A Day out in Yamanashi (2 new castles and 1 renewed)
A Day out in Yamanashi: Added Yumurayama Castle and Katsunumashi Yakata and renewed Shinpu Castle
I usually consider Sports Day in Japan (second Monday of October) to be the beginning of castle season. It's often too hot with too many bugs and weeds before this time of the year to really enjoy visiting most of the out-of-the-way castle ruins. Most importably is that the weeds can really obscure your enjoyment of identifying castle ruins. While the weeds haven't dried up yet, it's about as long as I can wait and if you carefully select your sites you can have a good time. This time I was not so lucky. Both Shinpu Castle and Yumurayama Castle were so heavily overgrown it was difficult to see the trenches and embankments, not to mention dodging huge spider webs everywhere. Still though, as I often say, "any day at a castle is better than one not spent at a castle." Yumurayama Castle was also the 250th different castle site that I've visited.
Despite the weeds, one reason I like to visit Yamanashi around this time of the year is that I always get some incredible grapes to take back home. Yamanashi makes the best grapes in the world. This year I particularly enjoyed a new variety called "Violet King", a seedless hybrid of two popular varieties: Shine Muscat and Wink.
Don't miss the ruins of the vassal's residence around the back side of the castle. While the castle is called a yakata (palace or residence) the large double embankment, deep moat and turrets show that it was as fortified as any castle at the time.Katsunuma is very famous for grapes and wine. I went in early October towards the end of grape season and got the best grapes I've ever had from a simple roadside stand. You can get there by regular non-express train from Shinjuku in about 2 hours.
I would recommend you wait until after the leaves have fallen in the late autumn or early spring after the snow melts to visit this castle. Even in October the weeds and bugs were horrible. The Ninomaru and Sannnomaru are nearly impossible to get into and it's hard to see many of the embankments and castle structures.This was probably the first "ruins only, not even stone walls" castle I ever visited (Nov 2003). I was probably hooked on mountaintop castle ruins from here so it always holds a special place to me. I've been here twice now (14 years apart) and still missed things so I'll need to go back again.