Hikone is a quick and easy half-a-day escape from Kyoto or Osaka. Fifteen minutes’ walk from Hikone Station, you will find a large area with the 400-year-old Hikone Castle and its beautiful Japanese garden.
Visitors cannot enter in the castle, but it is possible to walk quite closely around it. Except a few parts which have been renovated or rebuilt, most of the original castle remains. Hikone-jo is indeed a National Treasure of Japan, along as only three other Japanese castles: Himeji, Matsumoto and Inuyama.
Those who are interested in the daily life of the castle can enjoy Hikone Castle Museum and its reconstructions of the lord’s living quarters.
As impressive the castle may be, don’t forget to admire the view on Lake Biwa.
Northeast to the castle, is the Japanese garden Genkyu-en, built at the end of the 17th century. The traditional scenic views "Eight Views of Omi" inspired the garden’s arrangement. Several wonderful viewpoints were crafted around the pond, in a mimic of Lake Biwa surroundings.
The visit is strongly recommended during spring and autumn, the seasons for sakura and momiji. The visit continues in Yume Kyobashi Castle Road, a shopping street located south to the castle, and whose architecture is inspired from Edo period (1603-1868) castles’ towns.
Hikone is a nice cultural half-day trip close to Kyoto and Osaka. Don't forget to say your greetings to the samurai cat Hiko-nyan on your way back!
How to get to Hikone
From Kyoto, 48 minutes / ¥1,170 (~US$ 10.60) on a JR Special Rapid train (not Shinkansen)
From the station, 15 minute walk to the castle and garden
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 279)
Castle, Garden and Museum: ¥1,200 (~US$ 10.90)
Castle and garden: ¥800 (~US$ 7.30)
Garden only: ¥200 (~US$ 1.80)
Open daily from 8:30am to 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm)
No closing day except on Tuesdays for Castle Road shops
How long / when to visit
Allow a good half day trip from Kyoto