Being a fan of Studio Ghibli, I have wanted to visit the Takeda Castle Ruins since I learned of it when I first came to Japan. It is said to be a Castle in the Sky like the Ghibli movie called Laputa and is also sometimes called the Machu Picchu of Japan. I have not yet been to Machu Picchu in Peru but the version in Japan is definitely much smaller in area and the hike is easier.
|Lone bench at the Takeda Castle Ruins|
After some research online, it was recommended that we go between sunrise to 8am. After 8am, the fog will have mostly dissipated and the castle among the clouds effect will be gone. On a Sunday morning, we set off at 5am and drove for about 1.5 hours to Asago (朝来). You can also take the train to JR Takeda Station (竹田駅). You can visit Asago’s website here for more information on the castle’s history and how to get there.
We followed the Google Maps route and it led us to a parking lot where traffic controllers told us that the lot was closed until 8am and directed us to another parking lot. At the next parking lot there was a sign with a map and we followed it to walk to the base of the mountain where Hyomaijinja is (表米神社). We chose the sign that said 30-40 minute Mountain Trail (actually it had a typo and was spelled Mauntain Trail) that was visible on the left after you ascend the flight of stone stairs up to the shrine. If you do not want to hike, you can take a Zentan bus up for 500 yen. Check the schedule here.
The hike was steeper than I thought and although it was a cool morning, we were all sweating by the time we reached the top after many flights of stairs on the trail. Admission to the castle ruins cost 500 yen. We reached the top around 7:30am and the view was definitely worth the steep hike. The dense fog hung over the castle ruins allowing parts of the lush green rice fields at the bottom to peep through. 7:30am in the morning may seem early but if you were going to make your way out there, you should try your best to come before the fog goes away.
The castle in the sky photos used to promote the Takeda Castle Ruins were probably taken from a helicopter or on a mountain on the opposite side because this trail leads you to the castle ruins itself so you cannot see it in its entirety enveloped by clouds. However, it was still very pretty and serene. Despite the word “ruins” in the name, the place was tidy and well kept with rope to prevent tourists from stepping out of bounds into dangerous zones. There were no visible remnants of the castle left except some stone bases. The hike down the mountain was much, much easier and quite enjoyable.
|Kinosaki Onsen area|
After a day of early morning hiking, we drove for another hour to Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉), a quaint onsen town with seven different onsens. Honestly, we chose one at random and tried out Ichino-yu (600 yen per person). The water was very hot and there was a semi-outdoor section which was less hot.
We found lunch at a restaurant by the river and I tried some crab soba because crab is supposedly famous in this part of Hyogo Prefecture. In all, it was a productive day with a good balance of exercising and relaxing.