Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture is one of Japan's most beautiful and historic castles.
Hikone Castle is set on the shores of Japan's largest lake - Biwako - and is an easy day trip from Osaka, Kyoto or Nagoya.
Completed in 1622 after 20 years in construction, the ornate, black and white fortress was the base of the local Ii family daimyo (feudal lords).
The castle's impressive, stone walls and double moats are designated as important cultural properties and the wooden stables (umaya), just outside the castle's main gate, are the only surviving example of a castle's stables in Japan. Horses were kept ready here for riders to take messages to neighbouring provinces and along the Tokaido via change of horse to Edo (Tokyo).
Also worth visiting within the castle grounds is the Genkyu-en strolling garden, built around a large, ornamental pond in the Chinese style in the late 17th century. There are good views of the castle on the hill above and a chance to sample traditional Japanese macha (green tea) in the preserved teahouse near the lake.
Hikone town is also worth a stroll. There are are a number of surviving Meiji and Taisho era buildings and the original street patterns have been preserved. Castle towns in Japan were built without crossroads to deter attackers. The east-west running streets have T-junctions running off the main arteries that fizzle out in dead ends.
Yumekyobashi Castle Road southwest of the main castle entrance is an area of redeveloped shops and restaurants built in traditional Edo Period style.
From Nagoya Station take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara Station and then transfer to the JR Tokaido Line one stop to Hikone or alternatively take the JR Tokaido Line to Maibara via Gifu and Ogaki.
Journey time by normal trains is about 90 minutes from Nagoya.
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Monday, December 03, 2007