My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Takeda Castle.

   Could you imagine yourself waking-up one Summers morning, and looking through your bedroom window at this view?

   Or wondering about your property, admiring the Sakura when they are in full bloom in early Spring?
     Or taking-in the many colors that are abound during the Autumn season?      
   Or sitting beside a roaring fire, while your home and property are engulfed in layers of snow, during the Winter months?                                                                                                                                                                                       
    Well, that's the view Ohtagaki Mitsukage would have experienced when he, and others, resided at Takeda-jo. Located on the summit of a mountain (map location), towering over 1,000-feet, and commanding views overlooking a vast area, this castle must have been feat of engineering to construct. The castle covers an area of more than a quarter-of-a-mile in length, and 300-feet in width.
   Mitsukage, a retainer of Yamana Sozen (Lord of the area), constructed the castle in 1441. In 1577 the castle was conquered by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who soon placed control of the castle in the hands of his younger brother, Toyotomi Hidenaga who, after less than two years residing at Takeda-jo, moved-on to take up residence at Izushi-jo and was replaced by Akamatsu Hirohide. Akamatsu, who took part in the Battle of Sekigahara, became the last Lord of the castle. He committed Seppuku after he was accused of setting fire to the Castle Town of Tottori, and Takeda-jo was abandoned. 

     After more than four-centuries of abandonment, sadly, all that remains of this once magnificent structure, are it's Ishigaki (stone walls). But, that's not to say the site is any less magnificent today, than what it was all those centuries ago.
   Some may consider a site like this boring, and not worth the time and cost to visit. But, take it from me, they couldn't be more wrong. Try to get your head around the incredible feat of engineering required in the construction of this castle. Firstly, an access route would needed to have been created  to the summit. Then, thousands of feet of soil would have had to be excavated before rocks could be laid for the foundation.
   Getting the rocks up to the summit wouldn't have been easy either, there were some huge boulders interlocked to give support to the main structure, as can be seen in these images.

   Now it's time to commence the construction of the many buildings that were to make-up Takeda-jo. I would hazard-a-guess some of the trees that were felled during the excavation process, would have been kept and used but, like the rocks & boulders needed for the foundation, most would have been hauled up the mountain from down below. Now, lets compare today with 1441. Today we have the luxury of modern machinery - cranes, bulldozers, trucks, to name a few. Six-hundred years ago they didn't have machines to do all the hard toil with. They had to rely on manpower. 
   For those working on the construction, the vistas below must have been a huge distraction. For me, as a visitor, I was overwhelmed with the surroundings as I tried to imagine what the views must have been back then.
   If you are planning to visit Takeda-jo, there are two ways you can see & experience these ruins: the ruins themselves, and the view from a mountain opposite, as in this image on the left (map location). Both require some walking and you have many options of what route to take. 
    If you plan to include  

the view from the opposite mountain, you will get an idea of the excavation that took place to prepare the site for construction. Also you will  encounter other sites of interest. Like this Torii, in the image on the left, and, a bit further up, this Jizo. There are also several shelters/picnic-spots along the way offering magnificent views of the castle. Take refreshments with you to enjoy once you reach your destination(s) and, most important, don't forget your camera. 

    Any time of year would be a good time to visit Takeda-jo but, in saying that, you may need to take extra precautions during winter, especially if it has been snowing.
   How to get here. Because Japan places a lot of importance on it's infrastructure, you can access Takeda from any part of Japan and by whatever means. If you are travelling by car, I suggest you program your vehicles navigation device and just drive. The Japan Rail Bantan Line passes-through Takeda, either on it's way to Himeji or Asago Cities, with connections to other major J.R. Lines. 
   Takeda Castle is referred to as Japan's Machu Picchu and, as I haven't had the honor of visiting the latter, I can quite understand how it came by that name. Like it's South- American counterpart, Takeda-jo is a very popular tourist destination - it is registered as a "National Historic Site" and has been placed on the "Top 100 Castles" list - and, during weekends and public holidays, can be very busy. So, if you are travelling here by car, I suggest you park your car in the village and take the track up to the summit. That way you will avoid the long queue to get a car park. There is also a bus service if you want to take the leisurely course. One final piece-of-advice - don't be in a hurry.

   I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the assistance of Eric, who administers  the 'site - Jcastles - Guide to Japanese Castles, for allowing me to access information and images on Takeda-jo. If you are planning on including a visit to any castle, while in Japan, I suggest you refer to this 'site.