of dishes that showcase the flavors of the region.
- Hikone Walking Tour: Join a guided walking tour of Hikone to discover its hidden gems and historical landmarks. Stroll through the city’s charming streets, visit local temples and shrines, and learn about Hikone’s cultural heritage from knowledgeable guides.
- Hikone Castle Night Tour: Experience the enchantment of Hikone Castle at night with a special evening tour. Witness the castle illuminated against the dark sky and listen to captivating stories and legends associated with its history.
- Hikone Sake Brewery Tour: Delve into the world of sake with a tour of a local brewery. Learn about the sake-making process, sample different varieties, and gain insights into the traditions and craftsmanship behind Japan’s beloved rice wine.
- Traditional Craft Workshops: Engage in traditional craft workshops where you can try your hand at activities such as pottery, indigo dyeing, or calligraphy. Learn from skilled artisans and create your own unique handmade souvenir.
- Hikone Nature Hike: Explore the natural beauty surrounding Hikone with a guided nature hike. Discover scenic trails, visit serene temples tucked away in the mountains, and enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Biwa and the countryside.
These tours offer diverse experiences, allowing you to delve deeper into Hikone’s history, culture, natural landscapes, and culinary delights. Choose the ones that align with your interests and preferences to make the most of your visit to this captivating city.
Hikone Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels
When it comes to accommodations, Hikone offers a range of options to suit various preferences and budgets. Here is a guide to the types of accommodations available in Hikone:
- Hotels: Hikone features a selection of hotels ranging from luxury establishments to more budget-friendly options. Hotels offer comfortable rooms, amenities such as on-site restaurants, and often convenient locations near major attractions and transportation hubs.
- Ryokans: For a traditional Japanese experience, consider staying at a ryokan in Hikone. These traditional inns offer tatami-matted rooms, futon beds, and communal baths. Ryokans often provide exquisite kaiseki meals, showcasing the best of Japanese cuisine.
- Minshukus: Minshukus are family-run guesthouses that offer a homely atmosphere and a chance to interact with local residents. These accommodations typically have simple, cozy rooms and may include meals as part of the stay.
- Business Hotels: Business hotels cater to travelers seeking affordability and convenience. They provide basic amenities, comfortable rooms, and a focus on efficiency. Business hotels are a popular choice for both business and leisure travelers.
- Guesthouses and Hostels: If you’re looking for budget-friendly accommodations or a social atmosphere, guesthouses and hostels in Hikone are worth considering. These options often offer dormitory-style rooms and communal spaces, providing opportunities to meet fellow travelers.
- Vacation Rentals: Hikone has a variety of vacation rental properties available, ranging from apartments to traditional Japanese houses. These rentals provide a more independent and private experience, with amenities such as kitchens and living spaces.
When choosing accommodations in Hikone, consider factors such as location, proximity to attractions, transportation options, and your preferred style of accommodation. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak travel seasons or during local festivals.
Whether you prefer the comfort of a hotel, the cultural immersion of a ryokan, or the social atmosphere of a guesthouse, Hikone offers a range of accommodations to ensure a pleasant and convenient stay.
Day Trips From Hikone, Japan
Hikone serves as an excellent base for exploring the surrounding region, which offers various day trip options to enhance your travel experience. Here are some recommended day trips from Hikone:
- Kyoto: Just a short train ride away, Kyoto is a must-visit destination known for its rich cultural heritage, historic temples, and beautiful gardens. Explore iconic attractions like Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
- Nara: Travel to Nara, another ancient capital of Japan, famous for its friendly deer and impressive temples. Visit Todai-ji Temple, home to the Great Buddha, and explore the serene Nara Park, where deer freely roam.
- Osaka: Head to Osaka, a vibrant city known for its bustling street food scene, modern architecture, and vibrant nightlife. Experience the vibrant Dotonbori area, visit Osaka Castle, and explore the trendy shopping district of Shinsaibashi.
- Kobe: Journey to Kobe, a city renowned for its scenic harbor, delicious Kobe beef, and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Visit the Kobe Harborland, explore the historic Kitano district, and enjoy panoramic views from the Kobe Port Tower.
