After a construction period of twenty years, Hikone Castle (彦根城, Hikonejō) was completed in 1622. The hilltop castle served as the seat of the Ii daimyo (feudal lords) until the end of the feudal age in 1868.
Hikone Castle is an original castle, i.e. it survived the post feudal era without undergoing destruction and reconstruction. Besides the castle's main keep, most of the inner moats, walls, guard houses and gates also remain intact. Furthermore, parts of the castle's palace buildings have been reconstructed, giving visitors a good impression of a relatively complete Japanese feudal castle.
Like many castles in Japan, the grounds of Hikone Castle turn into a popular cherry blossom spot in spring. Hikone's cherry trees reach full bloom usually about a week later than in nearby Kyoto around early to mid April. Not a cherry blossom spot but a place of considerable scenic beauty is Genkyuen Garden located at the base of castle, just outside of the inner moat.
The eight islands of Japan sprang into existence through Divine Intervention.The first two gods who came into existence were Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto, the Exalted Male and Exalted Female. It was their job to make the land for people to live on.They went to the bridge between heaven and earth and, using a jewel-encrusted halberd, Izanagi and Izanami churned up the sea into a frothy foam. As salty drips of water fell from the tip of the halberd the first island was formed. Its name was Onogoro.So far, so good. But when Izanagi and Izanami first met on their island, Izanami spoke to Isanagi without being spoken to first. Since she was the female, and this was improper, their first union created badly-formed offspring who were sent off into the sea in boats.The next time they met, Izanagi was sure to speak first, ensuring the proper rules were followed, and this time they produced eight children, which became the islands of Japan.I'm sure you did not fail to miss the significance of this myth for the establishment of Japanese formal society.At present, Japan is the financial capital of Asia. It has the second largest economy in the world and the largest metropolitan area (Tokyo.)Technically there are three thousand islands making up the Japanese archipelago. Izanagi and Izanami must have been busy little devils with their jewelled halberd...Japan's culture is highly technical and organized. Everything sparkles and swooshes on silent, miniaturized mechanisms.They're a world leader in robotics, and the Japanese have the longest life-expectancy on earth.Text by Steve Smith.