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Hikone Castle

One of only four castles in Japan designated National Treasures, with buildings dating back four centuries.
p>There are four castles in Japan which are designated as National Treasures, Hikone Castle being one of them. Originally built by the Ii clan in 1622, the fortress was scheduled for demolition in the 19th century, but was thankfully spared through an intervention by the Meiji Emperor.

The castle enjoys a rare status among its kind, as the vast majority of its structures are in their original condition. The main fort is nestled safely behind two tiers of walls, ringed by moats which draw their water directly from Lake Biwa to the west.

Other defensive features include spiral ramps and wooden bridges, made to be quickly destructible in case any attackers managed to breach the walls. Also not to be missed is the castle museum, with a wide collection of treasures accumulated by the clan which once called the castle home.

It’s an impressive tourist site all year round, however Japanese castles all seem to take on an otherworldly beauty in winter. Consider taking a trip down from the slopes if you plan on going to Shiga for some snow sports.

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