Onwards & Upwards to The Castle In The Sky!
Takeda Castle is located about 350 meters above sea level up in the mountains of northern Hyogo Prefecture. Often referred to as “the Machu Picchu of Japan”, after being abandoned some 400 years ago, only its stone walls remain.
From September to April, the extra thick mountain fog makes the castle look like it’s floating in the clouds – truly a Castle in the Sky. In the autumn the ruins are a particularly popular tourist spot. Large number of travelers come to see the ‘cloud sea’ from Takeda Castle.
It’s easy to imagine that the area is as secluded as the real Machu Picchu, but Takeda Castle is surprisingly easy to access. It’s only about a 90 minute drive from Kobe, and 2 hours from Osaka.
Although you can’t drive all the way up to the castle, you can park at a large nearby parking area at the foot of the mountain called Yamashironosato. From there you can reach the castle on foot in about 40 minutes up a gentle slope.
※ Yamashironosato is closed on weekends during the ‘cloud sea’ season. Instead, you can either take the aptly named unkai bus (cloud sea bus) from Aeon Wadayama, or brave the 60 minute walk from the parking area at JR Takeda Station.
Favorable Cloud Sea Conditions
Perhaps you already know what conditions are favorable for the ‘cloud sea’ to form, but if your goal is to experience the very best ‘cloud sea’, pay close attention to the following:
・The season peak is from the end of September to the end of November.
・The peak time is from sunrise until about 08:00.
・Humidity should be high and the weather should be clear.
・There should be a more than 10℃ difference in temperature between the morning of your visit and daytime the day before.
While the official ‘cloud sea’ season is from September to April, the gates are closed during winter, so visitors are unable to see it from the castle at that time. Furthermore, it very seldom appears in the afternoon, so be sure to go early in the morning.
※These points are the conditions when the ‘cloud sea’ seems to appear more often, they are not a guarantee.
Arriving At The Magical Takeda Castle
After walking 40 min from the Yamashironosato parking area at the foot of the mountain (mentioned above), I arrived at the Takeda Castle gate and entrance.
I paid the 500 yen admission fee and right away some stone walls appeared before me. During the day the area looks like the photo above, however…
…in the morning when the ‘cloud sea’ appears it looks like this. During the autumn, the gate opens at 04:00 (9/1 – 11/30), but as it’s pitch black outside, visitors need to bring a flashlight.
The special seat for beholding the cloud phenomenon is at the very top of the castle remains, in other words, on top of the castle tower. Likewise, the daytime scenery looks like this, but…
…in the early morning when the ‘cloud sea’ appears, the atmosphere is significantly different. The stone foundations wrapped in thick fog create a magical scene when lit up. (The lights are turned off at 05:30 – before sunrise.)
At 04:00 in the morning it was still dark, so it was impossible to see the surrounding ‘cloud sea’, but as the castle remains were enveloped in a foggy cloak, the probability of the ‘cloud sea’ being visible was big! In October – November, the sun rises at around 06:00 – 06:30, and I excitedly awaited its arrival at the top of the castle tower.
The Fantastic Cloud Sea & Rising Sun
As dawn drew closer, the surroundings gradually grew brighter, and finally the ‘cloud sea’ was visible! Have a look at the time-lapse video of the sunrise below.
This is the very moment the sun showed itself over the horizon, lighting up the ‘cloud sea’. It was just like a castle in the sky! Below you can see the ninomaru and sannnomaru areas of the castle remains.
In this photo, you can see the ‘cloud sea’ and the minamisenjo area of the castle basking in the morning sunlight.
After gazing out at the scenery for a little while, the fog suddenly approached the castle remains and covered the area. The ‘cloud sea’ and the castle remains changed gradually from moment to moment, so it was impossible to grow tired of the spectacle.
The castle tower provided a 360 degree panoramic view, but the rest of the castle was cloaked in the ‘cloud sea’ in its entirety. Please have a look at the 360 degree video of the Castle in the Sky below.
Smartphone users can click on the URL below and open the video in Youtube.
It differs from day to day, but the ‘cloud sea’ usually starts to disappear and the ground beneath appear at around 08:00, and then in the blink of an eye it’s gone.
The ‘cloud sea’ from the Takeda castle ruins is a magical phenomenon that can be seen early in the morning in autumn. I highly recommend visiting the Castle in the Sky and beholding the spectacle for yourself!
◇Takeda Castle’s Cloud Sea
Address: 13-1 Wadayamachotono, Asago, Hyogo Prefecture
Open: Cloud Sea season (9/1 – 11/30) 04:00 – 17:00 (Last entrance 16:30)
※Opening hours vary greatly depending on season. Please check the homepage below for more info.
Closed: January 4 – end of February (closed during winter)
Admission: Adults (high school and older) : 500 yen. Junior high school and younger: free-of-charge
Parking: Available and free-of-charge. ※ In addition to Yamashironosato, there are several parking spaces by Takeda Station.
Nearest station: JR Takeda Station is 60 min on foot.
http://www.city.asago.hyogo.jp/takeda/0000006212.html (info on entrance to the castle)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Hironobu Matsuoka
■The Sanin, Setouchi & Shikoku Road Map
Our sightseeing information roadmap of the Sanin, Setouchi, and Shikoku regions is now complete. The map provides easily accessible sightseeing info like never before, and with this, your road-trip is sure to be even more enjoyable. The map contains info on rent-a-car services, tourist information centers, roadside service areas, and is completely free-of-charge, so please have a look!
■Times Car Rental Tourist Information Campaign
The car rental company Times Mobility Networks Co., Ltd. is now offering a voice translation app and tourist information services for foreign travelers via tablets at several Times Car Rental stores throughout the Setouchi region. Renting a car at one of these stores means you can get more sightseeing info about specific areas, and therefore enjoy your trip even more!
Osaka: Kansai Airport
Hyogo: Sannomiya Station, Shinkobe Station, Himeji Station
Okayama: Okayama Airport, Okayama Station, Kurashiki Station
Hiroshima: Hiroshima Airport, Hiroshima Station South Exit (BIGFRONT Hiroshima), Hiroshima Otemachi
Yamaguchi: Iwakunikintaikyo Airport, Iwakuni Station, Ube Airport
Tokushima: Tokushima Airport, Tokushima Chuo
Kagawa: Takamatsu Station, Takamatsu Airport
Ehime: Matsuyama Station, Matsuyama Airport, Matsuyama Sanbancho
Fukuoka: Fukuoka Airport International Terminal
Nov. 20, 2017 – Feb. 19, 2018
※ Hiroshima stores only: Oct. 20, 2017 – Jan. 19, 2018.
Hironobu Matsuoka / Photo-writer Born in 1974 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and currently living there, Hironobu is the president of Mediapolis Inc. "I travel around the country in Solar King, an eco-camping car that has a solar power generator, and film the beautiful scenery of Japan in high-definition. I want to move around the country as much as possible and leave behind videos of precious Japanese nature and scenery for future generations to enjoy. Although I travel all over the country, I love my home area of Setouchi." 'Healing Japan TV' - Traveling virtually around the country through 'healing videos'.
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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