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Hikone has a beautiful castle, and if there is a chance of snow in late December, is a magical place. Another place to consider is Shigaraki, famous for pottery, and if you are adventurous, you could cycle there.
I recommend Ogoto onsen, as it is located near lake Biwako, one of the most popular tourist attractions.
I agree with Bonson. Hikone is one the great castles to visit when you are in the Kansai area. Just going around the whole castle will take an hour or two. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
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