Hiko-nyan now appears every day at Hikone Castle

Updated: Nov. 10, 2016

Good news for Hiko-nyan (or Hikonyan) fans. Hikone’s nationally famous official mascot, Hiko-nyan (ひこにゃん), now appears every day at Hikone Castle from April 1, 2013. Previously, Hiko-nyan appeared only four days a week, frustrating a good number of visitors who couldn’t see this super popular mascot.

By popular demand, you can now see Hiko-nyan performing three 30-min. shows daily. See the appearance schedule below.

Hiko-nyan basically just struts around and strikes cute poses for camera-toting fans. The show is free at the Hikone Castle Museum. If you want to see him in front of the main castle tower, you have to pay the castle admission. I feel sorry for whoever is in the Hiko-nyan suit during the summer. His/Her movements are noticeably slower in summer. One thing about Hiko-nyan is that it doesn’t speak. Not even a “meow” or “nyan-nyan.”

Hiko-nyan is a white cat wearing a red samurai helmet with horns. “Hiko” refers to Hikone, and “nyan” is a baby word for cat. The red helmet is modeled after the one worn by Lord Ii Naomasa, the first lord of Hikone Castle. Hiko-nyan was originally the official mascot for Hikone Castle’s 400th anniversary in 2007. He proved to be so popular that he was retained as the city’s official mascot indefinitely. Hiko-nyan’s official birthday is April 13, 2006 when the name “Hiko-nyan” was decided.

Hiko-nyan Appearance Schedule at Hikone Castle

Hiko-nyan Show TimePlace
10:30 am–11:00 amHikone Castle main tower
1:30 pm–2:00 pmHikone Castle main tower*
3:00 pm–3:30 pmHikone Castle Museum gate

*Note that in June, July, and Aug., Hiko-nyan will appear outside the Hikone Castle Museum for the 1:30 pm show instead of the main castle tower.
**In case of rain, Hiko-nyan will appear at the Museum. (Show times in Japanese.)

Hiko-nyan performing at Hikone Castle Museum.

In the beginning, the city allowed businesses to sell Hiko-nyan merchandise royalty-free to help spread word about the castle’s annniversary. But not anymore. The city now takes a cut on sales of authorized Hiko-nyan goods. Hiko-nyan’s unexpected and explosive popularity prompted the artist who created Hiko-nyan for Hikone to file suit against the city over Hiko-nyan’s copyright and trademark rights (details here) after the castle’s year-long anniversary celebration ended. What the artist was paid to create the character suddenly seemed paltry compared to the enormous merchandising sales the mascot was generating. The dispute has recently been resolved, finally.

Hiko-nyan has traveled widely around Japan and even ventured overseas like to Hawaii (photos here) to promote Hikone. In July 2013, Hiko-nyan will travel to Paris, France to attend the Japan Expo. Apparently there are at least two Hiko-nyan suits since he can be at two places at the same time. While Hiko-nyan is in Paris in July, Hiko-nyan is still scheduled to appear at Hikone Castle.

Hiko-nyan, wearing a lei, parading in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Hiko-nyan sparked the boom in mascot characters in Japan. Cities, towns, companies, and organizations right and left in Japan have developed their own mascots, but very few have gained national prominence like Hiko-nyan. Hiko-nyan received over 10,000 New Year’s postcards this past New Year’s Day. (City hall employees vowed to answer each one.) Not to mention a big pile of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

Hiko-nyan is based on a real or perhaps legendary cat. According to one legend, one day, Ii Naotaka, the third lord of Hikone Castle, was practicing falconry in Tokyo and was near Gotokuji temple when he saw this cat raising its paw. The cat beckoned him to enter the temple where he was able to rest inside. A major thunderstorm ensued, and the cat saved him from getting wet. Another legend says that as soon as the cat beckoned Naotaka into the temple, lightning struck the tree where he was standing. Thus, the cat saved his life.

This legendary cat connection gave birth to the idea behind Hiko-nyan. This same legend is also one theory as to how the ubiquitous beckoning cat (maneki-neko) you see at shops and restaurants in Japan originated. The beckoning cat can be called Hiko-nyan’s cousin.

Soon I hope to finally photograph Hiko-nyan in front of the main castle tower (National Treasure). Most people are spelling the name in English as, “Hikonyan” which I think is a mistake since people might mispronounce it as “Hikon-yan” (ひこんやん).