- Himeji: Take a short trip to Himeji and explore the magnificent Himeji Castle, one of Japan’s most iconic and well-preserved castles. Discover the castle’s architectural beauty and stroll through the charming streets surrounding the castle.
- Lake Biwa: As Japan’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Biwa offers a serene escape from the city. Enjoy activities such as boating, fishing, or simply relax on the lakeshore and soak in the scenic beauty.
- Shigaraki: Explore the pottery town of Shigaraki, known for its traditional ceramic production. Visit pottery workshops, admire the iconic tanuki statues (raccoon dogs), and browse the local galleries and shops.
- Ise Grand Shrine: Venture to Ise Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines, located in Mie Prefecture. Experience the tranquil ambiance, explore the sprawling grounds, and learn about the shrine’s cultural and spiritual significance.
- Nagahama: Visit Nagahama, a charming lakeside town known for its historical buildings, Nagahama Castle, and the vibrant Nagahama Castle Museum. Stroll along the picturesque streets, enjoy local cuisine, and visit nearby attractions like the Nagahama Fish Market.
- Shirahige Shrine and Chikubu Island: Take a boat trip to Chikubu Island on Lake Biwa and visit Shirahige Shrine, famous for its torii gate that appears to be floating on the water. Explore the island’s natural beauty, hiking trails, and serene temples.
- Kanazawa: Journey to Kanazawa, a city renowned for its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts. Explore the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden, visit the historic Higashi Chaya District, and immerse yourself in Kanazawa’s traditional arts and crafts.
- Takashima: Head to Takashima, a lakeside town on the shores of Lake Biwa. Enjoy water activities such as swimming, kayaking, or paddleboarding. Visit Makino Highland for panoramic views of the lake, or relax on the scenic beaches.
- Koka: Explore the ninja heritage of Koka, known for its ninja history and legends. Visit the Koka Ninja Village to learn about the art of ninjutsu, see ninja demonstrations, and try throwing shuriken (ninja stars).
- Otsu: Venture to Otsu, the capital city of Shiga Prefecture, located on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. Explore the historic Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, visit the Miidera Temple, or take a boat cruise on Lake Biwa for scenic views.
- Uji: Discover Uji, a city famous for its green tea production. Visit the historic Byodoin Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and learn about the tea-making process at one of Uji’s tea houses. Don’t forget to indulge in matcha-flavored treats.
- Kurashiki: Travel to Kurashiki, a picturesque canal town in Okayama Prefecture. Explore the beautifully preserved Bikan Historical Quarter, visit the Ohara Museum of Art, and take a scenic boat ride along the canal.
- Toba: Visit Toba in Mie Prefecture and enjoy its coastal charm. Explore Toba Aquarium, known for its diverse marine life, and visit the sacred shrine of Mikimoto Pearl Island, where you can learn about pearl cultivation.
- Mount Hiei: Take a trip to Mount Hiei, a sacred mountain located between Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture. Ride the funicular railway or hike up to the top to visit Enryaku-ji Temple, one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples.
- Amanohashidate: Journey to Amanohashidate, a scenic sandbar in Kyoto Prefecture. Take a cable car or chairlift to the viewpoint and enjoy the breathtaking view of Amanohashidate, often referred to as “The Bridge to Heaven.”
- Ine: Explore the coastal town of Ine, known for its unique boat houses called “funaya.” Take a boat tour to see the picturesque row of traditional houses on the water and experience the peaceful atmosphere of this fishing village.
These day trip options provide diverse experiences, from cultural heritage to natural wonders, all within easy reach from Hikone. Choose based on your interests, available time, and travel preferences to further enrich your exploration of the region.
Hikone Transportation Guide
Hikone offers convenient transportation options for travelers to explore the city and its surrounding areas. Here’s a transportation guide for getting around Hikone:
- Trains: Hikone Station is the main train station in the city, conveniently connected to major cities like Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. The West Japan Railway Company (JR West) operates train services, including the Biwako Line and Tokaido Shinkansen, making it easy to access Hikone from various locations.
- Buses: Hikone has an extensive bus network that covers the city and its neighboring areas. The Hikone City Bus system is a convenient way to travel within the city, with several routes connecting key tourist attractions, Hikone Station, and residential areas.
- Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Hikone, and they can be hailed on the street or found at taxi stands near major transportation hubs and popular tourist spots. Taxis provide a comfortable and convenient option for getting around the city, especially for those with limited time or specific destinations in mind.
- Rental Bicycles: Hikone is a bicycle-friendly city with several rental shops offering bicycles for exploring the city at your own pace. Renting a bicycle allows you to easily navigate the streets, visit attractions, and enjoy the scenic surroundings, including Lake Biwa.
- Walking: Hikone’s compact size makes it easily walkable, especially in the city center where many attractions are located. Exploring on foot allows you to soak in the local atmosphere, discover hidden gems, and fully appreciate the city’s charm.
- Car Rental: Renting a car is an option for travelers who prefer more flexibility or plan to explore the surrounding areas extensively. Car rental services are available at major transportation hubs and airports. However, it’s worth noting that parking may be limited and navigation could be challenging in certain areas.
- Ferries: If you plan to explore Lake Biwa and its islands, ferry services are available from Hikone Port. Ferries connect Hikone with various destinations around the lake, providing opportunities for leisurely cruises and island hopping.
It’s advisable to check the schedules, routes, and fares in advance, especially for long-distance trips or specific attractions. Transportation in Hikone is generally reliable, efficient, and well-connected, allowing you to navigate the city and venture further afield with ease.
Hikone 1 Day Travel Itinerary
If you have only one day to explore Hikone, here’s a suggested itinerary to make the most of your time:
Morning: Begin your day by immersing yourself in the rich history of Hikone at Hikone Castle. Explore the castle grounds, taking in the impressive architecture and learning about its significance. Climb to the top of the main keep for panoramic views of the surrounding area. Dive deeper into the castle’s history and artifacts at the Hikone Castle Museum.
Afterward, take a leisurely stroll through Genkyu-en Garden, located adjacent to Hikone Castle. Marvel at the meticulously manicured landscapes, tranquil ponds, and traditional Japanese garden features. Find a serene spot to relax and soak in the beauty of this picturesque setting.
Continue your exploration by venturing into Yume Kyobashi Castle Road, a historic street that transports you back in time. Wander along the street, lined with traditional houses and shops, and soak up the nostalgic ambiance. Discover unique souvenirs, sample local snacks, and immerse yourself in the traditional atmosphere of old Japan.
Lunch: Satisfy your appetite by indulging in a delicious lunch at one of Hikone’s local restaurants. Treat yourself to the regional specialty, Hikone Manju, a sweet bun filled with red bean paste or other delightful flavors. These can be found at various shops and bakeries around the city.
Afternoon: Embark on a scenic boat ride on Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake. Enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings as you cruise along the calm waters. Rent a paddleboat or rowboat for a leisurely exploration of the lake, or join a guided sightseeing boat tour to learn more about the lake’s history and significance.
To continue your journey into Hikone’s past, visit the Hikone Municipal Kita Elementary School. This historic school building showcases unique architecture and offers a glimpse into the city’s educational heritage. Explore the premises and appreciate the nostalgic atmosphere that harkens back to bygone eras.
For a soothing and rejuvenating experience, head to Matsubara Onsen, a hot spring located near Hikone. Unwind in the therapeutic thermal waters and bask in the serene surroundings. Allow the hot springs to wash away any fatigue and leave you feeling refreshed.
Evening: Indulge in a memorable dinner at one of Hikone’s local restaurants. Sample regional specialties such as succulent Omi Beef or slurp on delicious Hikone Soba noodles. Immerse yourself in the flavors of the region and savor the culinary delights that Hikone has to offer.
As the day comes to a close, take an enchanting evening stroll around the city. Make your way back to Hikone Castle, where you can witness the castle illuminated against the night sky. Absorb the magical atmosphere and capture the beauty of the illuminated castle as it stands as a testament to Hikone’s history.
This detailed itinerary allows you to delve into Hikone’s historical significance, natural beauty, local cuisine, and cultural charm. Adjust the schedule to fit your preferences and the opening hours of attractions, allowing for spontaneous discoveries and cherished moments in this captivating city.
