Over the weekend, my friend Amy and I made a trip to Hikone in Shiga Prefecture. Hikone is located next to Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake. It took about 3 1/2 hours by train to get to Hikone, but our train ride was a mix of dozing off and catching up with our expat lives, which made the ride go a little faster. Hikone is a bigger city than I had expected, but it’s a charming small city, with a great history, and not to mention a super cute mascot.
Meet Hikonyan! (cr: Hikone-Hikonyan)
We arrived at Hikone Station and I already liked the atmosphere of the city; small town feel, but city-like with a nature-y and quiet backdrop. The city’s main center is surrounded by moats, reflecting Hikone’s historical past. The weather couldn’t make up its mind that day. It was overcast, then raining, then sunny, then raining again. Every time I’ve traveled in Japan so far, it has rained. I’m definitely rain girl.
We got to Hikone around lunch time so we walked towards Castle Road. An area, right outside Hikone castle that has many restaurants and shops.
It was a nice area to walk around. We went in and out of a few shops and couldn’t decide on what to eat. Finally, we decided to eat udon at Chakapon, since we were craving something warm. This restaurant offers a free order of extra noodles, so we had to take advantage of that! The udon was delicious and warming, just like we wanted. Muhammad Ali (if I understood the waitress’ Japanese correctly) visited this restaurant awhile back and his signature is on their wall. Many people were taking pictures of his signature.
Outside the entrance to the castle, a man was making taiyaki so naturally, we had to stop and buy some.
Labeling all the rocks to be put back in their same exact places. Crazy.
We bought a ticket set for the castle, museum, and gardens for ￥1000 (~$10 USD). The museum had many artifacts from the Edo Period, when the castle was built. One of my favorite things is looking at the warrior outfits. They’re always so elaborate and colorful, which isn’t good for blending in, but I love the designs.
[For more pictures of Hikone Castle, visit this post.] There are really steep steps within the castle, since much of the building is in its original form. There are casing with the original decorations and roof tiles, which was cool to see that they had survived so many years.
The walk to the gardens was very nice and tranquil. I really enjoyed seeing the remaining autumn leaves on the trees and on the ground. This was my first time seeing a real autumn, so I was always looking for opportunities to go leaf viewing. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go that many times this year, but I was happy enough being surrounded by the few autumn trees in my city.
We also had admission to Genkyu Gardens, which sadly didn’t live up to my expectations. It looked beautiful in pictures I had seen, but that day, it seemed to lack life. I think the half filled pond and the pre-winter stricken trees contributed to that feeling.
Although it was a short trip, I enjoyed my time walking around Hikone with my friend. She’s a great person to travel with so hopefully we can plan another trip in the near future. Hikone is a small town that takes pride in its national treasure. It may not be as famous and magnificent as some other sites in Kyoto or Tokyo, but if you’re looking for a trip with a lot less tourists and a small town feel, Hikone should be a stop in your plans. I love taking these weekend trips to nearby places, discovering charming towns that I wouldn’t have visited if I was just traveling normally. I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to live here in Japan and get to visit such beautiful places.
A preview of spring!