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  3. "Castle in the Sky" with Castle Town

"Castle in the Sky" with Castle Town:
Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, Ishibiyacho Furusato Village (Old Samurai Residences) & Other Sightseeing Spots

Getting to Bitchu Takahashi Station:

Approx. 50min. from Okayama Station by local train
or approx. 35min. by limited express, "Yakumo", on JR Hakubi Line

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Two men Playing Samurai at Bitchu Matsuyama Castle Bitchu Takahashi Matsuyama Dancing Festival

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  • Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
  • View from Mt. Gagyu
  • A Sea of Cloud around Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
  • Entrance of Main Keep

Enjoy Hike to Castle and Majestic Scenery of Castle Town from Above. -Bitchu Matsuyama Castle-

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, which has a history of over 770 years and whose main keep was restored in the existing form about 330 years ago, stands on one of four mountaintops of Mt. Gagyu, of which the highest top is 430 meters, or 1,410 feet, above sea level. It is one of 12 original castles which remain from the premodern days in Japan. Most castles in Japan have no original keep because of the demolition by "the Castle Abolishment Law" in 1873 and air raids during World War II. It is known as one of the three major "castles in the sky" of Japan along with Echizen Ono Castle in Fukui Prefecture and Takeda Castle in Hyogo Prefecture. It takes around 20 minutes to climb to the site at a distance of 700 meters, 2,300 feet from Fuigo Pass, which is the nearest public parking area to the main keep, on foot.

It is also famous for its sea of cloud. Under certain conditions, it emerges in the morning from late September to early April. Early in the morning from late October to early December, especially after the autumn leaves of the trees by the main keep have fallen off, a sea of thick cloud above which Bitchu Matsuyama Castle stands may be seen from the observation point in the place about 20 minutes away from Bitchu Takahashi Station by taxi. A taxi tour which departs from Bitchu Takahashi Station operates twice a day from October to March. A reservation is required to join it. It affords a spectacular view that is both staggering and captivating.

The typical two-layered, two-story keep has a three-layered, three-story appearance. The political center was situated in Onegoya, current Takahashi High School, in the castle town built around the castle and the successive lords resided there. The main keep played a symbolical role.

Sanjuro, a cat who has lived in the castle since July 2018, was appointed the lord of the castle. He patrols the castle at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. everyday except when getting a check-up at a veterinary clinic or having something else to do. Visitors are not allowed to feed directly because he is suffering from urinary tract stones.

Getting here directly: 90 minutes on foot from Bitchu Takahashi Station

Getting to Fuigo Pass: 10 min. from Bitchu Takahashi Station by shared taxi (reservation required)

Getting to Shiromibashi Koen (only the weekdays and national holidays of the period from April to May, and September to November): 10 min. by bus from Takahashi Bus Terminal (there is a shuttle bus service available from Shiromibashi Koen to Fuigo Pass.)

Getting to Matsuyamajo Tozanguchi bus stop: 10 min. by a city circular bus from Takahashi Bus Terminal (the castle is 50 minutes' walk away from the bus stop.)

Click here to jump to the sightseeing map of downtown Takahashi

Closed: December 29 to January 3

Admission: 300 yen for adults (high school students & over): / 150 yen for elementary and junior high school students

Combined tickets with Raikyuji Temple, samurai residences in Ishibiyacho Furusato Village and Takahashi City Museum of Local History available.

Group discount available for a group of 30 or more people.

  • Ishibiyacho Furusato Village
  • Residence of Samurai in Ishibiya-cho Furusato Village
  • Entrance of Ishibiyacho Furusato Village

Take Stroll around Historical Town. - Ishibiyacho Furusato Village -

The area stretching out at the southern foot of Mt. Gagyuzan thrived as a castle town during the period extending from the 17th century to the 19th century. It has a history dating since the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). Ishibiyacho in the castle town has samurai residences with noble gates built in the period from the 18th century to the 19th century, with continuous white earthen walls built along the street of about 250 meters, or 820 feet. It is one of the best places to enjoy a calm time in the atmosphere of the samurai period.

A festival mainly representing Japanese traditional culture in the Edo Period (1603-1867), Tenku no Yamashiro Bitchu Matsuyamajo to Marugoto Jokamachi Festa, which literally means "a Castle in the Sky, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, and the Whole-Castle-Town Festival", is held from late October to early November. The venues of the event are Ishibiyacho Furusato Village, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle and the surrounding area. The festival gives a glimpse of the samurai lifestyle of the time. The castle is clothed in autumn leaves.

