Now THIS is a castle! We were able to find parking nearby, and our long walk up to the castle started with a steep set of stairs.
At the top was a gorgeous Chinese fringetree. Apparently it’s originally from China and doesn’t grow in many places in Japan! The smell was heavenly.
Up more stairs… was a small temple. We followed the dirt path to a steep one made of concrete. Running above the path…
was a ski lift!!! Our lungs burned as we trudged up the hill, and made us wish that we had taken either the lift or the huge gondola also transporting people to the castle. I felt bad for anyone in the past who had tried to attack this castle. Their soldiers would’ve had to make that hike in armor! No way!
On our way up, we passed many spots to take beautiful pictures of the city below.
At the top is a wide area with shops selling ice cream, food, and souvenirs, and spots to have your picture taken. There was also an absurdly long line to get into the castle. A staff member stood at the end of the line with a sign saying, “Estimated time to the castle: 45 minutes.” We got in line anyway.
Finally, we were at the front of the line. The old man in charge of sending people in in waves stopped us and, screwing up his face a little, said “Please… wait…” We gave him a thumbs up, and he beamed in response. When he let us through, we walked through multiple gates before reaching the inside, where we took our shoes off and headed up a flight of absurdly steep stairs. By absurd, I mean that on the way up it’s almost easier to climb it like a ladder (hands on the steps in front of you) and on the way down to lean super far back in case you start to fall. I guess this is just the way they built stairs way back when, because the stairs at Matsumoto Castle, another of the original 12, has stairs just like it.
At one exhibit, you could lift up a samurai sword to feel its weight and aim a toy gun out a narrow window to see what it would’ve been like to defend the castle. When we looked out the window, there was a lone tourist standing within our sights!
The other exhibits were mostly in Japanese; lots of samurai armor and things from the castle’s heyday. This castle is huge! The view from the top (surprise) was stunning.
When we left, we ate mikan (orange) ice cream (a specialty of the area) and then took the ski lift back down to the bottom. Here’s a picture of me enjoying my ice cream, while a poorly-placed sign indicates that I am a restroom. Oh well!