As I had learnt the way to the castle entrance the previous day, first thing in the morning I headed off to Hikone castle [彦根城, Hikone-jō]. The walk to the castle is flanked by the Irohamatsu, which is a row of special pine trees that were planted there as their roots grow downwards but not sideways.
Hikone castle is one of the 12 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 Museum of the Castle 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 Gardens [玄宮園], a traditional garden from where you can spot the castle.
Also within castle grounds was the Hikone City Museum of History – 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.
Finally, after picking up my luggage from the hotel I stopped by the Ii Naomasa [井伊 直政] Monument. Naomasa 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 Kyoto Aquarium [京都水族館, Kyōto Suizokukan].
Finally, I went to Taishogun Shopping Street [大将軍商店街 一条妖怪ストリート], known as “Ichijo Yokai Street”. 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.