Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 • Osaka Day 2
07:20 Good morning! Feeling so refreshed after a great sleep!
08:40 – 09:37 Japanese Breakfast is at 08:00 or 08:30, which they asked the night before, along with the option of milk or apple juice. And depending on the choice the table was already prepared for us. Cold veggies, pickled foods, grilled fish, beans, and tamago was already prepared. Hot veggies, fruits, coffee and tea, and small desserts were set out for everyone to take. There’s also hot porridge, which I didn’t really like it’s texture as much, but went really well with the pickled foods. There’s also seaweed soba noodles. Everything is very dainty but will definitely be filling!
09:37 After breakfast we enjoyed the Lake view awhile and bird watching through their telescopes in the foyer. The morning was rather foggy but felt just as pretty, although not as picturesque.
09:44 Back to our room after a detour to the public baths, which were closed 😭.
10:09 It’s not everyday we book a hot springs hotel, and definitely not always one with an ensuite one, so I didn’t wanna waste a last chance for another dip before checking out. Ahhh~~~ feels so great!! Polished off the second bottle of orange juice right after.
10:57 Had to rush a bit to tidy up and check out before making it onto the last drop off time at 11:00 to the train station. Their van leaves at 09:00, 10:00 and 11:00 for the Takatsuki train station to drop off guests.
11:08 Takatsuki 高月 station. Spent 10minutes pondering our destination for the day. Yep, that’s right, last minute travel planning, or last minute ANY planning, seems to be our motto. I admit the freedom of doing whatever whenever is exhilarating, but not knowing our next step or looking back and regretting not making more of our time, just ticks me off. Bad habits die hard.
11:55 Hikone 彦根(ひこね). A small city located in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, and on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa 琵琶湖, the largest lake in Japan. It’s most famous for Hikone Castle and Genkyuen garden. It’s a perfect day trip from Kyoto or Osaka. From Hikone, a 40-minute boat ride will take you to Chikubushima island, the second largest island on Lake Biwa and contains Hogonji temple and Tsukubushima-jinja shrine, and many structural remnants that are listed as national treasures and cultural property such as the Karamon gate, Kannon hall, and Funa-roka.
12:04 Right outside Hikone train station, is a large statue and underneath is a small version of the Hikone castle. If you cross the road, between the department stores near the train station, far off in the distance, you can also see the rooftops of the actual Hikone castle. So finding your way there shouldn’t be hard at all. Walking along that main road, most of the stores and restaurants nearby the station were either closed or waiting to open for dinner at 18:00. So do residents not eat out for lunch? Hmmm! Anyhow, that left the streets feeling very deserted.
12:22 Around 20 minute walk took us to the castle moat.
12:27 We made a stop at the Information Centre, located right across Hikone Castle resort and spa. The information centre contains a stamp for Hikone City, hehe, for those of you collecting!
The Ii family of Hikone domain castle was the general Ieyasu Tokugawa. The Ii family was a brace warrior at a Sekigahara national unity battle (1600). With this deed the Ii family was awarded a castle of Mitsunari Ishida and build a new castle on Hikone mountain. Since then Ii family support to regime to Tokugawa period as a Fudai daimyo (main minister). 13th generations of the Ii family, Ii Naosuke, was a Tairo (chief minister) and was assassinated Sakuradamon Incident. He was the hero who led to Japan at the opening of the country.
12:39 Ninomaru Sawaguchitam-yagura turret 二の丸佐和口多聞櫓. Designated as an Important National Cultural property (重要文化財). The sawaguchi entrance was located in one of the four entrances at the middle moat, along the frontage road of “Ironha-matsu” pine trees which lead right up to the castle. Previously, there was the Koraimon-gate at the Sawaguchi entrance and another right angled Yaguramon built inside the Koraimon with a passage under the turret. This square grid formation poise to be solid (known as Masugata) was the strongest form of defence designed for the castle gate against enemies invasion.
12:44 Hikonejo 彦根城.
Hours: 08:30~17:00 (last entrance at 16:30)
Cost: Castle and Garden 彦根城 玄宮園 ¥600, Castle Garden and Museum 彦根城 玄宮園 博物館 ¥1000, Museum 博物館 ¥500.
