Hikone Castle 彦根城
Founder Ii Naomasa
Year 1603
Type Hilltop
Condition Original
Structure 3 levels, 3 stories
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Historical Site Special Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, National Treasures, Important Cultural Properties
Historical Artifacts National Treasures:
tenshu, Tsukiyagura, Tamon Yagura

Important Cultural Properties:
Tenbin Yagura, Taiko Gate and Tsuzuki Yagura, Nishinomaru 3 level yagura and tsuzukiyagura, umaya, Ninomaru Sawaguchi Tamon Yagura
Location Hikone, Shiga Prefecture
Map Google Map
Access Hikone Station (Tokaido Honsen), walk 15 minutes
Website Hikone City Website
Visited April 1996, February 21, 2004
Notes A beautiful castle inside and out with many small interesting points here and there. Take your time to explore and enjoy it. Don't miss the various yagura and gates in a rush to get to the main main keep. With the reconstructed lord's palace and the original gardens on teh grounds of this castle, in some ways it demonstrates what a castle was really like even more so than Himeji Castle.

For his participation in the Battle of Sekigahara, Ii Naomasa was awardded Sawayama castle and surrounding lands. Due to its inconvenient locationa and poor condition, he soon started planning for a new castle on a new location that would become Hikone Castle.

Unfortunately, Naomasa died soon after and the castle was actually begun under his son Naotsugu. It took 20 years and was completed under Naotsugu's brother Naotaka who had become lord of the castle in 1615.

The main keep of Hikone-jo is famous for having used several types of gables and construction techniques to make it well fortified. The main keep and connected yagura are designated National Treasures.

I find it amazing that the ii family magaed to maintain their rule over Hikone Castle over 250 from the beginning of the Edo Period until the Meiji restoration.

