With a few days left to take advantage of my 7 day Japanese rail pass, a lazy sunny Sunday is indeed the perfect time to take a day trip across the Kansai prefecture to the lakeside city of Hikone. The train journey was pleasant enough and certainly didn’t feel like the hour and a half duration I believe it to have taken.
Hikone is a great day trip location with a few commanding drawcards, the Hikone castle park with it’s impressive defences and masterful display of Sakura being the main draw. I really lucked out with the timing here, with the bloom already over in Osaka and the peak bloom a week behind me in the relatively nearby Kyoto I really expected to see a collection of bare trees sitting on a pretty pink sea of petals. Instead I was confronted with an elegant display of blooms from what are evidently old trees, the seemed to bloom out of the very stone walls themselves, lining the moat surface with a blanket of bloom.
The castle park is a great place to walk around and for me was well worth the entry fee, even though I have no intention of entering the castle itself here, I want to save that experience and the interest associated with it for Matsumoto. There are still some out buildings and some lovely gardens that the entrance ticket allows access to, really lovely places to sit and watch the sun slowly fade from the sky.
Nearby there are still some older more traditional Japanese houses, and some rather attractive shrines and temples, many are connected with the Li family that ruled Hikone for the entire Edo period. Like many heavily visited places these historic houses serve as both an attraction and a business, with many housing restaurants and shops. I grabbed the panko crusted shredded and seasoned beef from one of them, not because I was hungry, but because they existed.
Food wise Hikone delivered a transient picnic, there were a few market stalls within the castle grounds, some on the food was quite similar to stuff I’ve had before. Like the fried chicken and the pork wrapped glutinous rice stick, this time topped with kimchi. I’d not had the whole barbequed squid before now, and to be honest probably won’t again, it was quite a lot of eating to get through that thing, the dusting of Japanese pepper only helping so much.
As it was a lovely day an opportunistic ice cream vending machine delivered a few choice items as did the mocha seller near the station, the sakura themed items getting my vote. The taiyaki was filled with custard cream and appeared to be made with puff pastry, it was super flaky and delicious.
Once the sun had set I made my way back to Osaka, a few local beers in my bag made the return trip simply fly by.