Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Takeda Castle – The Hidden Castle Ruins in the Sky

Japan really is a great island country for its fantastic scenery. One of them is the Takeda Castle Ruins (竹田城), located up in Mt. Kojōzan (古城山) in Hyōgo Prefecture (兵庫県). Castle ruins may not sound too exciting or appealing to some people, but the location and its rich history got it ranked as one of the Top 100 Castles in Japan! It has also been listed as one of the designated National Important Cultural Properties!

Mt. Kojōzan is a mountain with an altitude of 353.7 meters. As the whole mountain looks like a tiger lying down, the Takeda Castle built at its summit is also known as Torafusujō (虎臥城). With the castle tower being located at the center, its territory stretches in three directions. Instead of a rather rectangular shape like most castles, Takeda Castle’s ground is more triangular. Although the castle was destroyed in past civil wars, its stone walls remain intact as of today.

Ⓒ 吉田利栄

But that isn’t what many people come to Takeda Castle for nowadays. What they are after is the astonishing scenery of the castle floating in the sky!

It is a place where you get to experience what it would be like to walk above the fairy floss-like cloud and for your young kids to find out if there are creatures living in the sky (^_-)-☆.

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Refer to HERE for Takeda Castle Ruins’ area map. English notation is underneath the Japanese.

When Will Takeda Castle Be Surrounded by the Sea of Clouds

As Takeda Castle is an awesome spot for both hiking and general relaxation, you might as well kill two birds with one stone by visiting it in autumn. Why? You will also see the sea of clouds!

For the thick clouds/fog to be generated around Takeda Castle, one key requirement is having a big temperature difference between daytime and nighttime (at least 10 degrees). Especially if the day before was a sunny day with no clouds, you are almost guaranteed that a thick layer of cloud will cover up the lower part of the mountains and landscapes around the castle.

Here are some more specific weather conditions below if you want to increase your chances of seeing the sea of clouds:

  • From September to early December, especially towards the end of autumn. You might be able to see the phenomenon in other seasons too, but it would be quite rare.
  • The best time to view the seas of clouds is from sunrise to around 8 am.
  • It is better if the day you are visiting the castle is of a sunny day and without strong wind.

Tip: Check out the Asago City‘s Sea of Clouds Forecast HERE. The page is in Japanese, so copy the words in the “雲海予報” section onto Google Translate to read. Please note that it is purely a forecast based on past data, and there is no guarantee that it will be 100% accurate. In short, if the day you are visiting has “期待できる”, then you have a high chance of seeing it during your visit.

What to Bring to See the Sea of Clouds

  • Flashlight: No lighting is set up at Takeda Castle or around the observatories in the mountains close by. Please bring a flashlight if you plan on heading there in the early morning or even before dawn.
  • Raincoat: A raincoat will prevent you from getting wet if you are walking through the mists and clouds for a long period of time.
  • Warm clothes: It will be cold in the early morning.

How to Get to Takeda Castle Ruins

  • From JR Takeda Station (竹田駅), there are shuttle buses called Tenkū Bus (天空バス), which connect you to the bus stop close to the castle.
    • From there, it is around a 20-minute hike to Takeda Castle Ruins. Note the climb will be quite an exercise if you don’t normally work out.
  • If you plan to drive, you can park your car at Yamajiro no Sato (山城の郷) at the east of the castle. From the car park, the same Tenkū Bus (天空バス) will pick you up and take you to Takeda Castle Ruins stop (竹田城跡).
Ⓒ photo-ac.com
  • You can also park your car at either Takeda Machinaka Car Park (竹田まちなか観光駐車場) or Takeda Jokamachi Car Park (竹田城下町駐車場) and catch the Tenkū Bus (天空バス) from JR Takeda Station.
    • Be aware that Takeda Machinaka Car Park cannot be accessed from 9 pm to 7 am.

As we hiked from the closest bus stop to Takeda Castle, we thought the feudal lords in the past must have had a hard time living in the castle. The climb was tiring for us who don’t exercise much! Then we realized from reading the castle’s pamphlet that they had a separate residence close to JR Takeda Station. The lords only moved to the castle during wars.

Tip: You can also utilize Zendan Bus’s sightseeing bus Tajimawaru Premium-gō(たじまわるプレミアム号) to get to Yamajiro no Sato (山城の郷) from JR Toyooka Station or Kinosaki Onsen. Refer to the How to Get to Izushi in our Izushi article for more information.

Tenkū Bus’ (天空バス) Timetable and Bus Fare

Please refer to HERE for the timetable. As only the Japanese version is only available, please use the bus stops’ Japanese name to read it.