Hikone 3-4 Days Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Morning: Start your Hikone adventure with a visit to Hikone Castle, one of Japan’s most well-preserved castles. Explore the castle grounds, admire the architecture, and learn about its historical significance at the Hikone Castle Museum. Climb to the top of the main keep for panoramic views of the city and Lake Biwa.
Afternoon: Stroll through Genkyu-en Garden, located next to Hikone Castle. Take in the serene beauty of the traditional Japanese garden, featuring ponds, bridges, and seasonal flora. Enjoy a peaceful moment amidst the harmonious landscapes.
Head to Yume Kyobashi Castle Road, a historic street lined with traditional houses and shops. Browse through the unique stores, savor local snacks, and immerse yourself in the nostalgic atmosphere of old Japan.
Day 2: Morning: Embark on a day trip to Kyoto, a city steeped in history and culture. Visit iconic attractions like Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Explore the traditional streets of Gion, known for its geisha culture, and sample Kyoto’s renowned cuisine.
Afternoon: Continue your exploration of Kyoto by visiting other notable sites such as Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), or Nijo Castle. Immerse yourself in Kyoto’s rich heritage and discover the city’s hidden gems.
Day 3: Morning: Take a day trip to Nara, another ancient capital of Japan. Begin your visit at Nara Park, where you can encounter friendly deer and explore iconic sites like Todai-ji Temple, housing the Great Buddha. Visit Kasuga Taisha Shrine, known for its lantern-lined paths and beautiful architecture.
Afternoon: Explore the traditional streets of Naramachi, a well-preserved district showcasing old merchant houses and quaint shops. Visit Horyu-ji Temple, one of the oldest wooden structures in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Experience the serene atmosphere of this historically rich city.
Day 4: Morning: Embark on a day trip to Shiga Prefecture’s Omi-Hachiman. Explore the historical district of Hachiman-bori, a canal-lined area featuring traditional merchant houses and a charming atmosphere. Visit Sakamoto, a lakeside town known for its picturesque scenery and the sacred Mount Hiei.
Afternoon: Head to Otsu, the capital city of Shiga Prefecture, located on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. Explore the historic Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, take a boat cruise on Lake Biwa, or visit Miidera Temple, one of the largest temples in Japan. Enjoy the beautiful lakeside scenery and relax in the tranquil atmosphere.
This 3-4 day itinerary allows you to experience the best of Hikone, while also venturing out to nearby cities and attractions. Immerse yourself in the historical charm, cultural heritage, and natural beauty of Hikone and its surrounding areas. Adjust the itinerary based on your preferences and the opening hours of attractions to create your perfect Hikone getaway.
Hikone 1 Week Travel Itinerary
- Morning: Begin your week in Hikone with a visit to Hikone Castle. Explore the castle grounds, climb to the top of the main keep for panoramic views, and learn about its history at the Hikone Castle Museum.
- Afternoon: Stroll through Genkyu-en Garden, located adjacent to Hikone Castle. Enjoy the serene landscapes and traditional Japanese garden features. Take your time to relax and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings.
- Morning: Take a day trip to Kyoto. Explore iconic sites such as Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and the historic streets of Gion. Immerse yourself in Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage and indulge in its culinary delights.
- Afternoon: Visit Fushimi Inari Taisha, famous for its thousands of torii gates. Enjoy the mystical atmosphere as you walk through the vibrant red tunnels of the shrine.
- Morning: Journey to Nara, known for its friendly deer and ancient temples. Visit Todai-ji Temple, home to the Great Buddha, and explore the beautiful grounds of Nara Park.
- Afternoon: Stroll through the quaint streets of Naramachi, an area lined with traditional machiya houses. Visit Kasuga Taisha Shrine and admire the thousands of lanterns that adorn its paths.
- Morning: Take a day trip to Kobe. Explore the vibrant streets of Kobe Harborland, visit the historic Kitano district with its Western-style mansions, and enjoy the panoramic views from Kobe Port Tower.
- Afternoon: Savor the renowned Kobe beef at a local restaurant or take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade.
- Morning: Discover the pottery town of Shigaraki. Visit pottery workshops, see the iconic tanuki (raccoon dog) statues, and try your hand at pottery making.
