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Japan's Takeda Castle Ruins: Guide to the Original 'Castle in the Sky'!

Japan's Takeda Castle Ruins: Guide to the Original 'Castle in the Sky'!

Date published: 10 October 2019
Last updated: 11 November 2020

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 mountain top castle ruins from autumn to early winter. Many people visit the area early in the morning to get a glimpse of this mystical sight.

Table of Contents
  1. Takeda Castle Ruins
  2. Inside or Outside? Two Major Spots to View the Sea of Clouds
  3. Securing Your Spot! Wait for the Sea of Clouds while Enjoying the Illuminated Takeda Castle Ruins
  4. Superb View 1: Enjoying the Sea of Clouds Spreading Below the Mountain Top Castle Ruins
  5. Superb View 2: The View of the Castle Ruins from Ritsuunkyo is a Castle in the Sky
  6. More Attractions around Takeda Castle Ruins
  7. Explore Japan at Your Pace - Rent an RV!

Takeda Castle Ruins

Takeda Castle Ruins were a mountain castle in Hyogo Prefecture Asago City. It is a castle that was selected as one of Japan’s top 100 castles.

Only stone walls and tatebori (moats parallel to mountain slopes) remain 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 is around 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 view of the unkai from Takeda Castle Ruins

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 scenery from the Takeda Castle Ruins on a clear day early in the morning. The 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 ruins open from 4:00 AM.

However, the mountain will freeze over during the winter, 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.

▲Takeda Castle Ruins reception

There are two major locations to view the sea of clouds. The first is at the peak of Mt. Kojo, where the castle ruins are located. During the season when the ruins open at 4:00 AM (September 1 – November 30), you can view the sea of clouds surrounding the castle from the inside. The other is at the observatory at Ritsuunkyo, located on the mountainside of Mt. Asago; from here, you can see the ruins surrounded by the sea of clouds.

Tough decision to make, view from the inside of the castle ruins or view the ruins at Ritsuunkyo. Considering that the sea of clouds only occurs under certain conditions in a limited time frame and can only 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 it would be wise to avoid visiting during heavy snow.

On January 1, Takeda Castle Ruins opens from 5:00 AM; please check the official website for more information.

Securing Your Spot! Wait for the Sea of Clouds while Enjoying the Illuminated Takeda Castle Ruins

First, you will head to the foot of Mt. Kojo by bus; then, you will climb the mountain path. To secure the best position to take pictures of the sea of clouds, many people start climbing the mountain as it opens. The mountain path is paved.

After climbing the steep slope for 30 minutes with a 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 distant 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.

▲The castle foundation is the highest point (center of photo)

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.

▲The view from the castle foundation before sunrise

Superb View 1: Enjoying the Sea of Clouds Spreading Below the Mountain Top 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.

▲People gathering to the foundation

As the sea of clouds starts 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 the earth from heaven.

Then as the sun becomes visible, a cheer erupts from the crowd.

▲The view of the sunrise from the foundation

A view that shows us how breathtaking nature is. The cloud illuminated by the sun looks like ocean waves. A beautiful contrast with the mountains.

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 we can see the sea of clouds from time to time on the way down.

As we descended back to earth from heaven, we said our goodbyes to Takeda Castle Ruins.

Superb View 2: The View of the 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 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 mountainside by car, we resumed our hike. At the path entrance, there is a sign indicating that it's 5 minutes to Observatory 3 and 20 minutes to Observatory 1. We decided to go to Observatory 1 to see what it was all about.

We should have been tired from climbing to the Takeda Castle Ruins, but we couldn’t feel any fatigue after such a magnificent view. We used the bamboo poles available at the path entrance as walking sticks and worked our way up.

▲A torii shrine gate along the path

We climbed for 20 minutes enjoying the trees surrounding the path and an area with a cute waterfall.

▲The view from the 1 observatory

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.

▲The view from Ritsuunkyo before sunrise
▲The view of Takeda Castle Ruins surrounded by the sea of clouds from Ritsuunkyo

Floating on the sea of clouds, these castle ruins really fit the title of Castle in the Sky.

As we climbed down, I wondered how magnificent the view must have been when the castle was still standing. Also, we promised to 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.

▲Tourist Information Center Tenku-no Shiro (Hours 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM; until 4:00 PM in January and February. Closed from December 29th to January 3rd; free admission)

At Tourist Information Center Tenku-no Shiro, there are panels on display that explain the history of the castle and a diorama of Mt. Kojo with the 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 the ruins.

Also, you can’t forget about gifts. Many Takeda Castle gifts are sold at shops at the foot of the ruins and along the mountain path. Some items are exclusive 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 recommended for outdoor enthusiasts, also the mountain enjoyable in all season as it changes sceneries.

The breathtaking view from Takeda Castle Ruins is definitely worth seeing in person - and one that you'll cherish forever.

Text by:Advision

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