Hikone, Shiga

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Hikone, Shiga (彦根市; Hikone-shi)
Hiko-nyan Hiko-nyan, official mascot. More Hikone photos here.
Map of Shiga with Hikone highlighted
Location Shiga Prefecture, Kinki region, Honshu island, JAPAN  
Population 113,055 (1,599 foreigners) (2014-06-01)
Area 98.15 km²
City Centers Castle Road 
Major Sights Hikone Castle 
Major Gateways JR Tokaido Line Hikone Station 
Train Stations JR Tokaido Line Hikone Station, Minami-Hikone Station, Kawase Station, Inae Station; Ohmi Railways Fujitec-mae Station, Toriimoto Station, Hikone Station, Hikone-guchi Station, Takamiya Station 
Claim to Fame Hikone Castle, a National Treasure; home of Lord Ii Naosuke
Products Buddhist altars
Neighbors Maibara, Taga-cho, Kora-cho, Toyosato-cho, Aisho-cho, HigashiOmi 
Old Name(s)
Keywords Hikone-jo, Ii Naosuke, Ii Naomasa
Historical Persons Lord Ii Naosuke, Lord Ii Naomasa, Lord Ishida Mitsunari
Links Hikone Articles | Hikone Photos
Hikone Tourist Information
Location JR Hikone Station

〒522-0001滋賀県彦根市尾末町1-51

Phone (0749) 23-0001 
Tourist Links English City Tourism  
Int'l Association Japanese English Tel: 0749-22-1411 Ext. 590  
Volunteer Guides Tel: 0749-23-0001  
Hikone City Hall 彦根市役所
Address 〒522-8501滋賀県彦根市元町4番2号

Motomachi-cho 4-2, Hikone-shi, Shiga-ken 522-8501 JAPAN

Phone/Fax 0749-22-1411 Fax: 0749-22-1398 
Official Site Japanese |  
Symbols Flower:  Russian Iris
Tree:  Tachibana Orange
Bird:  -
Others:  Hikone Castle, Hiko-nyan (mascot character)
Logo:  Logoshigahikone.jpg
Sister Cities Ann Arbor, Michigan; Xiangtan, Hunan, China; Takamatsu, Kagawa; Mito, Ibaraki; Sano, Tochigi

This page is 80% complete. Last updated: March 25, 2017

by Philbert Ono

Hikone (彦根市; -shi) is a city in northeastern Shiga Prefecture facing Lake Biwa. Hikone's claim to fame is Hikone Castle, with one of five castle towers (tenshu) in Japan designated as a National Treasure. The castle is one of Shiga's major tourist draws and overshadows all other attractions in Hikone which also has a number of noted temples. The castle has very beautiful cherry blossoms all over. One of the best sakura spots in Japan. Hikone Castle is celebrating its 410th anniversary in 2017 with exhibitions inside castle buildings from March 18 to Dec. 10, 2017.

In 2007 when Hikone Castle celebrated its 400th anniversary, they created the nationally popular official mascot named Hiko-nyan. Hikone Castle was founded in 1607 by Lord Ii Naomasa 井伊直政 who was awarded the domain of Omi (Shiga's feudal name) by Tokugawa Ieyasu after they won the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Three castle buildings (Umaya horse stable, Tenbin Yagura turret, and Nishinomaru Sanju-yagura turret) are open to the public. It took 20 years to construct the castle, completed by Lord Ii Naotaka 井伊直孝, the second castle lord.

Hikone Castle was also the base for Lord Ii Naosuke (1815-1860) 井伊 直弼 who was a high-ranking official (Tairo) in the Tokugawa government and who agreed to open up Japan upon the beckoning of Commodore Mathew Perry in the 19th century. Official diplomatic relations between Japan and America thus started with Shiga native Ii Naosuke and Commodore Perry.

Hikone Port also has pleasure boats going to Chikubushima island in neighboring Nagahama.

