When I originally saw this post on Hyogo: The Heart of Japan, I dismissed it as uninteresting. I live one stop away from Akashi and Akashi castle ruins and I had been disillusioned by ruins. It wasn’t until I did some further research about the Takeda Castle Ruins that I truly became interested in visiting them.
Takeda Castle is called the “Machu Picchu” of Japan because of its location high atop a mountain and the dense fog that seeps in during the early morning hours of the fall. Pictures such as the one above lured me to these ruins. After doing some research, I discovered that I would not be able to make it during the fall, so I would need to settle for the vista views and the hike if I wanted to experience this castle. (The view would have been amazing though… sigh…)
I followed the directions on H:THofJ‘s website and took the train to Takeda station, which truly is a rural train station. I had to exit the train in Teramae and switch trains – it was pretty confusing because there was very little English available but I was able to play charades and use broken Japanese to figure out which train to take to my final destination. My ICOCA card did not work when I attempted to leave the train and I had to pay in cash when I finally got to Takeda.
Housed in the same building as the Takeda JR train station is a welcome center which provides information on the castle. As I previously stated, Takeda is truly rural so there wasn’t any English information, but the woman working there was eager to help. She gave me a map, took me outside and pointed me in the right direction. That’s when things got difficult.
I had planned on taking the same route listed and (well) photographed on H:THofJ‘s website (check it out here), but the woman at the welcome center sent me in the opposite direction. I decided to trust her guidance and follow the map. I walked down the main street, turned right at a shrine, as indicated on the map, and that’s where I started to get lost. I walked in circles for about 45 minutes before I finally decided to follow a not-so-well marked trail, different from the one on H:THofJ‘s web site (that one was closed), and hope for the best.
I followed the trail on the left of the JR station near the shrine.
Map taken from the Takeda Castle Ruins web site.
Entrance to the shrine.
The plus side of getting lost was that I stumbled upon an old Buddhist graveyard in a bamboo forest. It was a unique find and I felt like it was definitely a Japanese experience, one that I would not have found in the US.
The hike I followed was pretty strenuous for me, but I had been lost for 45 minutes prior to finally finding the trail, and as I stated in my Fuji hike, I am the world’s slowest hiker. The trail photo I have posted was what the beginning of the trail looked like. The higher I got the steeper it got but also the more confusing the trail became. In many places the trail had debris covering it and if it weren’t for the pink and blue markers I wouldn’t have known I was even on a trail. Finally I reached a place on the mountain where stairs had been created from bamboo and I knew I was on the right path.
beginning of the trail
The higher I hiked, the more beautiful the views became!
Finally, I was at the top. While there was no one on my trail, there were plenty of people at the top of the mountain (there is an alternative way to access the ruins… via bus, but I didn’t realize that).
I hiked up from all the way down there!
Because the Takeda Castle Ruins are in the middle of nowhere, and I had been lost for the first 45 minutes, I only had about 30 minutes to dart around the top of the mountain to examine the castle ruins. I wish I could have had a little more time. According to Hyogo Tourism Guide, the ruins are 400 meters from N to S and 100 meters from E to W (so that’s .06 of a mile by .25 of a mile for all of us who don’t know the metric system!). That’s a pretty big size! The ruins are on different levels also so you must climb up and down stairs to get to all of them. It is not a touristy area and I didn’t see a single vending machine on my hike or at the top of the mountain (unusual for Japan).
Jcastle profiles the Takeda Castle Ruins as being a 4 star castle due to its views, location, steep surrounding cliffs, and lack of human interference with the natural surroundings (as I’ve stated, it’s a rural area and this is not a huge tourist attraction like the castles in Himeji or Osaka). Jcastle goes on to give the history of the castle stating that it was built in 1441 (not really that old by Japanese standards) by Ohtagaki Mitsukage who worked for Yamana Sozen who resided over the area. In 1577 the castle was conquered by Hideyoshi, who passed the castle on to his younger brother, who then gave it to Akamatsu Hirohide. Hirohide fought in a battle in the Tottori Castle region, was said to have fought well, but then was accused of setting the castle town on fire (I’m unsure of which town, Tottori or Takeda). Hirohide committed seppuku, also known as harakiri, suicide by cutting one’s stomach. (They were serious warriors in Japan and honor was a strict code people lived by and it is still evident even today.) The castle was then abandoned.
Because Takeda is such a rural area, the train I needed to take towards Himeji only came through the town every 2 hours. I had about 20 minutes to book-it down the mountain to the station. Luckily for me, going down is much easier than going up and I made it.
After all was said and done, this was a really fun hike and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in hiking, beautiful views and Japanese castles.
As I stated, I was lost for the first 45 minutes of my trip. It gave me a great opportunity to see some of Takeda, a nice little town with lots of shrines and temples.