Getting here: 15 min. on foot from Bitchu Takahashi Station

Bicycle for rent available at Visitors' Information Center in Takahashi City Library located in Bitchu Takahashi Station Building.

Click here to jump to the sightseeing map of downtown Takahashi

Admission to two samurai residences: 400 yen for adults (high school students & over): / 200 yen for elementary and junior high school students

Combined tickets with Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, Raikyuji Temple and Takahashi City Museum of Local History available.

Group discount available for a group of 30 or more people.

Free Wi-Fi service available at the parking lot for tourists.

  • Bitchu Takahashi Matsuyama Dancing Festival
  • Performers on Stage

Enjoy Traditional Summer Dancing Festival! - Bitchu Takahashi Matsuyama Dancing Festival -

Bitchu Takahashi Matsuyama Dancing Festival held on the street extending from the east gate of Bitchu Takahashi Station to the Takahashi River for three days from August 14 to 16 is one of the largest summer dancing festivals in Okayama Prefecture with over 350 years of tradition. It is said that it was originally performed to wish for a good harvest and a thriving business when the first lord of Bitchu Matsuyama Domain began to rule the province.

The street is alive with tens of thousands of the young and the elderly. The dancers make a circle around the elevated wooden platform set up at the center of the open space on the street and dance to folk songs.

Getting here: 1 min. on foot from Bitchu Takahashi Station.

Click here to jump to the sightseeing map of downtown Takahashi

  • Raikyuji Garden
  • Raikyuji Temple
  • Front Garden of Raikyuji Temple

Take View of Sacred Garden in Silence. - Raikyuji Temple -

Raikyuji Temple is considered one of the temples established all over Japan under the appointment of Takauji Ashikaga, who was in office 1338-1358, the first shogun of the Muromachi Period.

Its garden is nationally listed as one of the "Places of Scenic Beauty" in Japan.It is composed of only stone and sand without water to represent natural scenery. It is said to be created by Enshu Kobori, who was noted as a tea master and leading expert on landscape gardening. The area around Bitchu Matsuyama Castle was directly controlled by the shogun at the beginning of the Edo Period. In 1604, Enshu Kobori became a magistrate to govern the province as the representative of the shogun after his father. He is also known as the landscape gardener who creates Konchi-in Temple and the Ninomaru Palace of Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Raikyuji Temple has maintained the original state of the garden with painstaking care. In spring, beautiful Tsutsuji and Satsuki azaleas can be seen in the garden.

The temple with high stone walls that surrounds it like a castle served as a barrier against hostile forces to protect Bitchu Matsuyama Castle together with other temples to provide against a war.

Getting here: 15 min. on foot from Bitchu Takahashi Station

Bicycle for rent available at Visitors' Information Center in Takahashi City Library located in Bitchu Takahashi Station Building.

Click here to jump to the sightseeing map of downtown Takahashi

Admission: 300 yen for adults / 200 yen for junior high and high school students

Combined tickets with Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, samurai residences in Ishibiyacho Furusato Village and Takahashi City Museum of Local History available.

Group discount available for a group of 30 or more people.

  • Cherry Blossoms in Koya River Bikan Area
  • Takahashi Christian Church
  • Site of Former Domain School

Walk along Stream Lined with Cherry Trees and Willow Trees. - Koya River Bikan Historical Quarter -

It is located in the place where the Koya River flows into the Takahashi River. In days gone by, the Koya River acted as an outer moat surrounding Bitchu Matsuyama Castle to protect it and was the boundary for the castle site.

There are cherry trees and willow trees along the Koya River. In early spring, this district is crowded with people enjoying cherry-blossom viewing. There are also the oldest church in Okayama Prefecture built in 1889 and the trace of a school run by the feudal domain on the street. This area has been chosen as one of "the 100 best roads in Japan" established by the Ministry of Construction.

Getting here: 15 min. on foot from Bitchu Takahashi Station

Bicycle for rent available at Visitors' Information Center in Takahashi City Library located in Bitchu Takahashi Station Building.

Free Wi-Fi service available at a souvenir shop, "Koyagawa".

Sightseeing Map of Downtown Takahashi