Hikone Castle is one of four castles in Japan designated as a National Treasure. It was the base of the Ii Clan, most notably Ii Naosuke (1815-1860), the 16th lord of the Hikone clan who served as the Chief Minister in the Tokugawa shogunate government. He was a key person in opening Japan to Western countries by signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (日米修好通商条約 Nichibei Shūkō Tsūshō Jōyaku) between the United States and Japan in 1858. From age 17 to 32, he lived and trained at Umoregi-no-ya 埋木舎 within the grounds of Hikone Castle. Besides the castle tower, four other original castle buildings are now open to the public. More about Hikone here.Map
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Genkyu-en is a Japanese garden next to Hikone Castle. It was built as a castle garden in 1677 by Ii Naooki, the fourth lord of Hikone Castle. In Nov., the fall colors are beautifully lit up at night (6 pm - 9 pm). Admission 500 yen. Umoregi-no-ya is a reclusive house where Lord Ii Naosuke lived and trained in various arts from age 17 to 32. Map
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Called Little Edo (Koedo), the castle town of Hikone holds a Castle Festival on Nov. 3. One highlight is the castle parade of children and adults in historical costumes, especially samurai from the Ii clan. The parade includes demonstrations of matchlock gun firing and fireman's acrobatics. These photos were taken on Nov. 3, 2009.
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On Oct. 25-26, 2008, the first Yuru-Kyara (Mascot Character) Matsuri was held on Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road in Hikone. About 46 mascots showed up in front of thousands of people jamming this road of shops. The most popular was Sento-kun (boy priest with antlers on his head) from Nara. Hikone's Hiko-nyan was the host of this successful event. The event saw about 46,000 visitors. Also see my YouTube video here.Map
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The 2nd Yuru-kyara festival was held in Oct. 23-25, 2009. The festival was expanded by a day by including an indoor stage show featuring enka singer Hashi Yukio singing "Yuru-kyara Ondo." From 2013, this mascot character festival was renamed Go-tochi Kyara-haku in Hikone (ご当地キャラ博in彦根).
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Takeshima ("Island of Many Views") is a small island (600 m circumference) having many different shapes depending on your viewpoint. A Nichiren temple and the priest's family are on the island. Accessible by boat from Hikone, Shiga Prefecture. Map
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Toriimoto-juku is the sixty-third of the sixty-nine stations or shukuba post towns on the Nakasendo Road. It is the fourth Nakasendo station in Shiga (following Bamba-juku in Maibara), and one of ten Nakasendo stations in Shiga. Although the Honjin is long gone, there are a few reminders of its shukuba past. Near Ohmi Railways Toriimoto Station. Map
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Takamiya-juku was the sixty-fourth of the sixty-nine stations or shukuba post towns of the Nakasendo Road. Today, it has a few remnants of its Nakasendo past with a Honjin gate, Enshoji temple (where Emperor Meiji once stayed), and shrines. Near the Ohmi Railways Takamiya Station. Map
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