The small town of Hikone (pop. 110,000), on the east shore of Lake Biwa, is known mostly for its medieval castle, one of the 12 authentic castles remaining in Japan.
Hikone Castle 彦根城
The first castle of Hikone was destroyed in 1600. The new lord assigned by the Tokugawa government rebuilt a new castle, completed in 1622, and Hikone thrived on rice trade, strategically situated between Kyoto and Nagoya. Nowadays, the castle is a major tourist attraction in spring when thousands of surrounding cherry trees make it the perfect spot for holiday pictures. The Genkyu-en Garden down the castle adds to this traditional image with its colourful ornemental carps.
The castle and garden share the same entry ticket (¥500) and are open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (until 4:30 pm from November to March).
How to get there
Hikone is conveninetly located on the JR Tokaido line running between Tokyo and Kyoto. The shinkansen doesn't stop at Hikone, but the nearest stop is Maibara, just 5 minutes away by regular train (¥180). From Maibara, it only takes 18 minutes to reach Kyōto (¥1,110), 22 minutes for Nagoya (¥1,280) and otherwise a bit over 2 hours for Tokyo (¥7,140).