Bantan Line

Sky Castle Train on the Bantan Line 播但線

Jake Davies

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.

The Sky Castle train approaching Ikuno in the mountains of Hyogo.
The Sky Castle train approaching Ikuno in the mountains of Hyogo
The Sky Castle train depicting Takeda Castle Ruins.
The Sky Castle train depicting Takeda Castle Ruins

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.

The interior of the Sky Castle train with viewing seats on the east side of the carriage.
The interior of the Sky Castle train with viewing seats on the east side of the carriage
The interior of the Sky Castle train as it passes through a tunnel.
The interior of the Sky Castle train as it passes through a tunnel

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.

The Silver Road train depicting sites along the old wagon road from Ikuno Silver Mine to Himeji.
The Silver Road train depicting sites along the old wagon road from Ikuno Silver Mine to Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture
Takeda Castle, Takeda, Hyogo.
Takeda Castle in Hyogo Prefecture

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.

JR Takeda Station is on the Bantan Line about 2 hours from Himeji or 2.5 hours from Kyoto or Osaka. A JR Japan Rail Pass would be valid on this route.

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