Japan is home to an enormous number of famous ruins and castles, with fascinating histories that transport us back to an era of clan warfare and old allegiances which remain at the heart of local tales today. As strongholds for the Lords and clans of old Japan, many castles have a commanding view of surrounding lands but none more so than this spectacular castle in Hyogo Prefecture. Often referred to as the Machu Picchu of Japan, and looking every bit like Ghibli’s famous floating castle from the animated movie Castle in the Sky, these ruins are expecting an unprecedented number of visitors this year. And with photos as stunning as these, it’s easy to see why.
Set atop a 353-metre high mountain in the Wadayamacho district of Asago, Hyogo Prefecture, the Takeda Castle ruins appear to float above the clouds. The best time to witness this floating effect is between sunrise and 8 am in the autumn months of September – November, when the sharp drop in overnight temperatures creates a magical early morning sea of mist.
Later in the day the mountains appear, covered in a gorgeous fall foliage.
In winter, the site takes on an equally impressive quality under a layer of white snow.
With National Historic Site status, these ruins are all that remain of the castle which was first constructed in 1443 by a daimyo lord of the Yamana samurai clan. The stone walls on site today date back to the end of the 16th century and cover an area of 40 by 100 metres.
After appearing in the movie Anata e (Dearest), the site received a huge surge in visitors in 2012-2013. In order to protect the site, which was beginning to show signs of collapse, Asago City began charging a 300 yen (US$2.90) entry fee.
Visitors to the site are advised to take the train to JR Takeda Station, where they can leave their luggage. From the foot of the mountain to the ruins it’s a 40-minute hike.
If you can’t wait until autumn, the upcoming cherry blossom season is also a good time to visit, as spring sees a burst of pink sakura to brighten up the grounds. It’s a poignant time to visit, as sakura are said to reflect the short, strong lives of samurai warriors.
About an hour’s walk from Takeda Station takes you to Ritsuunkyo, which is a popular viewing site for the castle, especially favoured by budding photographers.
This is one of Japan’s most spectacular sites and is well worth a day trip if you’re close by in Kobe or Osaka. It’s a great way to escape from the modern world and experience a bit of the magic Japan has to offer.