Sky Castle Train on the Bantan Line 播但線
The Takeda Castle Ruins, located on a mountaintop in the middle of Hyogo Prefecture has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. Known, somewhat pretentiously to my mind, as the Machu Pichu of Japan, it is more commonly referred to as "The Castle in the Sky" due to its appearance when it is viewed rising above a sea of mist in the autumn in a weather phenomenon known in Japanese as unkai.
Easiest access to Takeda Castle is from Takeda Station on the 66 kilometer JR Bantan Line, which runs from Himeji, where it connects with the Sanyo Main Line and the Sanyo Shinkansen, to Wadayama Station which connects to the Sanin Main Line.
There are frequent shinkansen bullet trains to Himeji from either Hakata Station or Shin-Osaka.
Heading north the line heads up the Ichi River Valley and crosses over the mountains before heading down the Maruyama River towards Wadayama.
Sky Castle & Silver Road
Just before reaching the pass it stops at Ikuno, the site of a famous silver mine. A section of line from Himeji to Teramae is electrified, but most trains are diesel.
One train has been renovated and decorated to advertise the castle. A single car KiHa-40 series it is named "Sky Castle" and has an exterior painted with images of the castle ruins.
One side of the interior has had the normal seating replaced with comfortable seats that face outwards, so allowing glimpses of the castle on its journey. There is no extra charge to ride the train and reservations are not possible.
Asking at the train station should let you know which schedule it operates. Another train of the same type has been named "Silver Road" and the exterior is painted with historic sites along the old wagon road that brought the silver from the mine at Ikuno to the port in Himeji. It has a standard interior.
Access To Takeda - how to get to Takeda Castle
There are two walking trails up to the castle. The Ekiura trail starts right behind the station and the Hyomai Shrine trail begins a few hundred meters further north at the shrine. It takes 40 minutes to an hour to climb. A bus or taxi can take you up to a parking lot much closer to the castle but still involves a walk to reach the ruins. The bus circumnavigates the mountain.
A series of viewpoints across the river in the Ritsuunkyo Valley offer superb views of the castle, especially the iconic view during unkai. It takes about 40 minutes to walk to the lowest viewpoint or ten minutes by taxi.
A small visitor center is located next to the station.
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