Renewed Hikone Castle and Takatori Castle

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Renewed Hikone Castle and Takatori Castle Profile Pages

2020/06/24


This is another big update for two of the best and biggest castles in Japan. I've given them both the Himeji Castle treatment so there are a lot of photos split into several sub albums. I visited these two on back-to-back days clearing 35,000 steps for 2 exhausting days in a row.

I'll let my visit notes and photos do the talking for the rest....


Hikone Castle / 彦根城

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With the reconstructed lord's palace (castle museum), Hikone Castle is one of the most complete castles in Japan for you to visit and get a feeling for an Edo Period castle. Take your time to go into the gates and yagura that are open and take some time to walk around the outside of the moats. You'll get fantastic views of the castle and all the great stone walls to better understand the scale of the castle too.

My 2019 trip was the first time back in over 15 years. I actually went to Hikone Castle after Sasou Castle and Sawayama Castle. It was intended as just a simple walk around the outer moats while catching up with a friend who lives nearby, but we did a fairly thorough job exploring most of the grounds except for the interior of the main keep, the museum and garden. Perhaps on a trip to Kansai this year I can visit again to renew those photos too.

The most impressive aspect for me on this latest trip was examining the climbing stone walls (Nobori Ishigaki) which was really my main objective for the visit. Refer to the album below for more information.

Nearby Sawayama Castle also offers great views of Hikone Castle. You can use the online mapping functions on this panorama photo taken from Sawayama Castle to zoom in and out for more detail.
Takatori Castle / 高取城

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First of all, this is my favorite castle in Japan. There are no buildings but it combines a grandiose Edo Period castle with the mountain ruins I most enjoy exploring. It may be a one of a kind castle too. I can't think of another Edo Period castle that built so extensively atop such a difficult to access mountain.

There are a few trails that take you to the main areas, which are well signposted, but some of the most interesting areas are not signposted and the trails around them are not clearly marked. You really need to visit this castle in winter after the weeds have died back to find some of the paths and to get good views of the ruins. I have looked in detail at a lot of maps for this site and I think even the best maps leave off some of the ruins that extend along the ridge line past the Yoshinoguchi and some of those farther down the mountain around the Okaguchi Entrance and Yokogaki Bailey. I'll need to try and find these on my next winter trip to Kansai.

The Asia Air Survey company did an amazing LiDAR laser survey of the castle and surrounding mountains which has helped researchers to identify trenches and baileys not well known before. See the Asahi article link below for a fantastic 3D video fly-around of the castle.

The Nara Sangyo university has also done some amazing computer graphics reconstructing the main areas of the castle and the approach up the main road. Some of these graphics are use din signs around the castle and in the smartphone app linked below.

The Takatori Castle brochure combines some highlights from these projects and old maps into one of the best castle ruins brochures I've seen.

For such a vast and interesting castle full of historically significant ruins, I'm really surprised that there is no dedicated book with maps, photos, and diagrams. These projects and more should provide some good materials for such a book and I hope that further studies will reveal even more of this castle. I have heard from one inside source that Takatori Castle suffers from being in Nara, which is already rich in other older historical ruins so it doesn't get the funding or attention it certainly deserves. When I last visited, there was some work going on to repair erosion damage to the trails and stone walls. I sincerely hope it at least gets the attention it deserves to preserve this site for future research.


There are a few ways to get to the castle. You can certainly walk up the Ote Road from the station (approx. 5km uphill), but I think you will be exhausted by the time you get to the top and possibly too tired to explore the most interesting areas. Takatori Castle has the highest elevation change (390 meters) of the "Three Great Mountaintop Castles" (Takatori Castle, Iwamura Castle, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle).

You can also take a bus from the Station to Tsubosaka Temple (famous for mending eyesight) and then hike 40+ mins to the castle. This was what I did the first time. It's an interesting temple to visit and beautiful in the autumn with the autumn colors surrounding the temple and valley. There is a hiking trail near the bus stop that goes up to the castle. To get the best return on your time, however, it is probably ideal to take a taxi from the station to the Tsubosakaguchi Entrance to the castle. There is a sign right by the roadside and from the start you are already at the castle allowing you to explore this area that you probably would not go to otherwise. After visiting the main areas around the top of the mountain, hike down the Ote Road back to town.

The photos shown below are only a few highlights. Please look into the individual albums for more photos grouped by castle section.
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Anonymous user #1

2 months ago
Score 0++
I completely agree with this being one of the very best castles in Japan. It is also the castle where I got my 100th hyaku mei jo stamp! I also took the taxi up and walked back, which gives you lots of time to spend exploring. I was there in October and would like to go back in the mid-winter when the undergrowth is reduced. Great castle!