Photo Tags

Viewer Comments

Comment on this castle
  • furinkazan    May 25, 2017 at 09:50 PM
    I revisited this wonderful castle. It was raining this morning and i was going to an other destination. I still managed to get to the main spots and got in time for the train to my next destination. In the sanju yagura of the nishinomaru is a nice VR video about the construction of the castle. There are also small videos of other castles. So you can see the tenshukaku of Takamatsujô and the wooden tower of the newly restored stone entrance of Yashima no ki.
  • ART    February 11, 2017 at 07:53 PM
    This is a very special castle facing Lake Biwako. It is one of 12 original keeps. The donjon is a wooden original! You can be in the very same rooms and corridors once patrolled by Samurai and Lords. If you are staying in Kyōto, it's just a short train ride away. Hikone -jō is one of my most favourite castles in Japan. I visited during gentle snow fall. After losing the battle of Sekigahara, being captured by peasants and executed, Ishida Mitsunari’s fiefdom was handed over to Ii Naomasa by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ishida’s castle, Suwayamajō, was however a difficult place from which to rule, plus it had been attacked immediately after the Battle of Sekigahara by Kobayakawa Hideaki because he hated Ishida’s guts, so it was probably in a poor state. For these reasons Ii relocated his base to a new fort on Lake Biwa, Hikonejō. The transition from Sengoku Period to Edo Period, from war time to peace, saw many castles on easy-to-defend but remote mountaintops fall out of use in favour of flatland or hilltop castles along important routes and near towns as such castles could be used as economic and administrative centres. Ii’s sons, Naotsugu and Naotaka, successively built Hikonejō over the next two decades, cannibalising building materials from Suwayamajō, and it was completed in 1622. Much of the castle remains in its original state from this time, including an extensive moat network, and in addition some structures, such as the go’ten (castle palace), have been reconstructed. The Ii clan ruled until the Meiji Period, for over two and a half centuries.
  • johnsonb on My Page    November 13, 2016 at 07:07 AM
    Visited 2014
  • Anonymous    June 23, 2016 at 11:26 AM
    good castle
  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    April 04, 2014 at 10:55 PM
    This is an outstanding castle and garden , the entry through those first gates after you leave the station is insane.
  • shiga ken    May 30, 2013 at 07:21 PM
    Here's a comprehensive video about Hikone Castle in English. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2uMzVDwe5I
  • RaymondW    September 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
    There is a new exhibition about Sawayama Castle Ruin in the reconstructed concrete tamonyagura on the other side of the Sawaguchi (Sawa Gate) and opposite the original stables and Sawaguchi Tamonyagura. This exhibition includes both displays about Hikone Castle and Sawayama Castle Ruin. It runs from 15th September 2012 to 31st August 2014. Sawayama Castle was Ishida Mitsunari’s stronghold, and after the Battle of Sekigahara, it was dismantled and its materials used in the construction of Hikone Castle. There is an excellent little booklet about Sawayama Castle for sale. I picked this up yesterday after going to Sawayama Castle Ruin.
  • bryanbaier on My Page    February 13, 2012 at 10:07 PM
    Awesome castle. Not much inside but gorgeous from the outside. The grounds and garden are also excellent
  • RaymondW    September 16, 2011 at 10:16 PM
    If you are going to visit Hikone Castle in the next month or two, there is a special exhibition of replica suits of samurai armour worn by the warlords and generals who were present at the Battle of Sekigahara. Not all of them are represented in the display, but just about all the major players are there in the exhibition of around 20 suits of armour. It is very interesting to see all the suits of armour side by side. There are detailed notes about each individual, but it is only in Japanese. The exhibition is held in the Tenbin Yagura from 10th September to 6th November.
  • a22cricket on My Page    May 16, 2011 at 06:53 PM
    Went during Golden Week and waited about an hour to get into the donjon. Interior is sparse but the grounds are gorgeous.
  • RaymondW    April 10, 2011 at 09:57 AM
    The second and third floors of the Sanju Yagura (an authentic turret) are now open to public. I was talking to one of the staff there, and she said they had only just made it accessible to the general public. Also, for the Hanami fans, Hikone Castle's cherry blossoms will be in full bloom later this week.
  • RaymondW on My Page    April 02, 2011 at 02:51 PM
    This is my “local” castle, taking only 40 minutes to get to JR Hikone Station from where I live. I went at the end of March. They are removing some of the trees behind the Tenbin Yagura, so now you can see clearly see a section of wall running up from one side of the Tenbin Yagura up to the Honmaru ishigaki.
  • Alamo6400    January 08, 2011 at 04:28 PM
    noemasa li one of the tokugawa seven generals he built this hikone castle looks pretty amazing to me
  • Kris on My Page    November 14, 2010 at 11:47 PM
    Why I give Hikone five stars: *1 Original castle, *2 Outstanding museum, *3 Beautiful grounds, scenic views *4, Very well maintained, good explanations, *5 Hikonyan. When my brother and his friend visited Japan and said they wanted to 'see a castle' I picked this one. I'll confess part of the motivation was the shopping, but I honestly agree with the comment that it demonstrates the concept of a Japanese castle very well. They were very impressed with the buildings and museum but not so impressed by my behavior regarding a certain famous feline. The mascot, Hikonyan, a cat in a helmet, appears three times daily in the castle ground, usually to be mobbed by crowds of over-excited women drawn to his red helmet, green scarf, yellow bell and cute white face. (He is the only mascot I have ever seen who needed body guards). I believe Hikonyan is responsible for a large part of Hikone city's economy; Hikone is a great place to buy Japanese history goods and the only place you can buy official Hikonyan products. It's also host to the national character mascot festival, held towards the end of October, (something you will either want to see or want to avoid depending on your tastes). The stamp is in an office in one of the yagura, I believe.
  • furinkazan on My Page    October 16, 2010 at 07:17 PM
    This is really a must. The site is marvelous and the castle is very nice. There is not alot to see in the castle, but the structure alone is breathtaking. There are alot of structures where you can go inside. I paid 1000yen for the castle, museum and garden. If you want to see the castle alone it is 600yen. The museum has some artifacts related to the Sengokujidai, but most of it consists of tea-ceremony, noh-theatre and music instruments. The museum is actually a reconstruction of the goten, so you can feel how it was living in those buildings.
  • Raymond W    February 22, 2010 at 03:58 PM
    Just got back to Hikone Castle. I'm pretty lucky that I live in Shiga as Hikone Station is only 40 minutes away by JR train (about an hour from Kyoto JR Station.) Anyway, just a heads up for those who like combining castle visits with some photography. Genkyu-en (Genkyu Garden) is having some work done on it, so the pond is pretty much drained. That means you won't be able to get the nice postcard-like photo of the pond in the garden in foreground with Hikone Castle up on the hill. All you get in the foreground is mud and more mud. On a sign, it said the work being done on the garden is from 22nd December 2009 to 9th March 2010. Also, the Keyaki Goten (The Ii Family Residence), next to the Genkyu-en is being renovated. It is scheduled to finish on 19th March 2010. The castle and the reconstructed palace are fine. No worries there. For anyone thinking of a visit to Hikone Castle, go in the morning. There will be less people, and you have the sun behind you for taking piccies of the castle keep. One more thing, if you want to see a very detailed model (1:300 scale) of what Hikone Castle and the surrounding castle town looked like in Edo Period, go inside the Ninomaru Sawaguchitamon-Yagura (Sawaguchitamon Turret).It is opposite the main entrance to the castle and palace. The cherry blossoms are still around a month away, but there are a few plum blossoms beginning to happen. BTW, hanami time = circus. Go early at 8:30am to avoid the crowds. After 10am, it becomes like a rugby rolling maul trying to get into the castle keep. Same goes for Golden Week at the beginning of May.
  • Raymond    April 03, 2009 at 10:36 PM
    I went to Hikone Castle today. The cherry blossoms have started but they won't be at their best until the middle of next week. There were plenty of people today, but nothing like last Golden Week. A sign was out in the afternoon saying that it takes around 30 minutes waiting in the queue to get into the tenshukaku (keep). The delay is in getting up and down the very steep stairs in the keep.
  • MM    March 16, 2008 at 07:15 AM
    Hikonejo is a great place to go to, because it has both many original buildings, and a fine collection of artifacts in the museum.
  • Galileo's great great Grandson    February 12, 2008 at 10:25 PM
    Could you guys get more angles for the Castles? I was trying to build a model but didn't have enough veiws to get it perfect. It is my job to get things perfect. As you would know architects are usually perfectionists. I am incredibly reliant on these views to get ideas. Thank you for your time.
Average Rating
Sign in to add this castle to your castle visits or to rate it.
  • Global rating average: 4.58 out of 5
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58
  • 4.58

Hikone, Shiga Prefecture
Hikone Castle views
donjon front Sawaguchi Tamon Yagura
Sawaguchi Tamon Yagura, left section Tenbin Yagura and Rokabashi Bridge
Hikone Castle Museum and palace. Taiko Mon Gate
main keep interior main keep interior, top floor
Nishinomaru 3 story yagura. stone foundation of the main keep and Honmaru
Otemon Bridge over the inner moat nagayamon gate
moat partially stone lined water moat
Inside the Sawaguchimon Yagura. Inside the Tenbin Yagura
Inside the horse stables.