Sights

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Hikone Castle Genkyuen Garden Takeshima island
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Hiko-nyan yuru-kyara Hikone Castle parade in Nov. Hikone Castle moat boat ride

  • Hikone Castle 彦根城 - Hikone Castle is one of five castles in Japan designated as a National Treasure. It was the base of the Ii Clan, most notably Ii Naomasa (1561–1602) who ordered the castle to be built. The castle was also the base for Ii Naosuke (1815–1860), Chief Minister of the Tokugawa government who negotiated the opening of Japan to the West. The castle still has a good number of buildings remaining along with stone walls and moats. You can enter most of the buildings. The main castle tower (tenshu) is a National Treasure. Most other structures like the Umaya Horse Stable (Japan's only castle with a surviving horse stable), Tenbin Yagura turret, and Nishinomaru Sanju-yagura turret are National Important Cultural Properties. The reconstructed palace serves as a Castle Museum (see below). The castle celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2007 and is celebrating the 410th anniversary in 2017 with exhibitions inside castle buildings from March 18 to Dec. 10, 2017. Besides the castle tower, three other buildings are now open to the public. Map
  • Hiko-nyan ひこにゃん - Hikone's official mascot created for Hikone Castle's 400th anniversary in 2007. Basically a white cat with a horned samurai helmet. Since he proved to be so popular, he was retained as the city's official mascot ever since. Hiko-nyan appears three times daily at Hikone Castle for a 30-min. show: 10:30 am and 1:30 pm in front of the main castle tower (tenshu) and at 3:00 pm outside Hikone Castle Museum. According to legend, one day, Ii Naotaka, the third lord of Hikone Castle, was doing falconry in Tokyo and was near a temple when he saw this cat raising its paw. He was led inside the temple where he was able to rest inside. A major thunderstorm ensued, and the cat saved him from getting wet. Another legend says that as soon as the cat beckoned Naotaka into the temple, lightning struck the tree where he was standing. Thus, the cat saved his life. This legendary cat connection gave birth to the idea behind Hiko-nyan. This same legend is also one theory for the origin of the ubiquitous beckoning cat you see at shops and restaurants in Japan. The beckoning cat can be called Hiko-nyan's cousin.
  • Hikone Castle Museum 彦根城博物館 - Hikone Castle Museum is a reconstruction of the castle palace completed in 1987 to mark Hikone city's 50th anniversary. Many treasures and important artifacts related to the Ii Clan are displayed including Ii clan samurai armor, helmets, Noh masks, and Hikone Byobu folding screen. The museum also reconstructs the castle lord's residence and has an Edo-Period Noh stage, the only original palace structure. Noh is performed in spring and autumn. Admission charged. Map
  • Hikone Castle Moat Boat Ride 彦根城お堀めぐり - From March 2007, the Koedo Hikone NPO started operating "yakata-bune" Japanese-style boats in the moats of Hikone Castle as a tourist attraction for the castle's 400th anniversary. They operate 6 rides per day around the castle, taking 50 min. It certainly gives you a different perspective of the castle as you see the moat, castle tower, and bridges from the water. The ride costs 1,200 yen.
  • Genkyu-en Garden 玄宮園 - 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. The garden has a few buildings of the castle lord's old palace and a hilltop tea house. In Nov., the fall colors are beautifully lit up at night (6 pm - 9 pm). Admission 500 yen. Map
  • Umoregi-no-ya - Ii Naosuke (1815-1860) was the 16th lord of the Hikone clan and 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 within the grounds of Hikone Castle. Map
  • Takeshima 多景島 - Called "Island of Many Views," this 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. Map
  • Toriimoto - 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 on the Ohmi Railway Line from Hikone Station. Map

Event Calendar

  • Early April - Cherry blossoms at Hikone Castle. One of Shiga's famed spots for sakura.
  • Weekend in late July or early Aug. - Hikone Birdman Rally Contest where college teams compete to fly the farthest in gliders or human-propelled propeller planes over the lake. Official Web site [ Map]
  • Aug. 1 - Lake Biwa Fireworks on Matsubara Beach.
  • Oct. weekend near the 29th - Little Edo - Hikone Castle Festival.
  • Oct. weekend - Mascot Character Festival in Hikone ゆるキャラまつりin彦根. Numerous mascots assemble on stage and on the street at Yume Castle Road near Hikone Castle. Map
  • Nov. 3 - Little Edo Hikone Castle Festival Parade 2009 小江戸彦根の城まつりパレード. Afternoon 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.

