「I wanna know about the highlights and things to note before going!」
then this article is for you!
Hello! WABI SABI here, to give foreign visitors the information you need in order to further enjoy Japan!
What we, the information brokers of Japan, would like to introduce to you in this article is information about the Hikone Castle, located in Shiga prefecture!
Hikone Castle is a very rare castle that has been standing in all of its glory since the start of the Edo period.
As of now it is also famous for its mascot character, Hiko-nyan, but originally it was the Ii families castle when they were at the apex of their prosperity, which is why Shiga prefecture has prospered in many of its areas historically.
Now let’s get right into it!
The History of Hikone Caslte In 5 Minutes!
The Hikone Castle still stands tall in Japan, and is recognized as 1 of Japan’s 5 National Treasures.
The reason it is still standing so valiantly is because of the fact that Tokugawa Ieyasu built it himself!
The first head of the Ii family, Ii Naomasa, contributed hugely in the Battle of Sekigahara and was likened by Tokugawa Ieyasu, so as a reward for his efforts, he was given 180000 Kokudaka. He then triumphantly entered the Sawayama Castle, where Ishida Mitsunari lived, in north-eastern Omi.
Furthermore, he did not think well of Ishida Mitsunari tastes, so Ii Naomasa decided to build his own new castle and chose a spot on the banks of Biwako Lake.
Though, before it could be completed, due to his injuries sustained during the Battle of Sekigahara, Naomasa’s health was deteriorating and after 2 years, he suddenly passed away in 1602.
With the next successor, Ii Naotsugu, being too young, he couldn’t do anything about building the castle nor do anything political, so the elder family retainer, Kimata Morikatsu, decided to inherit Naomasa’s wish and completed the castle on Mt. Hikone, facing Biwako Lake, 1 year after Naomasa died. That castle is the now standing Hikone Castle.
Furthermore, right as it was about to be torn down due to Abolition of the Han system bill and a successful bid of 700 yen, the Meiji Emperor was moved by the sight of it during his pilgrimage and ordered for it to be saved.
It is thought that the Meiji government was tearing down castles during the Edo period in a way of trying to control the powers of Daimyo families, and they thought to tear down the Hikone Castle straight away as it was the symbol of Ii Naomasa who was important to the Edo Shogunate which was prided in their prosperity.
However, their was a period of time in which the Meiji Emperor thought to make a new reformation while respecting history, and while on his pilgrimage, was moved by the beauty of the castle and ordered for it to be saved.
For Preserving The Beauty of Hikone Castle
There are many left over castles from ages of old, but there is a very small number of examples of them being as kept together as Hikone Castle.
Furthermore, the beauty of the castles image reflecting off of the lake shore of Biwako Lake is sure to move the hearts of many.
A thing to note is that going into the Showa era is that it has been refurbished many times over and each time it was refurbished, various improvements have been made to return it to its former appearance.
In recent years, a photo was discovered of the outer moat not tied down and now there is movement starting for the outer moat to be restored but as of now it has not yet been realized.
Currently, there are several management and safety concerns, such as bikes being thrown into the inner moat. There is current planning in motion to handle these concerns, and carefully restoring the castle.
Hikone Castle: Changing with the Seasons
The highlight of Hikone Castle is that it harmonizes with the nature around the lake shore of Biwako Lake. As the seasons change, the atmosphere and appearance of it changes as well!
For that reason, there are foreigner tourists that say they come during each season. Among them, the castle is becoming more popular as the symbol of Japan due to its brave appearance and the extremely beautiful harmony it has with the nature around it. Due to this, more tourists come by year by year as well.
The contrasts from the surrounding Cherry Blossoms during Spring or the Autumn leaves during Autumn are both especially highly rated.
Furthermore, Hikone Castle has been featured in various movies and drama series’. However, you cannot get the full sense of Hikone Castles beauty through its many appearances on media.
For that reason, there are times where you could even run into a recording site if you don’t plan around that.
When accessing the Hikone Castle, get off at Maibara Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen, change to the Tokaido Main Line, get off at Hikone Station and it’ll be a 15 minute walk away.
Or you can take a taxi from Maibara Station for 15 minutes.
If your’e visiting by car, the Hikone Interchange on the Meishin Expressway or the Maibara Interchange on the Hokuriku Expressway is the closest, and each will get you there in about 15 minutes.
Furthermore, there are 3 pay-to-park spaces in the area. Though there is a limit to how many cars could be parked, you can park once for 400 yen.
However, on vacation days, they can get very crowded, so it is better to park at private parking lots in the area.