On day 5 we awoke in the beautiful ancient capital of Kyoto. As we have traveled to Kyoto before we weren’t planning on spending much of our time in the city itself, rather using this as a base in central Japan to travel around. Today we wanted to visit another castle, after being so impressed in Matsumoto, so headed to the nearby area of Hikone, on the shores of Lake Biwa.
We used the JR pass on local lines to access Hikone, it took 50 minutes but the scenery was beautiful. I’ve you’ve taken the Shinkansen from Tokyo to or past Kyoto you may have caught sight of Lake Biwa, it almost seems like an inland sea rather than a lake. From the map you can see that the oceans aren’t that far away from the shores of lake Biwa!
Hikone castle is one of the main draws of Hikone. Like Matsumoto castle, Hikone castle is also one of the 12 remaining original castles. Infact Hikone castle was built elsewhere and moved to Hikone!
The grounds are stunning though, the original walls are intact, as are some of the original gardens and ornamental trees. We caught Hikone in full bloom and the still reflection of the pink blossoms was breath taking.
The castle itself is rather squat and unimposing. Of course the architecture and attention to detail is amazing, but I think after seeing one of the most impressive of all Japanese castles, the bar had been set quite high!
After spending some time in and around the castle we headed back to Kyoto. After a quick dinner in Kyoto station we once again walked to Fushimi Inari Taisha and hiked the mountain after dark. I would highly recommend this, the place takes on a new atmosphere and is almost empty of tourists. We were even lucky enough to see a tanuki, who calmly ate his snails by our feet!
N.B. The cutie in the photo is the mascot of Hikone castle, Hikonyan!