Travel Tips

  • JR Hikone Station has a tourist info office where you can pick up maps and pamphlets.
  • There is also the Hikone International Lounge (Shimin Kaikan Building, 1st Floor) near Hikone Castle where you can speak to someone in English, pick up pamphlets, and access the Internet. [ Map here.]
  • Hikone Castle and other places of interest are within walking distance from Hikone Station.
  • If it is cherry blossom season, try to visit Hikone Castle in the morning. Otherwise the cherry blossoms will be in the afternoon shadow or backlit by the sun.
  • A boat ride in the Hikone Castle moat started operations in March 2007, and it gives a different perspective of the castle. Highly recommended.
  • In Nov. during the autumn foilage, visit Genkyu-en Garden at night to see the fall leaves lit up at night.

Getting There

By Train

Hikone Station is the city's main train station and gateway. Two train lines pass through the station. The closest shinkansen station is Maibara Station 5 min. away in neighboring Maibara. All trains (futsu and shin-kaisoku express) stop at Hikone Station. Only the local (futsu) trains stop at Inae Station and Minami-Hikone Station. Being able to ride on Ohmi Railways is also convenient.

Train Lines & Stations

Travel Time

By Bus

Nearest Airports

Getting Around

Hikone has two rail lines, both passing through Hikone Station: The JR Tokaido Line (also called the Biwako Line) and Ohmi Railways. Both train lines have a few stations within Hikone. On the Biwako Line, all trains stop at Hikone Station. However, only the local (futsu) trains will stop at the smaller stations of Inae, Kawase, and Minami-Hikone. On the Ohmi Railways, all the trains stop at all the stations.

The major sights and facilities along the train stations in Hikone are as follows:

JR Tokaido Line

  • Hikone Station (彦根駅) - The city's main station and closest to Hikone Castle, Hikone Port (for Chikubushima), and shrines and temples.
  • Minami-Hikone Station (南彦根駅) - Viva City shopping mall with shops and movie theaters.
  • Kawase Station (河瀬駅) - Residential.
  • Inae Station (稲枝駅) - Residential.

Ohmi Railways

  • Fujitec-mae Station (フジテック前駅) - New station opened in Mar. 2006. Near the factory of Fujitec, maker of elevators and escalators.
  • Toriimoto Station (鳥居本駅) - Toriimoto-juku is a former stage town on the Nakasendo Road.
  • Hikone Station (彦根駅) - Hikone Castle and temples are nearby.
  • Hikone-guchi Station (彦根口駅) - .
  • Takamiya Station (高宮駅) - Transfer point between the Ohmi Railways Main Line and the Taga Line for Taga Taisha Shrine.
  • Screen Station (スクリーン駅) - New station opened on March 15, 2008. Near Dainippon Screen Mfg. Co. Ltd.'s semiconductor R&D center. The station was built by the company for its employees.

By Bus

Local buses leave from Hikone Station to other parts of the city such as Hikone Port. Ask the Tourist Information office at Hikone Station for bus directions.

By Bicycle

Rental bicycles are available across from Hikone Station on the 1st floor of AL Plaza shopping mall. Rental bicycle shop Megurinko has rental bicycles for about ¥600–¥800 per day. They have high-quality bicycles as well as electric bicycles. Open 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Maps

Click on upper right icon to enlarge.

Photos

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Hikone Castle and sakura Hiko-nyan in Hawaii
More photos at Hikone Photos. More Shiga photos here.

Videos

Comprehensive video about Hikone Castle in English.

More Shiga videos here.

