Lake Biwa's Castle and its Japanese garden

Hikone is a small Japanese town located on the shores of Lake Biwa, in Shiga Prefecture, 75 kilometers north-east of Kyoto. The gem of the city is Hikone Castle, or Hikone-jo, a medieval castle and its garden Genkyu-en, featuring the epitome of Japanese landscape.

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!

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Hikone photo gallery

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How to get to Hikone

From Kyoto, 48 minutes / ¥1,170 (~US$ 10.90) 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$ 281)


Castle, Garden and Museum: ¥1,200 (~US$ 11.20)

Castle and garden: ¥800 (~US$ 7.50)

Garden only: ¥200 (~US$ 1.90)

Opening hours

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

In Japanese


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