Hikone (彦根)  [dead link] is a city of 113,000 people (2016) at the eastern edge of Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture, central Japan.
Hikone 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.
Ferries connect Hikone to the islands of Chikubu and Takeshima in Lake Biwa.
Hikone 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.
Hikone Castle and Genkyu-en Garden are a 15- to 20-minute walk along the main road from Hikone Station.
There are two options for bike rental in Hikone:
- 1 Ekirin-kun (駅リンくん). Daily 06:30-23:00. Basic fixed-gear bike rental directly on the south side of the west exit of Hikone station ¥500 a day.
- Meguringo (めぐりんこ). Multi-gear bikes from the non-profit organisation ¥600 per day for a road bike. ¥800 per day for an electric assisted bike.
- 2 Meguringo Hikone ekimae (めぐりんこ 彦根駅前) (head out the west gate of the station, in the mall across the plaza on the south side of the street). Daily 09:00-17:00, closed for New Year.
- Meguringo NPO hōujin gokan seikatsu (めぐりんこ NPO法人五環生活) (1.3 km south-west from the train station). 10:00-18:00, closed on Tuesday.
- 1 Hikone Castle (彦根城 Hikone-jō). Hikone 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. Admission ¥500, including entry to Genkyu-en.
- 2 Genkyū-en Garden (玄宮園). Hikone'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.
- 3 Hikone Castle Museum (彦根城博物館, Hikone-jō Hakubutsukan), 1-1 Konki-cho, ☏ +81 74-922-6100. Daily 09:00-17:00. An excellent museum of samurai artifacts and artwork. ¥500.
- 4 Sawayama Castle.
- 5 Ryōtan-ji (龍潭寺), ☏ +81 74-922-2617. Daily 09:00-16:30. A 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. ¥400.
- Saifuku-ji (済福寺), ☏ +81 74-922-3974.
- Chiyo Shrine (千代神社).
Taking the JR regular [non-express] 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 13:00 and 15:00 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.
The road from the station to the castle is lined with an array of restaurants and souvenir shops. The Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road also has a number of restaurants.
- Sennari-tei. Local Omi beef specialist.
Hikone is home to JCMU, the Japanese Center for Michigan Universities. If you're interested in meeting some foreigners studying Japanese, head down to Sugimotos (a small sushi shop by Hikone Castle Hotel). Every Wednesday around 21:00 it becomes a bar for students and foreigners in the Shiga area.
In southern Hikone you will find Yab's Sports bar, which has become a prevalent stop for JCMU students.
- Business Hotel Serikawa (Along the Serikawa River), ☏ +81 74-926-2750. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. Western and Japanese-style rooms available. One person room ¥3990, two-person room ¥4830.
- [dead link] Business Hotel Hikone, ☏ +81 74-924-4631. Check-in: 16:00-23:00, check-out: 10:00. Single rooms ¥5200.
- Hikone Castle Hotel, ☏ +81 74-921-2001. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 11:00. Rooms start from ¥6500 (single).
- Hotel Sunroute Hikone. Prices start at ¥6930 for single rooms.
- [dead link] Tobaya Ryokan. A very cosy family-run ryokan. 4200.
|Routes through Hikone|
|Kyoto ← Omihachiman ←||W E||→ Maibara → Nagoya|
|Kyoto ← Ryuo ←||W E||→ Maibara → Nagoya|