Ii Naomasa, one of the four top generals in the Tokugawa Army, distinguished himself in the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. For this he was awarded Sawayama Castle which had been the Castle of the defeated general Ishida Mitsunari. Naomasa was transferred to that Castle, which had been destroyed at the time of war, in 1601. Although he planned to build a new castle, he died of battle wounds before being able to complete his plan. His son Naotsugu carried out his father’s wish and began to build Hikone Castle in 1603. The Shogun Ieyasu then sent the Minister of construction and twelve lords from seven provinces to assist with construction. The hilltop castle on Mt. Hikone was completed in 1622 after 20 years of work. Area: 0.25 sq km. Circumference: 4km. Height: 50m. The main castle tower (Tenshukaku), Tenbin tower, Taikomon tower, Sanju tower and Sawaguchi Tamon tower were designated Important Cultural Assets in 1951. The main castle tower was redesignated a National treasure in 1952. The complete castle area became a Special Place of Historical Interest in 1956. The stable was designated an Important Cultural Asset in 1963. Hikone Castle has been chosen one of the 100 Best Sightseeing Places in Japan.
Nobori-Ishigaki Stone Wall 登り石垣 the uphill stone walls which were built along the mountain slopes to prevent enemy, can be rarely seen in Japanese castles. However, you can see 5 of them in Hikone castle.
12:50 Omote Goten (Front Hall) 表御殿. The omote goten of Hikone Castle houses the main government offices. The hall consisted of a public (outer) area – for attending to government affairs, for reception area to grant audiences, and for ceremonies – and the private (inner) quarters where the daimyo conducted his daily life. The original Omote Goten hall was torn down after the Meiji Restoration. In 1987, the hall was rebuilt into what is now the Hikone Castle museum. Although the current Omote Goten is a restoration, the Noh stage (city designated cultural asset) is the original stage built in 1800. He restoration of the private inner quarters where the lord went about his daily life was reconstructed from wood to replicate the authenticity of the structure as it was in during the Edo period.
13:01 At a little souvenir shop and rest area, Hello Kitty with Hikone Castle ¥600, Gintama 銀魂 in Hikone mascot uniform ¥550, Hikone Castle with mascot postcard ¥200, total ¥1350.
Tenbin yagura (Balance Scale tower) 天秤櫓 (重要文化財) Important Cultural Asset. It is said that this tower was moved from Otemon, the front gate of Nagahama Castle, originally built for Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and was called Tenbin yagura because it looked like a balance scale (tenbin). This structure is thought to be the only example of its type in Japan. The stones to the right side of the tower wall are built up in the style of gobo-zumi but the left side has been reconstructed from the base and layered in the style of otoshi-zumi.
13:23 Taikomon yagura 太鼓門櫓 and Tsuzuki yagura び続櫓 重要文化財 (important national cultural property). The yaguramon gate was to fortify the turret as served as the front entrance to the main enclosure. During the time when Hikone Castle was built, this original building was removed and reconstructed back from another castle. The yaguramon gate was unusually unique as the back of the building was an open corridor with banister.
13:27 Tenshu 天守 Main castle tower. Three story main castle tower. Though comparatively small in scale, the structure demonstrates the superior design required of a castle during periods of war. With its artistic arrangement of its different roof styles, “Kirizuma-Hafu”, “Irimoya-Hafu”, “Kara-Hafu”, elaborately designed windows, “Katomado” on the second and third floors, the balustrades and railings that surround the verandas on the third floor of the external appearance is spectacular. It is said to have originally the main tower of Otsu castle (Otsu city, Shiga) which was moved and reconstructed.
Oh-horigiri (huge dry moat) and Deguruwa (out of the main castle site) お堀切と出郭. There is a huge dry moat out of the Nishinomaru Sanju Yagura turret, dug to separate and hinder passage between the two peaks connected by a ridge to prevent enemies from attacking the back of the castle. The site, across the wooden bridge over the huge dry moat is workable as “Umadashi”, the place leaving for fightings by horses. According to chronology of Ii family, the stonewall of the site was built by the very well known group of stone masons, “Anoshu”.
