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彦根城 Hikone Castle – May 19th 2012

Our first mandatory trip in the study abroad program was the weekend trip to Wakayama. The destination for our second mandatory trip was Shiga prefecture. Unfortunately though, this time was only a one-day trip and we don’t get to spend the night in some fancy place, unlike our visit to Wakayama. Anyways, first we will visit the Hikone castle (wiki).

We arrived in Shiga, right next to the Hikone castle at 10:15am. It is just a short walk from here to get into the castle grounds. We took the path on the left, which actually cut through the moat of the castle.

Taking a look behind me, my fellow classmates followed slowly as I glazed at the serene surface of the water.

Moving forward, in front was a tight space enclosed by walls, and I was told that this used to be a gate for the castle. You can read the sign that they had up for a brief description.

Continuing on, past the other side. I really did not like the gate area, being surrounded by walls of rock, standing on pavement, with nothing else in sight but the sun.

Once we made the turn, a pleasant sight of green entered your field of vision. In the photo, the person in red was our tour guide, who spoke really good English. Don’t let her age deceive you. Following the curve of the road, you can see in front a bridge to cross a second moat.

As we walk towards that bridge, on our left was what I thought to be a horse stable, which appeared to be free to enter on that day. However, the class needed to move according to schedule.

I feel that this was more of an official entrance into the castle grounds.

My own photo of what the old couple above took, except that nobody is in my photo.

This wooden bridge was quite nice to walk on. It was as if you can feel every step you take.

Looking to the left over the bridge.

The building on the left is where you buy your ticket. The building on the right is a museum I believe.

I have absolutely no memory of whether or not we went into this museum, or if it was required to go through the museum to get to the castle.

Bad memory aside, let’s proceed on. This was a really nice path, with green canopies overhead and stone steps to walk on.

As we marched towards the center tower, our tour guide explained to us all the different ways that we could be killed in different areas if we were enemy soldiers invading the castle. One example was this bridge, where defending soldiers of the castle can be positioned on the the bridge and rain all sorts of hell on us.

Buy snacks and refreshments here.

After proceeding on for a bit, I turned around and noticed the increasing change in elevation.

At the Wakayama Castle, I did not take much photos on my way up, but as you might be able to tell in this post, it takes a while to get to the top. All of these slopes were a strategy to tire out invading soldiers, that was what I was told at least.

An area where we can be fired upon by arrows through the window slits.

Right near the top, there was a bell tower.

This is how far we have came up in altitude.

Turning around though, we have finally reached what we came for, the main keep of the Hikone Castle. There was some kind of performance going on where the crowd of people gathered.

Before we get a chance to randomly wonder around the plaza, we need to head through this entrance into the castle.

While waiting in line, I looked to the right and took a few photos looking out to the city.

Inside, it was fairly cramped and dark. In a certain room, as pictured above, a series of symbolic crests was displayed. To proceed on from this room, you need to get through an unbelievably steep staircase.

In the hallway, various slots of different shape and sizes line the wall. These are slots for shooting arrows out of. By the way, in order to come inside the castle tower, you had to take off your shoes. This applies to lots of places throughout Japan.

Let’s take a look through the window. The mesh actually creates an interesting effect on the photo.

Looking out of other various windows.

In another window, you can spy upon the people out on the plaza.

Can you guess which window I peered out of? I actually don’t know myself.

People seemed to be very interested in the performance in front of the castle. All I know about it was that someone dressed up as Hikonyan, the mascot of Hikone.

I don’t like crowds and I wasn’t interested in whatever the performance was, so I wandered around the plaza as it will be time to leave soon.

Another photo looking out to the city below.

One shot of the backside of the castle as we descend the mountain.

And one last shot at the city landscape.

The path down the mountain was really neat, and with taking a photo of the path behind me in mind, I spontaneously turned around to snap a shot. Thanks for the pose, but I don’t really take photos of people. Being in an environment with stone objects and greenery felt really nice. I wish that cities were built like this.

Back at ground level crossing a moat, with some final photos of the surrounding scenery. That is all for the Hikone Castle, but the day isn’t over yet. Our next immediate target is Genkyuu-en.

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