Hiking to Takeda Castle, Japan’s Castle in the Sky
Since I can long remember I’ve been a fan of Studio Ghibli films. So when I found out that Japan had a castle that appeared to be floating like “Castle in the Sky,” I had to find out for myself. This unique castle in Japan is called Takeda Castle and while it may not have existing walls and a roof anymore, the ruins are still exceptionally interesting to visit. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the history of Takeda Castle and information for visiting.
Where is Takeda Castle?
The Takeda Castle Ruins are located in the city of Asago, Japan which is located in the Hyogo Prefecture north of Himeji or south of Kinosaki Onsen.
Where to Stay in Asago, Japan
When we visited Asago we stayed at Yuhiken and I’m not even going to recommend another place because I loved this one so much. It’s perfect for couples, solo travelers, families, and more. If you are traveling by train it is only a 6-minute walk from Wadayama Station and if you are traveling by car there is a place to park as well. The family that runs this small minshuku is incredibly friendly and hospitable. Not only did they go above and beyond to assure we had everything we needed to enjoy our stay, but they also left us with a few gifts including postcards of Takeda Castle and a small purse that could be used when wearing kimono.
In addition to the spacious tatami mat room with comfortable futons, they offer a lovely homemade spread for breakfast and dinner for a small fee. Since Asago is a smaller place to visit with limited things to do, having this experience is a must during your stay at Yuhiken. This was one of the most enjoyable stays we had in Japan and we would definitely go back here in a heartbeat.
Location: 31 Wadayamacho Wadayama, Asago, Hyogo 669-5201, Japan // MAP
Cost: We paid 10,000 yen per night.
How to Get to the Takeda Castle Ruins
If you happen to be driving in Japan then getting to Asago to see Takeda Castle Ruins is actually an easy trip. We found Google Maps to be effective in most areas of Japan but all rental cars come with a GPS that is helpful for placing map coordinates. Just make sure you change your language to what you’d prefer if you don’t speak Japanese! We actually drove from Tottori to Asago because that is where we were located prior. It was about a two-hour drive. However, if you are traveling from somewhere like Himeji or Kinosaki Onsen, the journey only takes around an hour.
Once you arrive in Asago there are four different parking lots for the Takeda Castle Ruins.
- Yamajiro no Sato: Located north of the castle. This parking lot is free and holds around 120 vehicles.
- Takeda Machinaka: Located directly behind JR Takeda Station. This parking lot is also free and holds around 60 cars.
- Takeda Jokamachi: Located behind Takeda Machinaka. This parking lot is free and much larger holding around 170 cars.
- Ritsuun-Kyo Valley: This parking lot is for those wishing to hike to the viewing platforms for Takeda Castle. It holds around 50 cars so get there early and costs 300 yen per vehicle.
FROM HIMEJI: Take the JR Bantan Line from Himeji Station to Teramae Station. From Teramae Station take the Bantan Line to Takeda Station. This route takes approximately 1.5 hours and costs ¥1,170 (or is covered by JR Pass).
FROM KYOTO: Take the JR Hashidate Kinosaki Onsen Limited Express from Kyoto Station to Wadayama Station. This part of the journey takes around 1 hour 45 minutes and costs ¥4,130 (or is covered by JR Pass). From Wadayama Station take the JR Bantan Line to Takeda Station which takes around 8 minutes and costs ¥190 (or is covered by JR Pass).
FROM KINOSAKI ONSEN: Take the JR San-in Line from Kinosaki Onsen Station to Wadayama Station. From Wadayama Station take the Bantan Line to Takeda Station. This route is roughly one hour and costs ¥860.
REACHING THE CASTLE RUINS
Once you reach Takeda Station or your parking lot you then have two options. The first option is to hike to the top from Takeda station. There are three different hiking trails to pick from that take around 40 minutes to an hour depending on the trail.
- MINAMI MOUNTAIN TRAIL: Located left of Takeda Station this trail takes around one hour to complete.
- HYOMAI-JINYA SHRINE MOUNTAIN TRAIL: This trail is located just outside of Takeda Station on the left side behind Hyomai Shrine. It is 1.2km and takes around 40 minutes to complete. There are steeper slopes and steps on this trail.
- EKIURA MOUNTAIN TRAIL: This trail is located just outside of Takeda Station to the right. It is 0.9km and takes around 40 minutes to complete and goes up the south side of the castle.
The second option is to take the Tenku bus from either Yamajiro no Sato, Takeda Machianaka, or Takeda Jokamachi parking lots. Buses come approximately every 35 minutes depending on the season. From here, the bus will bring you halfway to the castle ruins near the staff parking lot. There is also a public restroom here so make sure you use it before continuing on because there is the only one near the castle!
When you reach the Takeda Joseki bus stop you’ll continue the journey by foot for approximately 20 minutes on part of the Minami Mountain Trail. Bus fares vary depending on pick-up location but are anywhere from 80 yen-210 yen one-way.
History of Takeda Castle
Construction of Takeda Castle started in 1431 per the order of Lord Sozen Yamana who at the time, was lord of Izushi Castle. This castle was constructed in order to protect the Tajima region from two other regions, Harima and Tanba.
