Takeda Castle is a castle ruin located in Asago City, in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. It also dubbed as ‘Machu Picchu of Japan’ for its terraced sloping architecture or the ‘castle floating in the sky’ because it is located at the top of the mountain whereby under a clear autumn sky, the castle will appear to be floating over a sea of clouds known as the ‘unkai’.
The best time to see this ethereal phenomenon is during sunrise around October and November, when the weather conditions are ideal for creating a sea of clouds.
I’d desperately wanted to visit the castle ruins since I first heard of it, and was overwhelmed with excitement when I found out that the ruins were only an hour’s drive from where I stayed in Himeji.
Journey to Takeda Castle
Our guide for the day, my sister’s friend advised us to start out early for the trip as the unkai would only last for a few hours after sunrise. I ended up waking at 3 am in the morning so that we could hit the road at 4am. But whenever I travelled, there would be this burst of adrenaline pumping in my veins that made me forget that the word exhaustion exists.
However, it was not to be my lucky day, as rainclouds loomed over our heads throughout our drive to the ruins. Halfway up the mountain, we were even told that we had to detour to take a bus as it was the weekend and cars are not allowed to park at the parking lot where her friend usually parked. A return bus trip costs a whopping 1000 JPY per person, which was as good as daylight robbery, as this excludes the 500 JPY admission charge to the castle ruins. At least though, we managed to catch the bus on time and it took us to a bus terminal midway up the mountain. From the terminal, we had to climb for about half an hour before we could reach the ruins.
Climbing The Mountain in The Rain
The climb was arduous, given my lack of physical ability. I was out of breath barely 15 minutes into the climb, and had to use my umbrella as a walking stick numerous times despite the fine rain wetting my hair. But all the strenuous exercise was forgotten the moment I caught sight of the half crumbling stone walls that marked a long forgotten medieval past. As I roamed about the ruins, I found that what I enjoy seeing the most in ruins was the fact that nature slowly creeps and reclaims herself in abandoned man-made structure. The juxtaposition of the sheer power of nature against man-made marvels were epitomised in the softness of the tree leaves brushing against the crumbling walls.
Takeda Castle is still Impressive without Unkai
Although the rain has effectively removed any possible appearance of clouds surrounding the castle ruins, the ruins were still impressive without the unkai. Without the sea of clouds, I could see wide and far into the natural landscape before me; the misty mountains that look like they were painted in watercolour, the tranquility of the rural countryside. And the red trees that stood proudly amongst the ruins were also a beautiful sight to behold. But I would definitely want to return again, on a fine day in autumn, to be in a castle floating in the sky.
Takeda Castle Ruins
Bus Trip (Weekend): 1000 JPY (return)
Admission fee: 500 JPY (adults and high school students). Free of charge for junior high school students and below.
Opening hours: Varies. See website for more information. Closed from 4th January to end of February.