History

  • 1600 - At the Battle of Sekigahara, Ishida Mitsunari, lord of Sawayama Castle in Hikone, is defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu and later executed in Kyoto. Lord Ii Naomasa, for his meritorious service at the battle of Sekigahara, is rewarded with the fief of Omi (present-day Shiga) and Sawayama Castle. Naomasa, however, did not like the fact that Ishida Mitsunari once occupied the castle, so he decided to build a new castle.
  • 1602 - Lord Ii Naomasa dies mainly due to an old gunshot wound received at Sekigahara.
  • 1603 - Construction of Hikone Castle begins. Structures and materials from nearby castles in Otsu, Nagahama, and Sawayama were also used.
  • 1607 - Construction of Hikone Castle is completed for the most part, and Lord Ii Naokatsu (Naomasa's first son) moves in.
  • 1622 - The final phase of Hikone Castle's construction, including the palace, is completed.
  • 1677 - Genkyuen Garden next to Hikone Castle is completed.
  • 1860 - Lord Ii Naosuke is assassinated in Edo, near Edo Castle's Sakuradamon Gate.
  • 1952 - Hikone Castle is designated as a National Treasure.
  • 1963 - NHK TV broadcasts its first year-long Taiga Drama series called "Hana no Shogai" (花の生涯) from April to Dec. 1963. Based on the period novel of the same name written by Funahashi Seiichi 舟橋 聖一 for Mainichi Newspaper during 1952-53, the story is about the life of Ii Naosuke (1815-60), lord of Hikone Castle and Chief Minister (Tairo 大老) of the Tokugawa government. Naosuke was played by Onoe Shoroku II, a kabuki actor. The series boosts the number of tourists visiting Hikone. Unfortunately, most of the original videotape of the series was erased to reuse the expensive videotape.
  • 1969 - Sister city ties with Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA established.
  • 1989 -The Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU), a study center operated by a consortium of the fifteen public universities in the State of Michigan and the government of Shiga Prefecture opens in a temporary facility in Maibara. In 1990, the permanent campus is completed.
  • 1991 - Sister city ties with Xiangtan, Hunan, China established.
  • 1995 - University of Shiga Prefecture opens in Hassaka.
  • 2007 - Hikone Castle celebrates its 400th anniversary.
  • 2017 - Hikone Castle celebrates its 410th anniversary.

Additional Reading

More Hikone News here.

Miscellaneous

Trivia

  • For the Tokaido shinkansen, building a shinkansen station in Hikone instead of Maibara was the original plan since Hikone had a larger population. However, due to the higher cost and calls from the Hokuriku region (Fukui, Kanazawa, etc.) wanting a shinkansen connection, the shinkansen station was built at Maibara.

Famous People

  • Ii Naomasa (井伊直政) (1561-1602 ) - First lord of Hikone from 1600 during the Tokugawa Period. He was a general under Tokugawa Ieyasu whom he helped to win the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He was rewarded with Sawayama Castle and the fief of Omi (now Shiga). Instead of occupying Sawayama Castle, home of his former enemy Ishida Mitsunari, he had wished to build a new castle in Hikone. His wish came true years after his death.
  • Ii Naosuke (井伊 直弼) (1815-1860) - Tokugawa shogunate's Chief Minister (Tairo) who favored and concluded commercial treaties with the Western powers and thus broke Japan's isolation from the world. Foreigners were then allowed to trade with Japan and take up residence in cities like Yokohama and Hakodate. Ii was later brutally assassinated in 1860 by people who sought to oust the foreign "barbarians."
  • Ishida Mitsunari 石田 三成 (1560-1600) - Native of Nagahama, and loyal retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Became lord of Sawayama Castle in Hikone and was later the ill-fated leader of the Western Forces defeated at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Executed by Tokugawa Ieyasu in Kyoto.

Side Trips

Other sights in neighboring cities/towns within easy reach from Hikone.

  • Taga Taisha Shrine - Near Taga Taisha-mae Station on the Ohmi Railways.
  • Nagahama - Major city up north.
  • Maibara - Hikone's northern neighbor.

Related Articles

External Links

Municipalities of Shiga Prefecture 滋賀県
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