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Genkyuen Garden at Hikone Castle

A daimyo's garden at Hikone Castle

Hikone Castle, a national treasure in Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture, is famous as one of Japan's twelve original castle towers. The castle was built by Naotsugu, son of Naomasa Ii, who was triumphant at the Battle of Sekigahara in the Warring States period. Surrounding the castle site is Genkyuen Garden. This garden of the Japanese feudal lords of Hikone is designated as a national scenic spot.

The garden has two distinct parts. The palace section with a collection of pavilions and tea houses is called Rakurakuen. The other section with paths and bridges around the pond is called Genkyuen Garden.

Among the palace buildings in the garden is an especially charming feature, Rinchikaku, a pavilion near the edge of the pond. The refined architecture makes it one of the best view spots in the garden. I like the classic roof style. According to accounts from the time of Lord Ii Naosuke, the pavilion was where the Hikone lords entertained visitors. The view across the pond looking towards Rinkaku reveals a great view of Hikone Castle.

Genkyuen, recognized as one of the great Edo period gardens, brings a sense of serenity to visitors. I felt relaxed when walking in the garden. When I visited, there were few people, so I could take my time and sense the history of the place. It was a cloudy day, but I imagine in the sunshine it is even more beautiful.

In early autumn, the garden is illuminated and visitors can enjoy moon viewing while tasting Japanese sweets. The autumn evening events are accompanied by performances of Japanese traditional music on koto harps.

For visitors seeking Japanese castles and gardens, Hikone Castle and Genkyuen are a must-see destination on the edge of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. Hikone City is within a 75-minute train trip from Kyoto. For information about Shiga Prefecture sights and culture, you may find inspiration from the tour, Four Days in Shiga and Fukui.

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