15th August 2018: Hikone is small and at noon it turns into a pumpkin? Hikone → Kyoto {Japan, summer 2018}

As I had learnt the way to the castle entrance the previous day, first thing in the morning I headed off to Hikone Castle. The walk to the castle is flanked by the Irohamatsu [いろは松], which is a row of special pine trees that were planted there as their roots grow downwards but not sideways.

Hikone castle, Hikone-jō [彦根城], is one of the twelve castles that retain the original keep and one of the five to be a national treasure. The ticket included the castle, the museum, and the Gardens. I was there when they opened so the affluence of people was not to big yet.

Being one of the important ones made two things happen – one, that you have to take your shoes off, and two, that the stairs are crazy. Good thing I was not carrying my backpack – I had left it at the hotel but they told me they could only keep it till noon for whatever reason, so it was a good thing that Hikone is not as big of a town as others. The interior structure of the castle is naked wood, and it feels quite severe.

After the castle I went to the Hikone-jō Hakubutsukan [彦根城博物館], the Castle Museum, as it started drizzling. Normally the castles have the museum inside, but this one was in a nearby tower next to the main gate.

My next destination were the Genkyuen [玄宮園], a traditional garden from where you can spot the castle.

Also within castle grounds was the Kaikoku kinen-kan [開国記念館] (officially translated as Hikone City Museum of History, but it is more as “Memorial Hall”) – unfortunately pics were not allowed except for this Lego Castle.

Finally I checked out Shigakengokoku Jinja [滋賀縣護國神社] under daylight.

I walked back to the hotel through the main street, where I saw many stone statue shops displaying their work - including the city mascot, Hikonyan [ひこにゃん].

Finally, after picking up my luggage from the hotel I stopped by the Ii Naomasa Ritsuzō [井伊直政立像], the Statue / Monument to Ii Naomasa, who was the original builder of the castle.

I jumped on the Hikone Rapid Express, which was packed, and headed off to my next destination, Kyoto [京都]. As I was earlier than expected, I got a jump-start on sightseeing. This would later proof to be not too much of a good idea – originally I only wanted to do one temple so I did not put my luggage into a coin locker. Looking back, I should have.

I went to To-ji [東寺], a Buddhist temple whose pagoda had drawn my attention every time I had been in Kyoto before.

Then, as it was quite close, I decided to check out the aquarium, Kyoto Suizokukan [京都水族館].

Finally, I went to Daishōgun Shōten Machi Ichi-jō Yōkai Street [大将軍商店街 一条妖怪ストリート], a shopping area with a lot of yokai and yokai-like mascots. Unfortunately, most everything was closed due to the Obon festivities, which in the end made for an unrewarded extra effort. Here I was trying to pace myself and not doing a good job out of it.

On my way to Yokai street and back I saw Jinja Kitano-Jinja Otabisho [北野神社 御旅所],

Jizo-in [地蔵院 ],

and finally Daishogun Hachi Jinja [大将軍八神社].

Finally I backtracked to the station and headed off to the hotel for some rest. I made a mental list of things that were incredibly close to the hotel and I could do the following day.