14:34 Genkyuen Garden 玄宮園. It is a daimyo’s garden at the northeastern side of the castle and was built by Naooki, the fourth lord of the clan, taking 7 years to complete after it began construction in 1677. It has been though that the name originates from a garden that belonged to the Court of China called “Genkyu”. It is a noted garden that has been passed from the beginning of the Edo period to the present. It is a various wondering garden such as “Rinchikaku” built like sticking a big pond out, a building called “Hoshodai”, 9 bridges connected the islands in the pond, and an inlet from the big pond spring. You can taste the smell of flowers, the chirring of cicadas in chorus, red leaves, a snow scene, the elegance of each season as if you are a daimyo.
14:37 Keyaki-Goten 槻御殿 (private residence). The fourth lord of Hikone, Ii Naooki, began construction of this family residence in 1677. It was completed two years later, and all the neighbouring Daimyo admired its beauty. It was built of Zelkova, an exceptionally hard and durable wood. This is the original structure with its many sections, although it has been repaired many times. The 12th lord, Ii Naoaki, built an annex in the early 1800s called “Raku-raku-no-ma”, and since then Keyaki Goten has come to be known as “Raku-raku-en” (Raku means enjoy). The name “Raku-raku-en” is probably from a poem: “Virtuous men enjoy the mountains, wise men enjoy the water”, based on the idea of the lords enjoying what common people enjoy.
14:56 Hoshodai 鳳翔台. The place was named to convey the meaning of an excellent commanding height where the Chinese phoenix (mythological creature) sores up towards the sky. The “Hoshodai” was painted and listed as one of the top ten scenic places of natural beauty of Genkyuen garden in the picture of “Genkyuen Zu” painted in the Edo period. Boats decorated glamorously at the foot of the hills were drawn, and at times the feudal lord make merry with boat sailing were also depicted in the illustration.
For 500円, you get green tea and cakes to enjoy along with the scenic beauty of the pond, trees and greenery, bridges, and Hikone Castle towering majestically above the hills. But we didn’t.
15:00 The 100 selected soundscapes of Japan 日本の音風景百選
Time keeping bell and Chirping insects in Hikone Castle area 彦根城の時報時報鐘と虫の音. The Environment Agency selected “a Hundred Soundscapes of Japan” on June 5, 1996, in order to preserve landscapes that have such sounds as insects, mountain streams, bells and festivals which are loved by everyone. The time keeping bell and the chirping of insects of Hikone Castle area were among these. The ringing of the bell every three hours from the Castle area, the continuous songs of the cicadas on summer evenings and the chorus of crickets in Genkyuen garden are soundscapes which should be preserved for the future.
Upon leaving Genkyuen, the ticket office person pointed us the direction of the JR station as wondering around the garden seemed to have cause a lost to our bearings.
15:05 Umaya (the stable) 馬屋. This was an L shaped plan stables for keeping 21 horses of the lord constantly. Most of the space of this building is for keeping the horses standing by and hitching, except for the east side of the stable with a tatami floored small room which borders on Sawaguchimon yagura turret and the gate, near the west side of it. Originally this stable was considered expanding toward the south, but it is not rebuilt yet. This is the only extensive stable in Japan still existing which is designated cultural asset of national importance.
The umaya (stables), a long and narrow building, is located along the road and inner moat from the Omotemon (gate to the Omotegoten) of Hikone Castle. This stately stable is the only one in existence among the Edo period castles. The L-shaped stable has a tatami room in the east end, and right next to the stable stands the Tamon yagura of the Sawaguchi gate. At the opposite end, is the entrance to the stable. The stable has a number of horse stalls and other places to hitch horses, so that a total of 21 horses could be housed there. The original stable building was said to have been longer than the existing one, but the demolished portion of the original building have not yet been restored. The stable has always kept available on hand a number of horses for the successive lords of Hikone domain. In addition to this, there used to be stables for visitors by the entrance of the Omotegoten palace. There were also horse riding grounds for training horses in other Ii family residence, such as the Keyaki palace (present day Genkyuen garden and Rakurakuen building) and the Ohama palace (lake side palace at Matsubara).