After Lord Yamana, seven generations of the Otagaki family became lords of the castle. But then in 1577, Toyotomi Hideyoshi attacked and conquered the castle. During the Toyotomi period, the castle was expanded adding the Tenshudai, the centermost part of the castle which was the highest point. Later the stonewalled part of the castle was completed during the time of Hirohide Akamatsu who was the final lord of the castle.
One of the notable battles that happened at Takeda Castle was the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 when the castle’s forces fought against the Tokugawa clan. The Tokugawa clan was successful in their fight and after their victory, Akamatsu switched to the Tokugawa side and continued the attack on Tottori Castle. He was accused of setting the castle and the town on fire and died by seppuku. Shortly after this battle, the castle was left abandoned and began to fall apart. Then in the 1970s-80s, the remaining castle ruins were restored and opened as a tourist site. In 2006, Takeda Castle was listed as one of the “100 Finest Castles in Japan.”
When is the Best Time to Visit Takeda Castle Ruins?
For the best viewing of Takeda Castle and its “floating castle effect” you’ll need to visit in October or November shortly before sunrise (usually before 8am). During these months you’ll also be able to witness peak fall foliage making the scenery on the hike and surrounding the castle exceptionally beautiful.
If you are okay with not seeing the floating castle or are visiting Japan at a different time but would still like to visit Takeda Castle Ruins then spring is another great time to visit. During the spring you’ll be able to see the castle’s sakura trees along with mild temperatures.
We actually visited Takeda Castle during the summer and while it was still nice to see the lush green scenery, it was definitely more humid and hot so be sure to pack water and maybe some snacks for the hikes. Once we reached the ruins we noticed the temperature drop and it was very windy in comparison to where we parked our car. So keep this in mind when you go!
It is also important to note that Takeda Castle is closed from mid-December until towards the end of March.
Visiting the Takeda Castle Ruins
The Takeda Castle Ruins were built on the summit of Mt. Kojo at an altitude of 353.7 m (1,160ft). Takeda Castle has often been referred to as “the Castle in the Sky” because of the way it appears to be floating above the clouds on early, foggy autumn mornings. It has also been referred to as Japan’s Machu Picchu and Torafusujo, the castle of the sleeping tiger because of its appearance from the front resembling that of a tiger lying down.
There are two areas of Takeda Castle Ruins that you should visit when you go. The first is the Ritsuunkyo viewing spot to see the floating castle or the ruins from a distance. We drove to the Ritsuunkyo parking lot around 5am, parked our car, and made our way up the steep dirt trail that winds up the mountain. Along the path, there are many different viewing platforms where you can see the castle or the town below. The lower decks are just a short distance from the parking lot but the best viewpoints of the castle are viewpoints 1 and 2 which are a short 30-45 minute hike up the trail.
Since we visited in the summer there wasn’t much fog so we didn’t get to see the “castle in the sky” effect. But it’s still really neat to see the ruins from a distance! While the trail wasn’t horribly strenuous make sure you prepare by eating a good breakfast beforehand, wearing good shoes, and bringing water because it is steep in some areas!
The second place you need to visit is the actual Takeda Castle Ruins. The grounds are divided into four different parts: Kita Senjo (the north part), Minami Senjo (the south part), Hanayashiki (the west part), and Tenshudai (the centermost high point). Here you can explore the grounds within the roped barriers.
Other Things to Do Near Takeda Castle
After visiting Takeda Castle you should also consider visiting the old district of Takeda. Within these streets, you’ll find temples, souvenir shops, an old sake distillery, and the information center which has more historical information about Takeda Castle and it’s free to visit!
If you get hungry there are also shops within Takeda Machi that offer Genki-don, a Japanese rice dish that is topped with the infamous Tajima beef. If you happen to be visiting in the spring, make sure you don’t miss Ritsuunkyo Valley, which is known for its sakura blooms.
A little further away you’ll find places like the Asago Fine Arts of Mori Art Museum which is an open-air sculpture park and an indoor art museum featuring the works of Toshio Yodoi, a sculptor born in Asago City. For more outdoor activities consider visiting Shirai Oomachi Fuji Park which is exceptionally well known for its wisteria trellises.
Ikuno is another nearby city that boasts many unique activities like the Ikuno Silver Mine which started in 1542 and was originally controlled by various feudal lords over the years. After the unification of Japan, control of the mine was left to the Japanese government. Today you can visit the silver mine and learn more about how it impacted the industrial heritage of Japan.
Nearby the Ikuno Silver Mine is Ikuno Village which was built in 1832. Originally this village held six inns that were dedicated to travelers as it was once forbidden to stay in the mining town. Now the village serves as a historical legacy where you can enjoy the history of the village, shop in the craft shops, and even try eating hayashi rice a traditional miner’s dish.
Location: Japan, 〒669-5252 Hyogo, Asago, 和田山町竹田古城山169番地 // MAP
Hours: Castle Grounds: 8am-6pm daily (end of March to mid-September), 4am-5pm (mid-September to early December), closed from mid-December until the end of March
Cost: 500 yen/adult, free for children