- Afternoon: Explore the scenic landscapes of Lake Biwa by taking a boat cruise. Enjoy the picturesque views and learn about the lake’s cultural and ecological significance.
- Morning: Venture to Ise Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines. Explore the expansive grounds and immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere.
- Afternoon: Visit the nearby Mikimoto Pearl Island and learn about the fascinating process of pearl cultivation. Admire the beautiful pearls and explore the island’s scenic surroundings.
- Morning: Take a day trip to Kurashiki, a charming canal town in Okayama Prefecture. Explore the Bikan Historical Quarter, visit Ohara Museum of Art, and enjoy a boat ride along the canal.
- Afternoon: Relax and unwind at a local cafe, savoring the flavors of Hikone’s local snacks and beverages. Reflect on your week of exploration and make lasting memories.
This 1-week itinerary allows you to immerse yourself in Hikone’s history, culture, and natural beauty, while also venturing out to nearby cities and attractions. Feel free to adjust the schedule based on your preferences, the opening hours of attractions, and any specific events or festivals taking place during your visit. Enjoy your week of discovery and embrace the unique experiences Hikone has to offer.
Is Hikone A Safe City To Visit?
Hikone is generally considered a safe city to visit. Japan as a whole has a reputation for being one of the safest countries in the world, and Hikone reflects this overall safety. The crime rate in Hikone is low, and visitors can feel comfortable exploring the city and its attractions without major concerns for their personal safety.
However, it’s always advisable to exercise common sense and take standard precautions while traveling, such as keeping an eye on your belongings, staying aware of your surroundings, and following any local guidelines or regulations. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances.
Hikone’s local authorities and residents take pride in maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for visitors. If you have any concerns or need assistance during your visit, don’t hesitate to reach out to local authorities, your hotel staff, or tourist information centers for guidance and support.
By staying informed, respecting local customs and laws, and using your common sense, you can enjoy a safe and memorable visit to Hikone.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Hikone?
The best time to visit Hikone largely depends on your preferences and the kind of experience you seek. Here’s a breakdown of Hikone’s weather and key events throughout the year:
Spring (March to May): Spring is a beautiful time to visit Hikone when cherry blossoms (sakura) bloom. The Hikone Castle and Genkyu-en Garden are particularly picturesque during this season. The Hikone Castle Festival is also held in early May, featuring parades, traditional performances, and a samurai procession.
Summer (June to August): Summer in Hikone tends to be hot and humid, but it’s also a vibrant season with festivals and events. The Sagicho Festival, held in March, showcases giant floats and fireworks. You can also enjoy the fireworks festivals held on the shores of Lake Biwa in August.
Autumn (September to November): Autumn brings mild temperatures and beautiful foliage, making it a popular time to visit Hikone. The colors of the leaves in Genkyu-en Garden and around Lake Biwa are stunning. September hosts the Hikone Autumn Festival, featuring traditional parades and performances.
Winter (December to February): Hikone experiences cold winters with occasional snowfall. While the weather may deter some visitors, it can be an enchanting time to explore Hikone Castle and Genkyu-en Garden in a tranquil setting. The New Year period also offers cultural events and traditions.
It’s important to note that Hikone is a year-round destination, and each season has its unique charm. Consider your preferences for weather, outdoor activities, and cultural events when deciding on the best time to visit. Additionally, be aware that popular attractions may be busier during cherry blossom season and other major festivals, so plan accordingly.
Where To Visit After Your Trip To Hikone?
After your trip to Hikone, there are several nearby destinations worth exploring. Here are a few suggestions:
- Kyoto: As one of Japan’s most iconic cities, Kyoto is a must-visit destination located about an hour away from Hikone by train. Immerse yourself in the city’s rich history and culture as you explore its numerous temples, shrines, and traditional neighborhoods. Don’t miss famous attractions such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
- Nara: Located less than an hour from Hikone, Nara is known for its friendly deer and ancient temples. Visit Todai-ji Temple, which houses the Great Buddha, and explore Nara Park, where you can interact with the deer that roam freely. Discover the tranquil beauty of temples such as Kasuga Taisha and Horyu-ji, one of Japan’s oldest wooden buildings.
