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Hikone: Past Peak

Hikone Castle
Hikone:

As the main cherry blossom season comes to a close around much of the country, we continue to turn our attention toward spots that bloom later in the season. One of these spots is Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture, which is an easy day trip for those staying in western Japan around Kyoto and Osaka. The castle, which is a national treasure, is considered to be one of the best in Japan, and, like many castles, the expansive grounds have been turned into public park with hundreds of cherry trees planted around them.

The cherry blossoms around Hikone Castle typically bloom about a week after those around Kyoto, and reached full bloom this year on April 5th. Since then the majority of the blossoms have fallen around the castle, yet there remain pockets here and there that were still pleasant especially around the castle's inner moat and the Nishi-no-maru bailey.

Around the outer moat of Hikone Castle
Almost all the blossom have fallen in this area
Rickshaw and cherry blossoms

Some of the first cherry trees visitors encounter line the castle wall and outer moat; however, virtually all of the petals have fallen by now. The inner moats, on the other hand, was one of the few areas left where there were a significant number of petals left. Note that boat tours ply the moat offering visitors another perspective from which to see the flowers.

The area around the inner moat was one of the few places with many blossoms left
Sightseeing boats ply the moat
Millions of petals float on the surface of the water
The Hikone Castle Museum was under renovations for a year and reopened last May

After entering the paid area of the castle, visitors climb up a set of stairs to the Kane-no-maru, one of the castle's outer baileys. A good number of cherry trees are planted around the Kane-no-maru, many of which were still dropping petals today.

The Kane-no-maru seen from the Taiko-no-maru
The blossoms around the Kane-no-maru were some of the best around the castle
Blossoms above the entryway

Moving up through the castle grounds leads to the main bailey and the castle keep. The blossoms around the keep were some of the most advanced and pretty much at the end of the season. The castle has a mascot, Hikyonyan, which is pretty well known across Japan. When I arrived they were holding a ceremony at the castle celebrating his tenth birthday.

Hikyonyan and Hikone Castle's keep
Lots of advanced blossoms around the castle's main bailey
Lake Biwa can be seen in the distance from the observation deck in the castle keep
Cherry trees overhang the castle walls

Beyond the castle is the Nishi-no-maru bailey with even more cherry trees, including a selection of later blooming varieties that were still at full bloom. This made it another of the best parts of the castle grounds today and a nice looking place to have a cherry blossom viewing (hanami) party or picnic. While the season is mostly over around Hikone Castle, the Nishi-no-maru bailey and inner moat area should remain nice for a few more days.

Nishi-no-maru bailey
The main cherry season is almost over
However later blooming trees like this Yaebenishidarezakura were still in bloom
Genkyuen Garden, along the outer castle grounds, uses the castle keep as borrowed scenery