For the bus fare, if you plan to take a return trip from JR Takeda Station, it will be worthwhile to get the 1-Day Free Ticket (Ichinichi Furī Jōsha-ken, 1日フリー乗車券) for 500 yen (250 yen for children) from the bus driver.

The below table shows how much it would cost you for a one-way trip.

Important:
☛ Please note that the bus has a capacity of 30 people. Once that capacity is reached, you will have to wait to catch the next bus. We recommend that you get to the bus stop early if you are going during the peak season (i.e. autumn).
☛ You have to pay the bus fare in cash.

Hike Your Way to Takeda Castle Ruins

If you love hiking, there are a total of three trails that you can choose from:

Ⓒ photo-ac.com
  • Ekiura Mountain Trail (駅裏登山道)
    • Relatively easy course
    • It takes around 40 minutes to get to the ticket gate
  • Hyomai-Jinjya Shrine Mountain Trail (表米神社登山道)
    • Intermediate to advanced course with steep slopes
    • It takes around 40 minutes to get to the ticket gate
  • Minami Mountain Trail (南登山道)
    • Relatively easy course
    • It takes around 60 minutes to get to the ticket gate
  • Nishi Mountain Trail (西登山道)
    • Starting from Yamajiro no Sato
    • Relatively easy course
    • It takes around 40 minutes to get to the ticket gate

At some point, the mountain trail will merge with the paved road leading to the castle.

Please refer to HERE for the area’s map. From the mountain gate, it will be a short walk before you reach the ticket gate, and then from there, it is another climb to Takeda Castle.

Yamajiro no Sato (山城の郷)

Yamashiro no Sato is known as the “sky side station (天空の駅)” to the castle in the sky – Takeda Castle. Basically, just like any other roadside station in Japan, it is a spot for drivers and travelers to take a break or source local specialties.

One thing to note is that there are no vegetarian menus in the station’s restaurant as the broth in the noodle soup contains seafood extract. Besides that, the station is surrounded by abundant nature and is a great place to discover the history of Takeda Castle Ruins.

When You Are at Takeda Castle Ruins

As Taketa Castle is located at the top of a mountain, with strong winds occasionally, please follow the planned one-way only route after you pass the ticket booth. Simple fences mark the promenade at Takeda Castle Ruins. Please don’t go beyond the fence, or you are at risk of being blown away by the possible strong wind in the area.

Ⓒ blue-wind.net/

A couple of benches are placed on the ground of the castle ruins. The view of the surrounding mountain ranges and Takeda Town from the benches is stunning.

As you might be hungry, remember to bring snacks, drinks, or even a bento box for a picnic! Do remember to dispose of all rubbish responsibly.

The Dos and Don’ts at Takeda Castle Ruins

  • No fire is allowed. This includes smoking cigarettes
  • No camping
  • Do not remove or keep any objects from the ruins
  • No graffiti and climbing on stone walls
  • No littering
  • High heels and walking sticks are forbidden on the castle grounds as they may damage cultural property
  • Do wear suitable footwear for hiking

The Structure of Takeda Castle Ruins

Because Takeda Castle’s building is gone already, what is left for us to examine is the castle’s stone foundation. The castle’s stone foundation was made in two styles: Anozumi (穴太積) and Sangizumi (算木積).

The Anozumi style was used by the stone-masonry group called Anō-shu (穴太衆) in Sakamoto, Shiga Prefecture. The style was also employed to build famous castles in the Kansai region, such as Himeji Castle (姫路城) and Azuchi Castle (安土城).

Sangizumi is another technique applied to strengthen the stone wall’s stability. You can see the Sangizumi at Takeda Castle’s castle keep (Tenshu, 天守), the inner quarter (Honmaru,本丸), and Kita Senjou (北千畳).

Cherry Blossom and Autumn Foliage Seasons at Takeda Castle Ruins

Takeda Castle Ruins is also a relatively hidden cherry blossom spot. The season usually starts from early to mid-April each year. However, the flowers can bloom around late March if the temperature gets warmer before then.

Light-up events will be held from 6 pm to 8 pm when the flowers are in full bloom, making it the only time of the year for you to enjoy the mysterious yet romantic atmosphere at the old castle ruins.

Ⓒ 吉田利栄
Ⓒ Hyogo Tourism Bureau

The leaves usually start changing their colors in early November and peak from mid to late November.

It is also the best time of the year to enjoy the sea of clouds scenery. What you can do is be at the observatories in the mountains close by at dawn for the stunning view of the castle ruins from afar. You can also take a glimpse of the castle to adorn the phenomenon from all different angles.

