Three Absolutely Stunning Hyogo Delights

by Luke

Hyogo is home to two spectacular castles, and one of the three great night views of Japan. A place shrouded in historical beauty and georgous scenery, we highly recommend taking a train to Hyogo while you travel across the country on your holiday in Japan. Here are the highlights:

Himeji Castle

Three Absolutely Stunning Hyogo Delights

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Himeji Castle is famous for having been recognized as a National Treasure and an Important Cultural Property due to its beauty among the numerous castles in Japan and its keep (the largest central structure on the castle grounds) that has retained its appearance from the Edo Era. Having been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it was the first time that Japan had been given this honor. Due to its pure white exterior and the surrounding area where many wild birds resided, it was also called Shirasagi-jo (White Heron Castle). The contrast between the linked castle keep constructed from multiple roof layers and the pure white exterior is exquisite. Also, there is another reason besides its beauty which explains its status as one of the famous castles of Japan. The reason lies in its construction. In the past, a castle’s quality placed great importance on how well the demarcation of the castle grounds were constructed. Himeji Castle possessed a spiral demarcation that was unusual in Japan, and it is said that it had fortifications meant for a high castle such as Edo Castle. The castle which was known as Japan’s most beautiful underwent a major restoration from 2009 to May 2015, and the exterior walls that had been painted in white lime plaster were beautifully reborn over time. Its profile has further increased since its grand opening. By all means, please come to Himeji Castle which has been able to keep its valuable presence while many other historic structures ended up burning down in war.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 1,000 / Child: ¥ 300

Guidebook from Planetyze about Himeji Castle
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Himeji Castle
Tours of Himeji Castle

Takeda Castle

Three Absolutely Stunning Hyogo Delights

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

The ruins of the castle known as Japan’s Macchu Picchu are at the peak of Mt. Gojo in the southern part of the nature-filled Tajima Region in Asago City, Hyogo Prefecture. At an altitude of 353.7m, Mt. Gojo has also been called Torafusujou or Kogajou (Lying Tiger Mountain) since its shape seems to resemble that of a tiger lying down. However, the castle no longer exists with the remains of its stone walls continuing to relate its long history. Even so, one reason behind the ruins’ continuing charm for people even now is the wondrous scenery that has been created from the topography.  

In the early mornings with their fine sunrises from autumn to winter, when the morning fog which rises from the river deeply enshrouds the mountain, the peak where the ruins of Takeda Castle are located is surrounded by a splendid wide sea of clouds. That scene is exactly like a castle in the sky which has been called Japan’s Macchu Picchu Ruins.  

There are many unknowns surrounding the history of the castle, but it’s been said that around 1441-1443, the military governor-turned-feudal lord Otagaki constructed Takeda Castle. However during the age of warfare known as the Warring States Era, the castle couldn’t avoid the wartime destruction and ended up facing a number of battles. In 1580, under orders of the shogun Nobunaga Oda, Takeda Castle was invaded and fell, and Otagaki’s influence was ended. Hirohide Akamatsu became the new ruler of the castle and began reconstruction which successfully completed the castle’s expansion. Currently, the castle remains are from what Akamatsu constructed. However, his reign was brief, and in 1600, he was on the losing side at the pivotal Battle of Sekigahara at the end of the Warring States Era and was forced to commit seppuku. Another new ruler was found but afterwards in the new Edo Era, the castle was given the order to be abandoned by the shogunate.  

Even with its heroic history during the Warring States Era, the castle has remained abandoned among the soaring beautiful mountains. This timeless story has been colored by a beautiful fog of the first order and continues to inspire the hearts of people.

Looking up to this mountaintop castle from below, the appearance of floating in the clouds is wonderful, but while climbing the mountain, the scene of river fog covering the mountain road in the distance is also beautiful. As an abandoned castle, the beauty of the view seen from the remaining stone walls further highlights the sad historical evidence. If you are yearning to see this beautiful fog, aim for November and check that the temperature during the day before you go is relatively high as the night cools down, and then head out the next morning. The river going downstream will cool down due to the difference in temperature and the lovely fog will form. Also, in recent years, the area has been recognized as a place for lovers, so it would be a great place to visit with that special someone. However, please note that during winter between December and March, the mountain is closed to entry due to snow.

Admission: Various

Guidebook from Planetyze about Takeda Castle
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Takeda Castle
Tours of Takeda Castle 

Mount Maya

Three Absolutely Stunning Hyogo Delights

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Mount Maya is located in the center of the Rokko Mountains which have been loved by tourists for activities such as hiking. You can easily make your way up from the city to the peak by using the Maya Cableway and the Maya Ropeway, known together as the Maya View Line, so people who are not into mountain climbing can rest easy. From inside the Maya View Line, you can get a panoramic view of Osaka Bay, and the line is that little-known spot where you can get that close-up feeling of nature on the mountain. This is especially recommended for those who want to really enjoy the scenery at leisure. From the Kikuseidai observation point at the top of Mt. Maya at 609m, you can see Kobe and even out to Osaka. Moreover, the view at night spreads out in front of your eyes and glitters like a jewel box, but you can also get a different expression of Kobe during the day. It is an amazing view from Mt. Maya that has been known as one of Japan’s Three Great Nightscapes, so enjoy that romantic moment up there.

The night view from Mt. Maya certainly has a breathtaking beauty that would make anyone swoon. However, it’s also recommended to take in the lush nature of Mt. Maya underneath that blue sky. The truly plentiful greenery surrounding Mt. Maya is incredible. Starting from Maya Nature Park, there are other numerous tourist spots where you can take a leisurely stroll such as Tenjo-ji Temple and the atmospheric Lake Hodaka. Of course, there is also that grand view from the mountain of Kobe and Osaka during the daytime. How about easing that fatigue from traveling as you enjoy the wonderful scenery in the clean air?

Admission: Adult: ¥ 800 / Child: ¥ 440

Guidebook from Planetyze about Mount Maya
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Mount Maya
Tours of Mount Maya

29 Jun 2015

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