On the northeastern shore of Biwa-ko, Japan’s largest lake, lies the stately castle town of HIKONE (彦根). Often overlooked by international visitors, Hikone (not to be confused with Hakone, the resort town near Mount Fuji) is an easy day-trip from Kyoto or Ōsaka. This attractive town not unreasonably claims that it has retained the look and feel of the Edo period more than any other place in the country. The town’s castle is one of the few in Japan to have remained intact since the early 17th century. With Himeji-jō’s donjon under renovation till sometime in 2016, it’s well worth a visit. Hikone is also known for its butsudan (Buddhist altar) industry and the town has an abundance of shops with elaborate altars on display. Hikone’s main attractions can all be seen on foot and, except during the cherry blossom season when the castle is engulfed by hordes of tourists, the town can be enjoyed at a leisurely and crowd-free pace.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: the best homestays in Japan

An expert's guide: the best homestays in Japan

With a reputation for expensive hotels, Japan is the perfect place to try a homestay. There’s no better way to experience the real Japan than with a stay with…

15 Dec 2017 • Joe Minihane
All aboard: the most incredible sightseeing trains in Japan

All aboard: the most incredible sightseeing trains in Japan

None of this choo-choo stuff – Byun! Shu! are the sounds that a Japanese train makes. And while bullet trains – shinkansen – are one of the symbols of mod…

28 Nov 2017 • Neil McQuillian insert_drive_file Article
Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sake is quickly replacing craft beer as the cool kid on the drinks scene globally – and a number of breweries have recently opened in the UK, USA and Austral…

10 Nov 2017 • Tamara Hinson local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right