Referred to as Japan’s Machu Picchu or Castle in the Sky, Takeda Castle Ruins is a spot with superb views. Sometimes thick morning fog surrounds the ruins from autumn to early winter. Many people visit the area early in the morning to get a glimpse of this mystical sight.
Takeda Castle Ruins were a mountain castle in Hyogo Prefecture Asago City. It is a castle that was selected as one of the Japan’s top 100 castles. Only stone walls and tatebori (moats parallel to mountain slopes) remains today as all the buildings have been lost through time. However that doesn’t stop the flow of visitors due to the magnificent view.
The Takeda Castle Ruins are located at the peak of Mt. Kojo, which has an altitude about 350m. This is a great spot to enjoy the beautiful landscape of nature and stone walls, however if you visit early in the morning from autumn to early winter you can enjoy a magical landscape.
The mountain peak sticking out of the thick fog surrounding the area looks like islands floating on a sea of clouds. People call this scenery unkai - the sea of clouds.
You can see this kind of scenery from the Takeda Castle Ruins on clear day early in the morning. The Takeda Castle Ruins were unknown to most people in Japan, but gained popularity when it was used in a T.V. commercial.
For people who want to see this scenery.The sea of clouds emerges from late September to early December in the early morning. From September 1 to November 30 the Takeda Castle Ruins open from 4:00 AM. However during the winter the mountain will freeze over, so from December 1 to January 3, the ruins open from 10:00 AM (on January 1, they open at 5:00 AM). Also from January 4 to February 28, going to the castle ruins is prohibited due to the freezing weather.
This time we started at the foot of Takeda Castle Ruins late at night in November.
Inside or Outside? Two Major Spots to View the Sea of Clouds
There are few factors for the sea of clouds to emerge: it must be sunny, there must be a significant difference in temperature from morning to mid-day, and weak winds, and then your window of opportunity is from dawn to 8:00 AM.
From September to November many people visit Takeda Castle Ruins to see the sea of clouds.
There are two major locations to view the sea of clouds. First is at peak of Mt. Kojo where the castle ruins is located. During the season when the ruins open at 4:00 AM (September 1 – November 30) you can view the clouds of sea surround the castle form the inside. The other is at the observatory at Ritsuunkyo located on the mountain side of Mt. Asago, from here you can see the ruins surround by the sea of clouds.
Tough decision to make, view from the inside of the castle ruins or view of the ruins at Ritsuunkyo. Considering that the sea of clouds only occurs under certain conditions in a limited time frame, and being only able to go to one location, we decided to go to the castle ruins.
As a side note the observatory at Ritsuunkyo is open during the winter. Since you can reach it at any time, we recommend this location during the winter. Although keep in mind that in this region there will be more than 30cm of snowfall and would be wise to avoid visiting during heavy snow.
On January 1, 2017, Takeda Castle Ruins opens from 5:00 AM; for more information please check the official website.
Securing Your Spot! Wait for the Sea of Clouds while Enjoying the Illuminated Castle Ruins
First you will head to the foot of Mt. Kojo by bus, then you will climb the mountain path. In order to secure the best position to take pictures of the sea of clouds many people start climbing the mountain at it opens. The mountain path is paved. After climbing the steep slope for 30 minutes with flashlight in hand, you will reach the reception area. By this time your body will be warmed up quite a bit from the hike. Once you get past the reception area you will see the illuminated stone walls.
During the sea of clouds season at Takeda Castle Ruins, the stone walls are illuminated from 4:00 AM to around 5:30 AM. Seeing the illuminated stone walls in the dark with only stars and distance city lights is quite amazing.
With the castle’s tenshudai (foundation) in the center the ruins spread about 100m to the east and west, and about 400m to the north and south. We first went to the foundation of the castle which is the highest point.
We were able to secure a spot at the front of the castle foundation. Looking down past the stone walls we can see the faint orange glow of the town. If you look further you can see some mist forming between the mountains.
Superb View Point 1: Enjoying the Sea of Clouds Spreading Below the Takeda Castle Ruins
After securing our spot and enjoying the illumination for about an hour, the sky started to get brighter and the illumination turned off. At this point everyone started to get excited. And the castle foundation that is only about 10 meters square wide was packed with people.
