Hikone castle had served as home of the feudal lords for a long time untill the collapse of feudal age in 1868, at that time, as the common fate of castle around the country, Hikone castle faced the risk of being demolished because Emperor Meiji considered them as symbols of the old age. However, his decision changed at the time he visited Hikone area which is said to be affected by some of his entourage. Among many other elements influencing the Emperor’s heart, there should be the magnificent beauty of Genkyuen garden, a large castle garden considered as a typical Japanese landscape garden.
Genkyuen garden was designed in 1677 in the northeast of Hikone castle, within its ground. Actually, the 4th Lord of Hikone castle, Naooki commanded to build the garden to create an entertainment space for his family and guests. The name as well architecture of Genkyuen are both inspired by the garden of the detached palace belonging to the Chinese emperor of Tang Period. Borrowing the faraway scenery of the imposing Hikone Castle on the hill behind the garden, the garden became the incredible stage for entertaining time of royal family, as well as perfect for their relaxing time.
Genkyuen owns a popular structure of Japanese garden with a central pond and a circular walking trail running around. You can see four small islands scattered across the pond and each one is connected by bridges with the others. Several wooden buildings standing by the pond used to serve as entertainment spot for the guests, now turning into teahouse called Hakkeitei where offering fragrant cup of tea. Near the garden, you can also find the Rakurakuen Palace built in 1679 served as the residence of the lord's family. The construction is believed to continue to be renovated until 2025.
One speciality about Genkyuen is that it has representations of the Eight Views of Omi, Chikubushima island, and the Shiraishi rocks in Lake Biwa. They are just reproductions as we can not cross Seta Karahashi Bridge inside the garden. Opening for tourists to enjoy the splendid scenery of the garden, they hold many events throughout year. Gathering to listen to chirping of insects is unique in Genkyuen. This beautiful sound of nature can be heard during the month of September, in the evening. Spring brings vitality to herons as they start to build nests in the high trees of the garden. And when the garden immerses in red waves of autumn leaves, they lit up the whole area with lights and Japanese music.
From 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Last admission at 4:30 pm.
From Shin-Osaka station or Kyoto station: take the north-bound JR Rapid train on the Tokaido Line and get off at Hikone station.