May 25, 2016

My most unforgettable trip-- Takeda Castle Ruins

There were a few unforgettable trips during my stay in Japan, and now I am going to share the most unforgettable one-- Takeda Castle Ruins(竹田城址).

(google image)

Takeda Castle Ruins is in Asago city in northern Hyogo prefecture. It is known as the Machu Picchu of Japan, when the castle is seen in a sea of clouds. In autumn, the place is crowded with locals hoping to catch this view. Yes, HOPE is the word, because there are many weather conditions to be met, such as huge temperature difference between day and night, no rain and little wind.

During the 2nd weekend of November 2013, I went on a 2D1N trip to the area with my co-workers. We combined the trip with a visit to Izushi(出石)nearby. In the case that we do not get to see the view we hope to see, at least it wouldn't be a wasted trip.

First, we took a JR limited express train from Akashi station (明石駅) to Yoka station(八鹿駅), then transferred to a bus to Izushi. Izushi is a quaint old town famous for buckwheat noodles. We had lunch at a popular restaurant which we had made reservations, followed by a walk through town. It was Izushi festival day, the parade in traditional costumes added to the vibe of this town.

Then we took a bus into the Hachi Kogen(ハチ高原)region for ryokan's pick up. As the Machu Picchu view can only be seen in the early hours of morning, unless visiting by private car, there is a need to stay one night in the vicinity and arrange transport to the castle the next morning. My group wasn't driving, so we intentionally chose to stay in Oyado Hisaya(お宿ひさ家), because it offers a "Takeda Castle plan" that includes 50 minute shuttle service to the castle at 6 am the next morning. Breakfast would be served in a Bento, which could be enjoyed at the destination itself, and there is no need to return to the ryokan after that. The Tajima Beef Sukiyaki course dinner was truly delicious!

Sadly, it was drizzling the next morning. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to see the view, we still went ahead with the original plan and hiked up to the hilltop castle from the drop off point. There were lots of people even though weather was bad. Sometimes, fog covered the whole place, and suddenly we couldn't really see what was in front of us. Nice in a different way I guess~

I am not sure about now, but when I visited, there were no fences around, plus the ground slippery because of the rain, so visitors ought to be careful of where you step, and this place is definitely not ideal for young children.

After the visit, we trekked down to Takeda station which isn't too far.

Not quite willing to give up as yet, I decided to try my luck again 2 weeks later because weather was supposed to be good that weekend. This time, I went alone and combined the trip with the Ikuno region (生野). Visited Ikuno Ginzan(生野銀山)on the first day. The autumn colors on the way was pretty!

Left the area during sunset and stayed at Business Hotel Tetsuya near Wadayama(和田山)station, because all the lodgings near Takeda station were already snapped up.

This time, my target was the hill adjacent to that of Takeda Castle called Ritsuunkyo(立雲峡), the place to see the castle in a sea of clouds. Booked a taxi to take me to the parking lot at 6 am the next morning.

As much as I tried to manage my expectations, still had difficulty sleeping that night because I really really wanted to see the view! The next day, when the taxi driver told me that the view could be seen and there were many people there, I was so relieved and excited!

Trekked up the hill to the 3rd observatory deck, followed by 2nd and 1st. It was tougher than I'd imagined. I was worried about the cold, but it was my lack of stamina that was the problem. Perhaps it was my lack of exercise, or that I was down with flu, had breathing difficulties when climbing to the 1st observatory from the 2nd. I needed lots of rest, but I could not afford to waste too much time because the clouds would have disappeared.

Was elated to see the view that I'd longed to see!! And really thankful to succeed on 2nd try! Saw people who had camped there in order to secure parking space and good photo spot.

Downhill was as bad. 1st to 2nd observatory's path was steep and slippery. Nothing to grab, no stones for grip (even though I came with good shoes). Felt really trapped a few times, thankfully a few experienced hikers along the way offered me their hands, including an old grandma! So embarrassing indeed :P

Decided to save some taxi money and walked all the way to Takeda station from the parking lot. By the way, Ritsuunkyo is also famous for cherry blossoms and known as the Mount Yoshino of Hyogo prefecture.

As I've exhausted all my energy, headed back home even though the day had just begun. For visitors who do not stay in the vicinity, I recommend heading to Kyoto for autumn leaves if you still have the energy!

Even though more convenient, I would not recommend going there by private car, due to the parking regulations and the difficulty in securing a parking spot in the morning. Best way is still to plan early and book a place to stay nearby. Staying for 2 nights will increase the chances of seeing the view.


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