What to Expect
Before this tour, for your better understanding, I would like to explain the history regarding Hikone castle and Hikone to you.
Around the 16th century, many feudal lords were fighting to rule this country.
Finally, Hideyoshi Toyotomi came to rule Japan. However, after his death, Ieyasu Tokugawa attempted to overthrow the Toyotomi family and rule Japan.
Moreover, confrontations between a group whose leader was Ieyasu Tokugawa and another group which wanted to maintain Toyotomi family escalated.
Finally, they fought each other at the battle of Sekigahara.
It was to decide who would rule Japan.
After the battle, Ieyasu Tokugawa won the battle and established the Tokugawa Shogunate. Moreover, this was the beginning of the Edo period (1603~1868) and was the time when unique Japanese culture flourished.
Naomasa Ii of the Ii family who was serving Ieyasu Tokugawa was transferred to Hikone as the first lord of the Hikone domain.
After his death, his successor of the Ii family started building the Hikone castle and constructing Hikone castle town.
It took about 20 years to be completed.
The main purpose of this castle was to keep track of the movements of the Toyotomi family and other feudal lords who still continued to show loyalty to the Toyotomi family, and to protect the Emperor.
Therefore, this castle would be built as a base of the Tokugawa Shogunate and was built to prepare for a battle with the Toyotomi family.
This castle had excellent defensiveness and offensiveness as military facilities.
This castle is now a National Treasure and located in Hikone city in Shiga Prefecture.
Hikone faces Lake Biwa which is the biggest lake in Japan.
Next, the most famous feudal lord among Ii family was Naosuke Ii who was 13th feudal lord of the Hikone domain.
He was Tairo or chief minister of the Tokugawa Shogunate as well as feudal lord.
In 1853, the United States Fleet sailed into Japan. The commander, Matthew Perry, asked Japan to open the door to the United States.
Ii Naosuke signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan without the Emperor's permission.
Therefore, discontent of the Imperial Court and some feudal lords grew.
Moreover, he punished over 100 people who opposed his foreign trade policies.
As a result, on March 3, 1860, the Sakuradamon Incident occurred and he was assassinated by masterless samurais outside the Sakuradamon gate of Edo Castle.
However, it is said he played an important role in Japanese history.
Ii family has been popular among ordinary people in this area and there are many temples or historic sites related to Ii family.
Based on the above information, I will inform you of detailed itinerary.
After meeting you at the JR Hikone station, I will show you a statue of warrior on a horse with armor and helmet. This statue’s image is Naomasa Ii who was 1st feudal lord of the Hikone domain.
Along a street which leads to Hikone castle, you stop by stone dealer’s stores dating back to the Middle Age. At these shops, there are garden lanterns, gravestones etc. of Japanese style and Buddha statues.
After about 15min. walk from the station, you will visit a Gokoku-shrine which enshrined person killed in wars.
After that, you will see middle moat and stone wall soon which are an entrance of Hikone castle complex. After watching Sawaguchi-Tamon Yagura turrets and stable which are important cultural assets and crossing a bridge over inner moat,
you will arrive at ticket office. After purchasing entrance tickets, you will confront a slope. Because this slope and steps were designed irregular to prevent invaders from entering the castle ground easily, you will run out breath.
This design is one of excellent defensiveness of this castle.
After going up the slope gasping for breath, you will see stone wall, bridge and entering road which is bent in to a right angle. These construction also show
excellent defensiveness and offensiveness of this castle.
After passing under two turrets (Tenbin Yagura turret and Taikomon Yagura turret) which are Important Cultural Assets, you will arrive at Hikone castle keep.
Though this castle keep which is national Treasure is small comparatively, this keep was designed to focus on the outside beauty.
Inside the keep, you will find interesting castle constructions.
Moreover, since this keep was built on the top of Mt.Hikone, you can get a full view of the surrounding area.
After leaving the keep and going down another slope, you will visit Genkyu-en feudal lord’s garden which was created in 1677.
This garden style is typical Japanese garden style which features a circular walking path around a central pond.
You can enjoy the view during each of the four seasons and each scenery should be breathtaking beauty.
After leaving Genkyu-en garden, you will see statue of Naosuke Ii who opened
the country to the world and you will arrive at Hikone Castle Museum.
Since there are many arts and crafts collected by the Ii family, such as Japanese swords, Noh masks and costumes, red armor, tea ceremony utensils, you can see the Edo period’s culture and Japan’s beauty.
Walking along the inner moat and cross the middle moat, you will arrive at Yume (dream)-Kyobashi-Castle-Road and a temple complex.
In the temple complex, there are several temples which associated with Ii family.
During emergency, the temple complex was important defensive positions where soldiers stay and prepare for a battle.
The Yume (dream)-Kyobashi-Castle-Road was built for tourists where both sides of the street are lined with black colored old Japanese style houses and the atmosphere of Edo period is well expressed. You can buy traditional Japanese souvenirs and eat Japanese traditional dishes, such as Soba noodles, O-mi beef sukiyaki.
On your way back to the JR Hikone Station, you will find Kimono shop, antique shop, etc. and you also find that streets in the castle town were designed to prevent invaders from attacking the castle complex.
At the end of the tour, you will browse many shops in a small department store in front of the station.
In the department store, you will find modern Japanese life style, because many citizens visit there to buy something for their daily life. Moreover, you will find interesting shops, such as 100 yen shops which is become popular among foreign tourists.