As soon as the cloud/fog clears up, you head to the castle for a panoramic view of the surrounding nature (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Takeda Castle Ruins’ Admission Fee and Opening Hours

  • The admission fee is 500 yen for adults and free for elementary school students and below
    • Remember to bring cash with you
  • Most people spend around 30 – 60 minutes at Takeda Castle Ruins, so plan your visit according to the below opening hours. The last admission is 30 minutes before the closing time (except in December, it closes for entry at 1 pm)
    • From March to May: 8 am to 6 pm
    • From June to August: 6 am to 6 pm
    • From September to November: 4 am to 5 pm
    • From December to the 3rd of January: 10 am to 2 pm

In January and February, the castle ruins are usually covered by heavy snowfalls. Entry is forbidden during this period of the year for safety reasons.

The View of Takeda Castle in the Sky from Ritsuunkyō

To see the unreal scenery of Takeda Castle floating in the sky, you will have to get to the observatories in the mountains nearby. As no buses are servicing the area, you will have to drive or take a taxi from the closest train station.

Ritsuunkyō (立雲峡) is the most popular observation spot amongst all the other observatories close by. Located on the hillside of Mt. Asago (朝来山), it is the most convenient if you park your car at Ritsuunkyō Car Park (立雲峡駐車場) as this will cut down on the amount of hiking you need to do.

The Three Observatories at Ritsuunkyō

Cherry-Blossom-from-Ritsuunkyo-Asago-Hyogo-Japan
Ⓒ Hyogo Tourism Bureau

There are a total of three observatories at Ritsuunkyō, with the best scenery from No. 1 Observatory Deck (立雲峡第一展望台). However, expect to hike through some steep slopes from the No. 2 Observatory Deck.

Below is a guide on the time required to get to each observatory.

  • To No. 1 Observatory Deck
    • Around a 70 – 90 minutes hike from JR Takeda Station
    • Around 30 – 40 minutes from Ritsuunkyō Car Park
    • Around 25 minutes from No. 2 Observatory Deck
  • To No. 2 Observatory Deck
    • Around 15 minutes from Ritsuunkyō Car Park
    • Around 10 minutes from No. 3 Observatory Deck
  • To No. 3 Observatory Deck
    • Around 5 minutes from Ritsuunkyō Car Park

Be aware that if you choose to station at No. 2. or No. 3 Observatory Deck, you may not be able to see much as you will be inside the clouds.

If you plan to visit Takeda Castle Ruins in spring, don’t forget to drop by Ritsuunkyō. Although you might not be able to see the castle floating in the sky, you will be amazed by the beauty of cherry blossoms (^_-)-☆.

Important:
☛ The only toilet is in the car park
☛ If you plan to hike before dawn, the trail from No. 2 Observatory Deck to No. 1 Observatory Deck can be confusing, with the trail splitting a few times. So remember to take a photo of the map in the car park.

Fujiwatōge (藤和峠)

Takeda-Castle-Ruins-Sea-of-Clouds-Asago-Hyogo-Japan-
Ⓒ Hyogo Tourism Bureau

If you don’t want to hike your way to observatories and only want a photo of the Takeda Castle Ruins with the stunning sunrise, then Fujiwatōge is the place you want to be in!

Located at the west of Takeda Castle Ruins and just left to the small car park, there is a spot that can fit around ten people, allowing you to capture the most astonishing scenery of the castle with the sun rising from the mountains as a backdrop.

Given that Fujiwatōge is less well-known to tourists, you don’t need to worry about the place being flooded with people or having to fight over parking spaces!

Again, to get to Fujiwatōge, you will have to either drive or catch a taxi.

Bitchū Matsuyama Castle – Another Castle in the Sky with Less Hiking

Bitchu-Matsuyama-Castle-Autumn-Takahashi-Okayama-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about this stunning part of Japan!

Other than Takeda Castle Ruins, there are another two castles in the sky in Japan. Bitchū Matsuyama Castle (備中松山城) in Okayama Prefecture is one of them.

This particular castle has most of the architecture from a couple of centuries ago. It remains standing today and even has a Lord living there! The best part of getting to Bitchū Matsuyama Castle or its surrounding observatories is that it doesn’t require much hiking as they are all well-connected by bus.

Please refer to our article on Bitchū Matsuyama Castle for more information (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Discover Other Attractions in Asago City

Takeda Castle isn’t the only attraction in Asago City worth your time. The city is also home to one of Japan’s best mining towns!

To find out more awesome attractions close to Takeda Castle, please refer to our article on Asago City (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Asago-Fine-Arts-of-Mori-Art-Museum-Asago-Hyogo-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about the attractions nearby Takeda Castle Ruins!

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