Center of trade and culture on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. Hikone Castle, one of the four most beautiful castles in Japan with its three-layered chalk tower.
Hikone is in the central-eastern part of Shiga and is a center for economy and culture on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. The town has been an important traffic point since early times and developed as a castle town of the Ii family. Ii was a retainer who played an active part in the hereditary Tokugawa shogunate, which began in the early 17th century and lasted for more than 250 years.
Hikone Castle has a backdrop of Lake Biwa and Konki-zan Hill (50 m), and is regarded as one of four national heritage castles, along with Inuyama Castle in Aichi, Himeji Castle in Hyogo, and Matsumoto Castle in Nagano. Its three-layered chalk castle tower still maintains its noble and heroic appearance as a symbol of the city.
Besides the castle tower designated as a national treasure, there are other towers of important cultural properties, such as Tenbin-yagura, Taikomon-yagura, and Nishinomaru-sanju-yagura; other historical spots include Genkyu-en, the old garden of a feudal lord, which recreates the nostalgic atmosphere of those ancient days.
The castle town of Hikone still has a feeling of olden days, comprising the old houses of 'ashigaru' (low-class warriors) at the right bank of Seri-kawa River and Hana-Shobu-dori Street (the street of irises), along with other new attractions, such as Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road (the reproduction of street from 17th century) and Yonbancho Square, which are surrounded by traditional houses and temples in the atmosphere of Taisho Roman (a trend from the Taisho Era and European Romanticism of early 20th century).
Mt. Sawa, about one kilometer east of Hikone Castle, is where the castle of Ishida Mitsunari, the leader who lost the Battle of Sekigahara, is located. At the mountain foot, you can visit such historical spots as Ryotan-ji Temple known for its gardens, and Ohora Bensaiten, as well as temples and shrines associated with the Ii family; also there is Tennei-ji Temple that enshrines the statue of Gohyakurakan.
Set in the rich, natural surroundings of Lake Biwa, Hikone is a superlative place for you to enjoy the atmosphere of a castle town, full of historical and cultural interest that revolves around the castle itself.
From Tokyo :
[Rail] 2h 20 min to Maibara Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, and 5 min from Maibara to Hikone Station by JR Tokaido Line.
From Osaka :
[Rail] 1h 18 min from Osaka to Hikone Station by JR Tokaido Line.
From Nagoya :
[Rail] 30 mis to Maibara Station by Hikari (limited express), then 5 mins to Hikone Station by Biwako Express Line.