- Osaka: Head to Osaka, known for its vibrant cityscape, bustling street food scene, and vibrant nightlife. Explore the lively Dotonbori area, visit Osaka Castle, and indulge in local culinary delights such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes). Don’t forget to experience the thrilling rides at Universal Studios Japan.
- Kobe: Visit the port city of Kobe, famous for its scenic harbor, delicious Kobe beef, and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Explore the charming streets of Kobe’s Kitano district, home to Western-style mansions, and stroll along the waterfront at Kobe Harborland. Enjoy the panoramic views from Kobe Port Tower and savor a meal of succulent Kobe beef at one of the city’s renowned restaurants.
- Shiga Prefecture: Explore the rest of Shiga Prefecture, where Hikone is located. Visit other cities and attractions around Lake Biwa, such as Otsu, the prefectural capital, with its historic sites and lakeside charm, or the pottery town of Shigaraki, known for its ceramics. Take in the natural beauty of the lake and its surrounding landscapes.
- Hiroshima: Travel to Hiroshima, known for its historical significance and its commitment to peace. Visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum to learn about the tragic events of the atomic bombing and reflect on the importance of peace. Explore the picturesque Miyajima Island, home to the iconic Itsukushima Shrine and its famous floating torii gate.
- Kanazawa: Journey to Kanazawa, a city renowned for its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts. Visit Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, and explore the historic Higashi Chaya District with its traditional tea houses. Don’t miss the impressive 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and the Kanazawa Castle.
- Takayama: Discover the traditional charm of Takayama, nestled in the Japanese Alps. Explore the beautifully preserved old town, known as Sanmachi Suji, with its wooden merchant houses and narrow streets. Visit the Takayama Jinya, a historic government building, and immerse yourself in the local culture at the morning markets.
- Ise Shrine: Make a pilgrimage to Ise Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines. Experience the serene atmosphere as you explore the expansive grounds and learn about the shrine’s rituals and traditions. Nearby, you can also visit the traditional town of Okage Yokocho, where you’ll find shops and restaurants offering local specialties.
- Nagoya: Visit Nagoya, a modern city with a rich history. Explore Nagoya Castle, one of Japan’s most important cultural assets, and the nearby Osu Kannon Temple. Enjoy shopping at the Osu Shopping District, and visit the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology to learn about the city’s industrial heritage.
- Mt. Hiei: Take a trip to Mt. Hiei, a sacred mountain located between Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture. Ride the funicular railway or hike up to the top to visit Enryaku-ji Temple, one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples. Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area from the mountain’s summit.
- Mount Koya (Koyasan): Travel to Mount Koya, a sacred mountain and the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism. Explore the serene atmosphere of Okunoin Cemetery, where thousands of tombstones and lanterns line the forested paths. Visit the impressive Kongobuji Temple and experience a shukubo (temple lodging) for a unique cultural and spiritual experience.
- Okayama: Visit Okayama, known for its beautiful Korakuen Garden, one of Japan’s top three traditional gardens. Explore Okayama Castle, known as “Crow Castle,” and take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque canal of Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, lined with well-preserved Edo-era buildings.
- Naoshima: Venture to the art island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea. Discover the impressive contemporary art installations and museums, including the Chichu Art Museum and the Benesse House Museum. The island itself is a work of art, with unique architectural designs integrated into the natural landscape.
- Matsue: Explore Matsue, a city known for its well-preserved samurai residences and the picturesque Matsue Castle. Take a boat cruise on Lake Shinji and visit the spiritual Izumo Taisha, one of Japan’s oldest and most important Shinto shrines.
- Shimanami Kaido: Embark on a cycling adventure along the Shimanami Kaido, a scenic road that connects Japan’s main islands with a series of bridges. Rent a bicycle and pedal across the Seto Inland Sea, enjoying breathtaking views of the islands and the surrounding natural beauty.
- Shodoshima: Journey to Shodoshima, an island known for its olive groves, beautiful beaches, and traditional soy sauce production. Explore the scenic spots, such as Angel Road, a natural sandbar that appears at low tide, and the tranquil Kankakei Gorge with its stunning autumn foliage.
