Located between Kyoto and Nagoya, Hikone (pronounced he-ko-neh) is a quiet town in Shiga Prefecture. On the eastern shore of Biwa Lake, Hikone was originally a market town that developed around a Buddhist temple. In the height of the Edo period, the famous Nakasendo trading route passed through Hikone, which is home to two post stations, Toriimoto-juku and Takamiya-juku.
The primary attraction is Hikone Jyo or Hikone Castle, built in the early 1600s during the Edo period and one of only five castles officially listed as a national treasure. With few exceptions, Hikone Castle is visible anywhere in town and is photo-worthy year round.
Learn more about Hikone Castle here.
Hikone’s location next to Lake Biwa makes it an ideal place for cycling and running, as well as leisurely walks. Renting a bike or joining a cycling tour is an effective way to travel around town and stop by popular sports.
Indulge in fresh seafood as well as some of the best wagyu in the country including Ohmigyu and Kobe beef. Step away from the tourist bustle of the big cities and we guarantee you’ll enjoy the most quaint and uniquely local aspects of Hikone.
Hikone station is a part of the JR Tokaido Main Line (locally referred to as the Biwako Line) and is only one stop or about four minutes from Maibara station, a shinkansen station which connects with Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
From Kyoto and Osaka
3o min. on the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara from Kyoto
75 min. on the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara from Osaka
Alternatively, you can board specific JR “special rapid” trains to Hikone from Kyoto (about 50 min.) and from Osaka (about 90 min.)
45 min. on the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara
About 2 hours, 15 min. on the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara
Cycling around Hikone is a great way to tour the town and neighboring areas. Suitable for the average mama chari (city bike) rider to the more serious cyclists, you’ll find a cycling tour that fits your schedule!
Spring and fall are the best time of the year to visit Hikone. We especially recommend the end of March and the beginning of April when the sakura cherry blossoms bloom around Hikone Castle.
Tour Hikone Castle by foot or by bike
Walk around the traditional uptown surrounding the castle
Take a cruise to Chikubu Island on Lake Biwa
Explore the Kawachi cave
Some of the best wagyu cattle are raised in the region and you don’t want to miss Omi beef. Have your beef seared and grilled or eat it shabu shabu style, we’re confident Hanare will take care of your appetite. Don’t forget to have a bowl (or two!) of local omimai, a type of rice locally harvested in Shiga Prefecture with up to 20 brands currently sold at stores.
Hungry but not in the mood for meat? We recommend the ayu at Kimura’s, as well as the sushi at Sakamotoya. Click on the links below to learn more!
Omi-beef is ranked as one of the top 3 Wagyu beefs in Japan along with Kobe-beef and Matsusaka-beef.
Ayu (and its smaller version, ko-ayu), also known as sweetfish, can be caught in Lake Biwa and is one of Shiga Prefecture’s specialty dishes.
For a cosier setting, we recommend Honmachi Juku, a bed and breakfast style inn located next to Castle Road and by a beautiful temple. Once an old, traditional Japanese house, Honmachi Juku has recently undergone a careful renovation that combines elements of modernity with Japanese tradition.
The inn is a 20 minute walk from Hikone station and the hosts welcome travelers from all over the world. Guests share a common living room and bathrooms; washing machines are available on-site.
Learn more about Honmachi Juku here.
For a more contemporary environment, we recommend the Hikone Castle Resort and Spa located by Lake Biwa and a 10-minute walk from Hikone Castle. Guests are free to use the onsen and may enjoy the view of Hikone Castle from the hotel lounge with complimentary beer.