Hikone (彦根) is a city at the eastern edge of Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture, central Japan.
By trainHikone is on the Tokaido Main Line (Biwako Line in Hikone) between Osaka and Tokyo and makes an interesting stopover. Shinkaisoku rapid trains take 50 min (¥1110) from Kyoto and 80 min (¥1890) from Osaka. The Shinkansen does not stop at Hikone, but the nearest Shinkansen station Maibara is just one local train stop away.
By ferryFerries connect Hikone to the islands of Chikubu and Takeshima in Lake Biwa.
By carHikone is an exit on the Meishin Expressway (toll) between Nagoya and Osaka. National Route 8 (Niigata-Kyoto) runs through the city. National Route 306 from Mie Prefecture ends here.
On footHikone Castle and Genkyu-en Garden are a 15-20 minute walk along the main road from Hikone Station.
By bikeThere are two options for bike rental in Hikone:
Ekirin-kunBasic fixed gear bike rental directly on the south side of the west exit of Hikone station
MeguringoMulti-gear bikes from the non-profit organisation
Meguringo Hikone ekimae
Meguringo NPO hōujin gokan seikatsu
Hikone CastleHikone Castle is an original Japanese castle dating back to 1604, instead of the usual 1960s-era concrete reconstruction. The castle tower is an official National Treasure and a number of the turrets have been classified as Important Cultural Properties. Even the sound of the bell every three hours is preserved as a nationally important soundscape.
Genkyū-en GardenHikone's number two attraction is the garden at the foot of the castle. The park contains a sprawling villa built in the Chinese Tang Dynasty style in 1677 for Naooki Ii, the fourth lord of Hikone. The best thing to do here is to pause at the teahouse for a cup of matcha (ceremonial green tea), a Japanese sweet and some quiet contemplation for ¥500.
address: 1-1 Konki-choAn excellent museum of samurai artifacts and artwork.
Ryōtan-jiA zen temple with a variety of gardens, each designed by temple priests as a form of worship and meditation. The temple itself houses some interesting artwork.
Taking the JR regular train to the next stop, along the Biwako-sen, you will stop at Minami-Hikone. Get off at this stop and there is VivaCity, a large shopping area that is the only mall in Hikone. There are many shops, some restaurants, karaoke, and a movie theatre here. On many Sundays at 1:00 and 3:00 there are live performances in the central atrium.
Fans of traditional Japan will enjoy the Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road running from the southwest side of the castle park, with a number of souvenir shops and craft shops located in traditional-style wooden buildings.
Fans of modern Japanese craziness, on the other hand, may enjoy all sorts of souvenirs plastered with the mug of Hiko-nyan, Hikone Castle's official samurai-helmeted cat mascot. Although many cities, as well as some attractions, have their own mascots, Hikonyan has gained fame well beyond his hometown, making him an iconic symbol of the samurai days and perhaps even the nation itself. Hiko-nyan paraphernalia of all sorts can be purchased on Castle Road, at Viva City, and most anywhere else in Hikone.
Sennari-teiLocal Omi beef specialist.
In southern Hikone you will find Yab's Sports bar, which in recent times has become a prevalent stop for JCMU students as well.
Business Hotel SerikawaWestern and Japanese-style rooms available.
Tobaya RyokanA very cosy family-run ryokan.