Takatori Castle Ruins
An imposing fortress on the mountain top.
In its heyday, Takatori Castle was the largest mountain castle in Japan. Though most of it has since been lost in the mists of time, its atmospheric ruins still make an impressive sight. Takatori Castle Ruins stand atop Mount Takatori in the middle of Nara Prefecture, just a few kilometers away from the center of Takatori town.
To reach them, you must first make the hike up to the 584-meter (1,916-foot) summit. Although this makes access slightly more difficult than most castles, it does also keep it pleasantly crowd-free.
Tomb Raider style
As you approach the peak, you’ll begin to notice the remnants of huge stone walls lurking in the foliage. Climb higher and you’ll find yourself wandering through a maze of foundations, ramparts and staircases. Their crumbling, moss-covered facades will make you feel like you’re wandering through a scene from Tomb Raider, and the sheer size of the ruins gives you a sense of just how imposing the castle must have been in its day.
As well as the ancient architecture, you can find a board depicting what the castle would have looked like when it was fully intact. Takatori was originally built in 1332 by the Ochi family and at its height boasted an impressive 27 towers, 33 gates and more than three kilometers of stone walls. Looming 390 meters (1,279 feet) high above the mountaintop, it must have had a commanding view of the surrounding area and been a magnificent sight to behold.
The castle was later ruled by a number of different lords before finally being abandoned during the Meiji Restoration. Today, there are also a number of modern-day benches at the peak, where you can rest and refuel before heading back down.
The hike to Takatori Castle Ruins
The Takatori Castle Ruins may be the main attraction, but Mount Takatori is an enjoyable hike in itself, taking around 2 hours to go up and down. The path winds up through a peaceful forest of towering trees, and although steep at times, it’s not too much of a challenge. Not long after you begin, you’ll see a sign for Sousen-ji Temple (宗泉寺). This temple is known for its 88 jizo statues (Buddhist monk statues) scattered around its grounds, and it is definitely worth taking a detour for.
There’s also a lookout point just before you reach the summit which has arguably better views than you’ll get from the top, so make sure to take the narrow track to the right when you see this sign: 国見櫓. When you’re ready, head back to the path and continue to the summit where you’ll find the castle ruins.