Hikone Castle 彦根城
One of Japan's best preserved castles
With a beautiful view of Lake Biwa , Japan's largest lake, Hikone Castle is almost unchanged from when it was first built. It took 20 years to complete, but the castle has stood for 400 years without suffering significant damage.
- The castle's stunning cherry trees
- Learning more at the Hikone Castle Museum
- Exploring the beautiful Genkyuen Garden at the base of castle
How to Get There
Hikone Castle is easily accessible by train, and only a 15-minute walk from Hikone Station
Take the shinkansen to Maibara, then take the local Tokaido Main Line one stop to Hikone. The castle is a 15 to 20-minute walk from JR Hikone station.
The castle combines a number of different architectural styles
It served as the home of the Ii family of feudal lords from 1622 until the feudal era ended in 1867
Other palace buildings include a museum devoted to Ii family history
In case you missed it
The castle grounds are full of cherry trees, and the sakura blossoms typically peak about a week later than those in Kyoto .
A Japanese national treasure
Hikone Castle is one of only five castles in Japan whose main keep is original and listed as a National Treasure. That means you'll see the castle just as the feudal lords who lived there did. It took 20 years to build, and you'll understand why when you see the detailed architecture and craftsmanship.
Also keep an eye out for all the ways the builders planned for defense of the castle. These include a spiral ramp to the entrance that made attackers easy targets, as well as artfully hidden openings in the walls for archers' arrows.
Enjoy a cup of tea, warlord style
The castle grounds contain original as well as careful reconstructions of buildings from the feudal era, including a museum displaying some treasures of the Ii family and items showing how they lived and governed. Also nearby is the Genkyuen garden, where you can have matcha tea and traditional sweets in a Chinese-style garden built in 1677.
Sound and light
One of the best ways to see Hikone Castle is by moonlight, designated as one of the top Eight Views of Lake Biwa. The plaudits don't end there. A bell which echoes through the castle grounds once every hour during daytime has been registered as one of the 100 most impressive soundscapes in Japan.
Be sure to put aside at least half a day to explore this fascinating location. If you're visiting during the spring time, you may want to spend a little longer as the castle and its surroundings are bedecked with stunning pale pink cherry trees.