Takeda Castle: The Castle in the Sky
By John Asano
Takeda Castle is often called “The Castle in the Sky” or the “Machu Picchu of Japan” and it certainly lives up to its name in its beautiful location high in the mountains. The castle is located in the city of Asago in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, and is rated one of Japan’s Top 100 Castles. The castle is also known as Torafushi-jo (Lying Tiger Castle) due to its layout resembling a lying tiger.
Takeda Castle was first built as Izushi Castle in 1441 by Otagaki Mitsukage, but was abandoned after the great samurai Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when the last lord of the castle was accused of arson and forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide).
Unfortunately the original castle is no longer standing but an extensive set of ruins remain to be explored. The castle ruins can be found beautifully situated atop a mountain, which is 353 meters above sea level. The ruins are absolutely stunning when the clouds roll in making them appear to be floating in the sky. It is very reminiscent of the famous Hayao Miyazaki movie “Castle in the Sky” and hence the nickname.
The phenomenon occurs in Autumn between September and November when the morning mist and fog forms a sea of clouds on a clear day. The fog is caused by the sharp drop in overnight temperatures experienced at that time of the year between day and night. You cannot always see the natural phenomenon and need to rely on a bit of good old-fashioned luck and the right weather conditions being met.
The scale of the castle ruins is impressive and is approximately 400 meters from north to south and 100 meters from east to west. The ruins contain some extensive stone walls that remain well preserved. It is hard to imagine how they managed the feat of getting all those stones to the top of the mountain without modern day equipment.
If you are visiting the castle ruins remember that you can only reach them via a mountain trail, so wear the appropriate shoes and clothing necessary for the hike up the mountain.
The views from the top of the mountain are impressive with 360 degree panoramic views, and the layout and style of the ruins very reminiscent of the majestic mountain ruins of the Inca site Machu Picchu in Peru.
Some of the best spots to enjoy the amazing view of the castle in the clouds are Ritsuunkyo (in front of the ruins) and the Fujiwa Pass (west side of the ruins).
More and more tourists have been discovering the amazing ruins of Takeda Castle so the number of visitors has been steadily increasing over recent years. Some people try and visit the iconic World Heritage Himeji Castle in the same day as they are not too far apart, but if you have the time, try and spend as much time as you can at Takeda Castle to fully appreciate all that it has to offer. I recommend spending at least 90 minutes checking out the castle ruins at the bare minimum.
Takeda Castle is truly a stunning set of castle ruins in a wonderful location high in the mountains of Hyogo.
Address: 169 Kojozan, Takeda, Wadayama-cho. Asago City, Hyogo
Admission: ¥300 for adults
9 am to 4 pm (March 20 – September 20)
3 am to 4 pm (September 21 – December 10)
Closed: December 11 to March 19
Take the JR Bantan Line from JR Himeji Station to JR Takeda Station. The journey takes around 90 minutes. You can reach the castle ruins after a brisk 40 minute hike to the top of the mountain via a mountain trail.