Ochi Kunizumi built the original castle on this site in 1332 as a satellite to their main fortification art Kaibukiyama Castle. The Ochi controlled the castle until the mid 16th C. It took part in several uprisings and was an important castle in the Ochi's defenses. Takatori Castle was abandoned by order of Oda Nobunaga in 1580 when he named Yamato Koriyama the ruling castle in the region. After the death of Nobunaga, Tsutsui Junkei began rebuilding the castle as part of his defensive network in 1584, but Tsutsui died shortly thereafter and his heir Sadatsugu was also moved to Iga. Toyotomi Hidenaga became lord of Yamato Koriyama Castle and with these lands also came Takatori Castle. Honda Toshihisa was assigned the defense of Takatori Castle and he redesigned the layout and defenses into what you see today. The Honda ruled the castle until 1640 when Uemura Iemasa became the new lord. The Uemura clan continued to rule until the Meiji Restoration.
As the Edo Period led to a more peaceful time in Japanese history, the Uemura lords moved their residence from the top of the mountain down to the castle town below, to the area known as the Shimoyashiki. For much of the Edo Period, the lord's residence was "lower" than his retainers who lived farther up the mountain. Around the former Shimoyashiki, there is a part of a clay wall remaining (sorry, no photos) and in the castle town you'll find a Nagayamon Gate that has been repurposed as the gate to a doctor's office. The gate to the Uemura's residence also remains in the castle town where their descendents still live there today.
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.
- computer graphic reconstruction (Nara Sangyo University)
- Illustration of the castle
- Takatori Castle brochure
- Asahi news article about the laser survey (with video)
- Takatori town brochure
- AR Takatori smartphone app
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.
|English Name||Takatori Castle|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||Top 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, National Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Edo Period|
|Features||trenches, stone walls, castle town|
|Access||Tsubosakayama Sta. (Kintetsu Yoshino Line), 15 min bus, 45 min hike|
|Visitor Information||mountain park, open any time|
|Time Required||4 hours|
|Location||Takatori, Nara Prefecture|
|Coordinates||34° 25' 45.84" N, 135° 49' 36.66" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2011|
|Admin Year Visited||2010, 2019|
|Admin Visits||November 21, 2010; March 2, 2019|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Shirobito - Takatori Castle|
|Kojodan - Takatori Castle|
|Jokaku Horoki - Takatori Castle|
|Ken's Castle Storage - Takatori Castle|
|Oshiro Meguri Fan - Takatori Castle|