Hikone’s charming Edo period castle was spared destruction by Emperor Meiji
Hikone Castle stands on a hill in central Hikone. Built as the seat of the Ii clan, originally it was almost entirely surrounded by the water of Lake Biwa. A visit to the castle is a fascinating experience. The path climbs steeply through a variety of ingenious fortifications, from simple expedients such as uneven steps, to a collapsible bridge. There are waterfowl in the moats, and woodland birds in the forest on the hillsides. From the flat hilltop, you can see all of Hikone city, the vast expanse of Lake Biwa, and the mountain ranges that surround Omi. Climb the vertiginous steps inside the keep, and you can look down on the castle defences, as well as the pretty traditional garden created for the enjoyment of the feudal lords. The views reflect the changing seasons, with white-capped mountains in winter, massed ranks of cherry blossoms in spring, and colourful foliage in autumn. At the end of the feudal period, Hikone Castle was slated for demolition, but Emperor Meiji found it so charming it was spared destruction.