Takeda Castle Ruins – The Floating Castle of Japan

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By Cher

Tucked away in the mountains of Hyogo Prefecture lies the mystical Takeda Castle Ruins, an iconic Japanese landmark that appears to float on clouds. With its breathtaking scenery and rich history, Takeda Castle captivates all who visit.

Takeda Castle Ruins Overview

Takeda Castle Ruins (竹田城跡) is located in Asago City in Hyogo Prefecture, about 70km north of Himeji. The ruins sit 353 meters above sea level on Mount Kojo. Sometimes referred to as “Japan’s Machu Picchu,” the castle is famous for seeming to float above a sea of clouds on autumn mornings.

Takeda Castle was originally built in 1441 during Japan’s Muromachi period. It played a strategic role along the highway connecting Tanba and Inaba Provinces. The castle was built to protect the nearby Ikuno silver mine and guard Harima Province from invasion.

Over its history, Takeda Castle was controlled by various clans before being conquered by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 1500s. It was abandoned after the decisive Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Over time, the buildings deteriorated, leaving only stone walls and foundations. The ruins were restored in the 1970s and opened to the public.

Takeda Castle Ruins

Visiting Takeda Castle Ruins

The best times to visit are autumn and early winter, especially October and November. During this season, early morning mist settles around the mountain top ruins, creating the impression of a floating castle. Photographers flock to the site to capture this rare natural phenomenon.

The castle ruins are about a 40-minute hike up a steep mountain trail from Takeda Station. The train station is located on the JR Bantan Line, about 90 minutes north of Himeji. Visitors can also take a bus or taxi up the mountain.

Within the castle grounds, ruins of stone walls, moats, and building foundations allow visitors to imagine the castle layout. The grounds offer panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and city below. A walking path guides visitors through the site.

Witness the Floating Castle

The famous views of the floating castle are from the Ritsuunkyo observatory on the opposite mountainside. Photographers perch on the observation decks waiting for the perfect shot. The lower decks are just steps from the parking lot. However, the best views are from Viewpoints 1 and 2, reachable after a 10-40 minute hike up the trail.

At Ritsuunkyo, aim to arrive before sunrise, ideally between 6:00-6:30am. This is when fog conditions are best for viewing the floating castle. Admission to Ritsuunkyo is 300 yen.

Alternatively, head to the castle ruins to watch the clouds roll in. The ruins open as early as 4:00 a.m. during peak season. It’s best to arrive right at opening to secure a spot. You can watch the sunrise and illuminated stone walls emerge from the fog from various lookout points within the castle grounds.

Plan Your Visit

Visiting Takeda Castle requires more planning than a typical sightseeing destination. Here are some tips:

  • Time your visit – The floating castle can only be seen around sunrise on autumn mornings when weather conditions are right. Fog typically lasts from dawn until 8:00 a.m.
  • Check the forecast – Clear, sunny weather is needed for fog to develop overnight. Avoid visiting on rainy, overcast, or windy days.
  • Go early – To catch the floating castle views, arrive before sunrise. This often means a very early start to your day.
  • Dress warmly – October and November mornings can be very chilly, especially at higher elevations. Dress in layers.
  • Be prepared to wait – You may have to wait over an hour for ideal fog conditions. Bring snacks and hot drinks to stay comfortable.
  • Visit on a weekday – Avoid crowds by planning your trip on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday rather than weekends.
  • Have backup plans – There’s no guarantee you’ll see the famous views. Have other activities planned in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Accessing Takeda Castle Ruins

Since Takeda Castle is quite remote, getting there requires planning. Here are some options for transportation:

Train – Take the JR Bantan Line from Himeji to Takeda Station at the base of the mountain.

Bus – Tenku buses run from Takeda Station to the castle ruins from spring to fall.

Taxi – A taxi from Takeda Station takes about 15 minutes and costs around 2000 yen.

Car – Free parking is available at lots around town. Buses or hiking trails lead up to the ruins.

On Foot – It’s possible to hike all the way from Takeda Station to the ruins in around 40 minutes. The trail is quite steep.

History of Takeda Castle

Takeda Castle has a long, dramatic history intertwined with Japan’s tumultuous Sengoku period. Here are some key events:

  • 1441 – Takeda Castle constructed on orders of Otagaki Mitsukage, a Yamana clan retainer
  • 1468 – Otagaki leads Yamana forces to victory over the Hosokawa clan from Takeda Castle
  • 1576 – Castle falls to Toyotomi Hideyoshi as he unifies Japan
  • 1600 – Takeda forces fight against Tokugawa clan at Battle of Sekigahara, then abandon the castle
  • 1600s-1900s – Castle deteriorates after abandonment
  • 1970s-80s – Takeda Castle ruins excavated and restored
  • 1991 – Site opens to the public as a National Historic Site

Visiting Takeda Castle Ruins is like taking a step back in time. Walking among the weathered stone walls, you can vividly imagine the castle’s glorious past and fierce battles that took place. This magical destination is a must-see for any visitor to Japan.

If you love the majestic ruins of Takeda Castle, be sure to also visit the historic Takamatsu Castle in Kagawa Prefecture, another atmospheric Japanese castle location that offers beautiful scenery and insight into the country’s feudal past.

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