HIKONE CASTLE

Hikone Castle is one of the oldest intact Japanese Castles and is classified as an Important National Cultural Asset. Hikone Castle is located in Shiga Prefecture near Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.

Hikone Castle is one of only four Japanese Castles which are National Treasures. The others are Himeji, Matsumoto and Inuyama Castles. The construction was started by the order of Shogun Ii Naokatsu in 1603 and was completed in 1622. The three-story Tenshu (main keep) was built in 1575 as a part of Otsu Castle and moved to Hikone Castle when it was built. Other parts of the castle were moved from Nagahama Castle.

Hikone Castle

With its beautiful Tenshu, ivory white walls surrounded by a double moat, Hikone Castle served for 14 generations for nearly 260 years without any attacks. When the Meiji era began in 1868, many castles were scheduled to be dismantled, and only a request from the emperor himself, touring the area, kept Hikone Castle intact. Today it remains one of the oldest original-construction castles in Japan.

Open hours: 8:30am – 5pm, 7 days a week
Admission: 600 yen, including the entrance to Genkyuen Garden

HIKONE CASTLE MAIN FACILITIES

Umaya (Stable) - Important National Cultural Asset
A dozen horses belonging to successive lords of the Hikone Clan were kept here. This is the only stable in Japan still existing within a castle site.

Tenbin Yagura (Balance Scale Turret) - Important National Cultural Asset
As you ascend the slope from the front gate, you’ll find a corridor bridge, which can be demolished in emergencies. Forming a symmetric shape with the bridge at the center is Tenbin Yagura (‘Tenbin’ means ‘balance scale’ in Japanese.). It was originally the main gate of Nagahama Castle and moved here when it was built. This unique turret is the sole example in Japan.

Tenbin Yagura - Balance Scale Turret Hikone Castle

Jihosho (Time-keeping Bell)
The bell is rung five times a day to tell time to all those within reach. The sound of the bell still fills the city with its century-old resonating tone.

Taikomon Yagura (Drum Gate Turret) - Important National Cultural Asset
This solidly-built turret guards the front entrance leading to the Tenshu (main keep) while sending a coded signals by drum (‘Taiko’ means ‘drum’ in Japanese).

Taikomon Yagura (Drum Gate Turret) Hikone Castle

Tenshu (Main Keep) – National Treasure
This three-story main keep rises to a height of 21 meters. Though comparatively small in scale, the structure demonstrates the superior design required of a castle during periods of war. With its artistic arrangement of different roof styles and elaborately-designed windows, the external appearance of the Tenshu is spectacular.

Nishinomaru Sanju Yagura (West Fort Wing Three-story Turret) - Important National Cultural Asset
Literally means ‘west fort wing three-story turret’,  Nishinomaru Sanju Yagura is built on a stone wall exceeding 10 meters in height. This is also a popular place for ‘Hanami’ (cherry blossom viewing) nowadays.

Genkyuen Garden
Modelled on a detached palace of Emperor Genso of the Tang dynasty in ancient China, this Chisen-kaiyu style garden (landscaped around a large pond)  was constructed in 1677. Hoshodai Guesthouse built on a man-made hill, and trees and rocks imitating the Eight Views of Omi region and representing Chikubushima Island and the White Rocks of Oki, are beautifully laid out in the garden. With its brocade of blossoms in spring, the singing of cicadas in summer, the changing colors of autumn leaves, and snow scapes in winter, this garden changes its appearance throughout the year. The lords of the Hikone Clan entertained their most distinguished guests at Hoshodai Guesthouse, where you can enjoy fine view of the entire garden and the Tenshu of the castle as well as Japanese green tea for 500 yen.

Genkyuen Garden Hikone Castle

Hikone Castle Museum
Open hours: 8:30am – 5pm, 7 days a week
Admission: 500 yen
Many artistic handicrafts from the Hikone Clan are displayed here, including Hikone Folding Screens and armor for samurai warriors. Hikone Castle Noh is staged in spring and autumn, providing an opportunity to see this traditional Japanese performing art.

Model plan


Station/Stop

Transport

Duration

Places to visit

JR Kyoto

JR Shinkansen (Hikari/Kodama)

20min

 

JR Maibara

JR Tokaido Line

4min

 

JR Hikone

Walk

15min

Hikone Castle

 

 

 

Genkyuen

 

 

 

Hikone Castle Museum

 

Walk

15min

 

JR Hikone

JR Tokaido Line

4min

 

JR Maibara

JR Shinkansen (Hikari/Kodama)

20min

 

JR Kyoto

 

 

 

Japan

SHIGA

KANSAI

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