15:14 After taking a look at the Stables and borrowing their public toilet, we continued on the main road, passing by a high school, and finding ourselves lost! Thankfully two students helped us out with their google maps and our tourist map, and located the direction to the JR station.
15:27 Irohamatsu いろは松. These trees are called “irohamatsu” because originally there were 47 pines in this area. “Iroha” is the word for the old Japanese alphabet in which there are 47 characters, and “matsu” means pine tree. They were transplanted from Kochi, Shikoku. They are a special type of pine called Tosa-matsu with roots that do not protrude above ground and therefore do not prevent men or horses from travelling along the road.
Back on track, we walked back down the main path from the castle, passed by these two white and one black swan gliding peacefully UP and down the moat.
15:28 Back on the main road, we went by the Hikone castle resort and spa building, and got us a Ohmi beef croquet (近江牛コロッケ) ¥280 per piece, total ¥560. We seem to have gotten the last two and it was very yummy although the beef didn’t stand out too much and it’s nice to have something warm on a chilly day. There’s also ice creams and various other snacks available, but it’s almost time for dinner. At their souvenir shop, we bought two big boxes 27 pcs as souvenirs for my colleagues) ¥1080, and one small pack 20pcs (for ourselves, teehee) ¥400. Total ¥2560.
15:48 Crossed the road back to the tourist information centre, and instant Ohmi beef rice 近江牛 すき焼き丼の素 x2 for ¥1000, and a hikonyan ballpoint and 3 coloured pen for $463, total ¥2660.
15:56 Shigaken Gokoku shrine 滋賀縣護國神社⛩️. 1-59 Osuecho Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, 522-0001, Japan.
16:10 Back at JR Hikone station. Since it’s a rather long trip back to Kyoto, we bought some rice balls. There’s something about long distance JR trains that make me wanna eat bento box, heh 😅.
15:23 – 17:15 JR Hikone station to Kyoto station. Like a lot of JR stations, there’s a stamp for those collecting. I really should find my little stamp book!
17:29 Kyoto Station 京都駅. Since we still had some time before dinner, we strolled around the underground mall of Kyoto station. Most of the shops were mid ranged Japanese brands. Being more chilly, I stopped by muji and contemplated buying thicker stockings and mittens, but being unsure of their sizing, skipped by. And winter season meant there were many shops showcasing long jackets, all very cute or elegant and slightly above my budget (for something I wasn’t sure how often I’d wear once back home) but sooooo tempted!!
17:54 Subway train from Kyoto station to Shijo station ¥210. Hankyu line from Shijo station to Kawaramachi ¥150.
18:26 Yamayoshi 山よし四条河原町店 活かに料理 for fresh crab cuisine.
Address: Japan, 600-8024 京都府京都市下京区天満町272
Being Winter solstice festival 冬至 for Chinese/Hongers, and being in Japan this particular day, we are celebrating it with a crab feast with K and his relatives. Having a group of 13, we were given a rather big private room with tatami floors and short stubby tables which are a tad uncomfy for those not used to kneeling for hours. They did try to round up as much short chairs for us but most people just sat cross-legged on the cushions. And being a rather big group, I had the immense pleasure of trying a range of crab food. Yum! The food was really good, but somehow didn’t have the range as other dedicated crab cuisine restaurants (e.g. Douraku かに道樂 at Teramachi, website: http://douraku.co.jp.t.at.hp.transer.com/kansai/kyotohonten/), and although service came efficient and polite, there was less cooking for you (they’d demonstrate how to shabu-shabu instead of actually putting in the ingredients for you), which meant the meal seemed to be much more messier and longer than before. Although that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable in the least! Oh, and rather unexpected, their matcha and red mean pudding dessert was a simply superb for a finale to a rather filling meal!
22:29 For an after meal stroll, I once again visit my “favourite” Japanese drug store at Teramachi, Sundrug サンドラッグ. This drugstore opens till ~22:30 before and after New Years, but otherwise opens quite late compared to other stores and has a nice variety of products and good stuff on sale.
(This blogger does a very nice summary of various drug stores at Teramachi, website: http://archerplus.pixnet.net/blog/post/175906167-京都河原町藥妝購買心得~)