Good Morning Everyone,
It’s your friendly neighbourhood Gaijin, here to bring you a travel update from the Takeda Castle Ruins! Commonly nicknamed the ‘Castle in the Sky’, this landmark is located within the Hyogo Prefecture, Asago City. It is the remains of an old castle on top of a mountain and according to the tour guide, it is called the Machu Picchu of Japan (at least if I translated right). It is located right behind Takeda Station, which uses the JR Bantan line. However, the Bantan line is quite slow, so you may wish to drive.
According to the repeating infomercial video that plays within the souvenir shop, the castle was build in 1441 by a man named Otagaki Mitsukage. It is constructed at a height of 353 m of altitude, although the hike is a rather enjoyable and leisurely chance to bond with friends and family. In the gift shop, you can have the opportunity to pick up Takeda Castle omiyage such as: Takeda castle cookies or Iwatsu Negi cooking marinades and so on. You can also head to the back to check out displays of the castle, armour, the castle’s infrastructure, the castle divisions and much more (What I mentioned are most of main things).
How to ascend to the top of the mountain
The first time I went on the hike I wore sandals, and the castle workers thought I was nuts. They probably thought I would end up with bleeding feet. It’s actually a very simple 20 minute hike. There are three paths: one up a mountain trail (around 20 minutes), another mountain trail which is entered through a shine (around 20 minutes) and one where you walk on a mere concrete winding path (40 minutes). I’d say the trails are the most enjoyable, I have also seen 80 year-old Japanese Grandmas climb this mountain with a stick, so I think you’ll be fine getting up. As with climbing mountains, just be careful.
The bus is relatively cheap. It’s 500 yen for a day pass (basically up and down the mountain), or 260 yen for one ride. The bus comes to each station, on a specific route (going to or returning from the castle), about once an hour on the weekend. It arrives to the main parking lots of the Takeda Castle which are marked quite well in Japanese, and with the invention of Google Maps I’m sure you won’t get lost. Unless Siri decides to be a jerk – sometimes in Japan, she sends me up mountain paths to get to simple locations. Once the bus drives you up the hill, you still need to walk about 300m to the Castle gate, but it is much easier terrain than the mountain path.
The Top of the Mountain
Once you reach the top of the mountain, there is a welcome booth where you will be required to pay an admission fee of about 500 yen to the ticket vending machine. There will be nice individuals manning the station and they can provide you with English/Japanese pamphlet guides to explore the area. At the top you will see great views of Asago city: you can basically see 3 of the 4 town divisions – Asago, Wadayama and a little bit of Santo. Ikuno, the last division, was hidden behind the mountain so I couldn’t see it.
From the top you can enjoy a relaxing summit. In the spring, you can see Cherry blossoms. In the summer, if it’s raining, the fog and rice fields. In the fall, the changing of the leaves. While in the winter, you can see nothing as no one is allowed to climb the mountain.
At the bottom of the mountain, in the town of Takeda, there are a few shops where you can buy souvenir’s or eat lunch. There’s this cute, new pancake shop down by Takeda station called Powan. They have a small selection of sweet vs savoury options which are customizable. If you have the time, you should definitely check out this historic site.