Bantan Line 播但線

The Sky Castle train

The Sky Castle train approaching Ikuno in the mountains of Hyogo

@Japan Visitor

Bantan Line (播但線): the Bantan Line connects Himeji and Wadayama in Hyogo Prefecture. One train on the line called the Sky Castle train depicts Takeda Castle Ruins.

Known sometimes as the Machu Pichu of Japan, it is more commonly referred to as "The Castle in the Sky"  due to its appearance when it is viewed rising above a sea of mist in the autumn in a weather phenomenon known in Japanese as unkai.

Easiest access to Takeda Castle is from Takeda Station on the 66 kilometer JR Bantan Line, which runs from Himeji, where it connects with the Sanyo Main Line and the Sanyo Shinkansen, to Wadayama Station which connects to the Sanin Main Line.

There are frequent shinkansen bullet trains to Himeji from either Hakata Station or Shin-Osaka.

Heading north the line heads up the Ichi River Valley and crosses over the mountains before heading down the Maruyama River towards Wadayama.

The Sky Castle train 2

The Sky Castle train depicting Takeda Castle Ruins

@Japan Visitor

One train has been renovated and decorated to advertise the castle. A single car KiHa-40 series it is named "Sky Castle" and has an exterior painted with images of the castle ruins.

One side of the interior has had the normal seating replaced with comfortable seats that face outwards, so allowing glimpses of the castle on its journey. There is no extra charge to ride the train and reservations are not possible.

Asking at the train station should let you know which schedule it operates. Another train of the same type has been named "Silver Road" and the exterior is painted with historic sites along the old wagon road that brought the silver from the mine at Ikuno to the port in Himeji. It has a standard interior.

The Silver Road train

The Silver Road train depicting sites along the old wagon road from Ikuno Silver Mine to Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture

@Japan Visitor

A bus or taxi can take you up to a parking lot much closer to the castle but still involves a walk to reach the ruins. The bus circumnavigates the mountain.

A series of viewpoints across the river in the Ritsuunkyo Valley offer superb views of the castle, especially the iconic view during unkai. It takes about 40 minutes to walk to the lowest viewpoint or ten minutes by taxi.

A small visitor center is located next to the station.

JR Takeda Station is on the Bantan Line about 2 hours from Himeji or 2.5 hours from Kyoto or Osaka. A JR Japan Rail Pass would be valid on this route.

Takeda Castle in Hyogo Prefecture

Takeda Castle in Hyogo Prefecture

@Japan Visitor

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