As the sea of clouds start getting closer to us, visitors start becoming quite excited. It seems like we were lucky this day, and as we wait a bit more...
The morning fog became thicker and we were surrounded in no time. Such a mystical sight that everyone became enthralled.
Through the silence you can hear all the cameras going off. There were also a bunch of people below the foundation.
Seeing clouds that are usually above your head down by your feet. It feels like you are looking down on earth from heaven.
Then as the sun becomes visible a cheer erupts from the crowd.
After taking in the view, we head down the mountain. The path in the castle ruins are one-way and the exit leads to the path down. On our way up it was pitch black, but on the way down we can see the sea of clouds from time to time.
As we descended back to earth from heaven, we said our goodbyes to Takeda Castle Ruins
Superb View Point 2: The View of Takeda Castle Ruins from Ritsuunkyo is a Castle in the Sky
After we got to the bottom of the mountain, we headed to Ritsuunkyo at the mountain side of Mt. Asako. It already past the time frame for the sea of clouds, but we headed to the observatory to get a view of Takeda Castle Ruins at the peak of Mt. Kojo.
After traveling to the mountain side by care, we resumed our hike. At the entrance of the path there is a sign that says 5 minutes to 3rd observatory from here. 20 minutes to 1 observatory from here. We decided to go to the 1 observatory since we are here.
We should have been tired from climbing to the Takeda Castle Ruins, but after such magnificent view, we couldn’t feel any fatigue. We used the bamboo poles available at the path entrance as walking sticks and worked our way up.
We climbed for 20 minutes enjoying the trees surrounding the path and an area with a cute waterfall.
The view of the castle ruins where we were. Just as we expected, the sea of clouds was gone, but the view is still breathtaking. However for people who wanted to see the sea of clouds from here, worry not.
Takeda Castle Ruins floating on the sea of clouds is fitting for the title of Castle in the Sky.
As we climbed downed I wondered how magnificent the view must have been when the castle was still standing. Also we promised to go get a view of the sea of clouds from Ritsuunkyo the next time.
More Attractions around Takeda Castle Ruins
Other than the view of the sea of clouds there are other places to visit. First is the Tourist Information Center Tenku-no Shiro right in front of JR Takeda Station at the base of the Takeda Castle Ruins.
Takeda Castle Ruins is not just an amazing scenic spot, but also an important mountain castle ruin. This is a great place to stop by when you visit Takeda Castle Ruins.
Also you can’t forget about gifts. There are many Takeda Castle gifts sold at shops at the foot of the Takeda Castle Ruins and along the mountain path. Some items are limited to these locations.
Also we can’t forget about Mt. Kojo. Mt. Kojo, along with the Takeda Castle Ruins, has various routes to the peak. There are even routes from the foot of the mountain that you can take to enjoy the natural scenery. All the routes are well maintained and most can be enjoyed by beginners. The courses are recommend for outdoor enthusiasts, also the mountain enjoyable in all season as it changes sceneries.
Many debate over the opinion of “it doesn’t matter how advanced photo technology becomes, it will never surpass going to the location.” I can’t tell if that statment is true or not, however the view from Takeda Castle Ruins is definitely a case that it is worth visiting and seeing first hand.
Takeda Castle Ruins竹田城跡
- Address 169 Takeda Kojo Yama, Wadayama-cho, Asago-shi, Hyogo Prefecture
- Phone Number 079-674-2120
Open: March 1 – May 31, 8:00 AM – 6:00 AM (final entrance 5:30 PM), June 1 – August 31 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM (final entrance 5:30 PM), September 1 – November 30, 4:00 AM – 5:00 PM (final entrance 4:30 PM), December 1 – January 3 10:00 AM – 2;00 PM (last entrance 1:00 PM)
*Entrance possible at 5:00 AM on January 1 2017, prohibited to climb mountain from January 4 – February 28. For more information please check the official website.
Viewing Fee: Adults (high school students and above) 500 yen (Tax included), junior high school students and below free
Phone: 079-674-2120 (Information Center Tenku-no Shiro)
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