- Tottori: Explore the natural wonders of Tottori Prefecture, known for its sand dunes and rugged coastline. Visit the Tottori Sand Dunes, the largest sand dune system in Japan, and enjoy activities like sandboarding or camel riding. Discover the beautiful Uradome Coast with its dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters.
- Shiga Kogen: Journey to Shiga Kogen, a vast mountainous area in Nagano Prefecture. Known for its stunning alpine scenery, it offers opportunities for hiking, skiing, and wildlife spotting. Enjoy panoramic views from the Yokoteyama Observation Deck and visit Jigokudani Monkey Park to see wild snow monkeys bathing in hot springs.
- Takamatsu: Visit Takamatsu, the gateway to the Seto Inland Sea and the art island of Naoshima. Explore the picturesque Ritsurin Garden, one of Japan’s finest landscape gardens, and visit the historic Takamatsu Castle. Take a ferry to Naoshima and immerse yourself in its unique contemporary art installations and museums.
- Iga Ueno: Discover the ninja heritage of Iga Ueno, known as the birthplace of ninja culture. Visit the Ninja Museum of Igaryu and learn about the history and techniques of these legendary stealth warriors. Explore the historic Iga Ueno Castle and stroll through the charming streets of the town.
- Hakone: Travel to Hakone, a popular hot spring resort town near Tokyo. Take in the stunning views of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi, ride the Hakone Ropeway for panoramic vistas, and relax in one of the town’s soothing hot springs. Don’t miss the unique Hakone Open-Air Museum showcasing contemporary sculptures.
- Kanazawa: Journey to Kanazawa, a city renowned for its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts. Explore the stunning Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, and visit the historic Higashi Chaya District with its traditional teahouses. Discover the Kanazawa Castle and enjoy the city’s rich cultural heritage.
These are just a few options for extending your journey after visiting Hikone. Each destination offers its own unique attractions, cultural experiences, and culinary delights, allowing you to further explore the diversity of the Kansai region. Choose based on your interests, available time, and preferred mode of transportation to create a memorable itinerary.
Hikone Travel Guide: Final Thoughts
Hikone is a charming city in Japan that offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and cultural experiences. From the majestic Hikone Castle and its accompanying Genkyu-en Garden to the nostalgic streets of Yume Kyobashi Castle Road, there is much to explore and discover.
The city’s central location in the Kansai region also provides easy access to other popular destinations such as Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka, allowing visitors to further enrich their travel experience.
Whether you’re fascinated by historical landmarks, captivated by traditional Japanese gardens, or seeking a glimpse into the samurai era, Hikone has something to offer every traveler.
Remember to plan your visit according to the best time to explore Hikone, consider nearby day trips, and indulge in the local cuisine. With its safe environment and welcoming atmosphere, Hikone is an ideal destination for both solo travelers and families.
As you navigate through Hikone, take the time to connect with the friendly locals, immerse yourself in the cultural heritage, and create lasting memories in this enchanting city.
Enjoy your journey in Hikone and may it be filled with unforgettable experiences, new discoveries, and a deep appreciation for the rich history and beauty of the region.
In Hikone’s embrace, time takes flight, A castle’s grace, a garden’s delight. Through ancient streets, with tales untold, A city’s heartbeat, a story unfolds.
Hikone Castle stands tall and proud, Its walls echo whispers of history’s shroud. Samurai spirits linger within its keep, Guarding the secrets they eternally keep.
Genkyu-en Garden, tranquil and serene, Nature’s artistry, a picturesque scene. Cherry blossoms bloom in hues so fair, As we wander, entranced by the beauty we share.
Yume Kyobashi Castle Road’s nostalgic embrace, Whispers of the past, in each cobblestone trace. Traditional houses and shops line the way, A step back in time, to a bygone day.
From Hikone’s shores, Lake Biwa’s expanse, A tranquil retreat, a natural dance. Boat rides and vistas, a peaceful retreat, As the waters reflect nature’s serene feat.
Hikone, a city with a heart so warm, Where history and charm effortlessly swarm. Let us wander its streets, with eyes wide open, Discovering treasures, in this land unbroken.
So, travelers, venture to Hikone’s embrace, Where past and present find perfect space. Let its beauty and stories guide your way, As you create memories that forever will stay.