Takahashi in Okayama, Japan -Part 1-
If you go to the Fukiya village by public transport, you need to go to Takahashi, which is also a lovely place to visit.
There are old samurai residences, a temple with Japanese garden, and above all, a castle on the mountain.
The name of the city is “Takahashi”, but the train station is “Bicchuu Takahashi”.
To get there by train, take Hakubi Line from Okayama or Kurashiki.
Although you can get around on foot, a bicycle would be more convenient as it’s not as small as Fukiya.
I rented a bicycle at the tourist information.
It was 300 yen per day when I visit there a few years ago, and the price hasn’t been changed according to a website for Okayama sightseeing info.
The Bicchuu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi city (1)
The highlight of the trip to Takahashi.
This castle is located on the highest place among the 12 remaining castles with the original central tower in Japan.
It’s near one of the four peaks of “Gagyuu-zan” (literal translation is “Mt. Lie-down Cow”).
The peak is 430 metres (about 1411 feet) above sea level.
– History –
It is said that the first castle was built on a different location in 1240 by a person from a powerful clan in Kanagawa.
He fought for Kamakura bakufu (the Kamakura shogunate) in the war against the emperor in 1221, and was assigned as a “Jitou”, land manager, for the area in present Takahashi.
It was more of a simple fort than a castle back then.
After five generations, the owner of the castle frequently changed.
Until the Edo era, the castle constantly became a battlefield because it had strategic importance.
The original of the present castle was built in 1683, after the owner got the permission of restoration from the Edo bakufu.
On January 14th 1873, during the Meiji era (1868-1911), the government submitted an order that all the castles in Japan would belong to the Army to be used as military bases or to the Finance Department to be sold as properties.
This castle and other related buildings like guard stations were to be demolished.
They were put up for auction, but nobody wanted to buy for they were too massive to handle.
At the 5th auction, a “Gofuku-ya” (Kimono shop) owner finally bought it for 7 yen.
He swiftly demolished the buildings on flat land, but it would cost too much to tear down the castle on the mountain, so he decided to abandon it.
He made a false report to the government that every building had been gone.
Thus, the castle survived, but it had been left to decay until the Shouwa era (1926-1988).
The Takahashi town council finished the first restoration of “Nijuu-yagura”, the two-story tower in 1928.
In the Edo era, an owner had to submit documents including a blueprint of intended works to the government and obtain a permission to build, restore, extend or do any kind of works to a castle.
For instance, when stonewall of a castle partly fell down, its owner had to ask the government for permission before anything could be done.
Otherwise, the owner would be punished, even lost his ownership.
– Related story to “Akou Roushi” –
In 1693, the owner of the castle suddenly died.
He had no heirs, so the government decided to seize all the properties.
Both the castle and land had to be vacated for a new owner that the government appointed.
In those days, it was probable that samurais who served for the former owner refused to leave and took refuge in the castle with no regard for their lives.
Therefore, to take over a forfeit castle was not an easy job.
The Asano family in Akou was given this difficult role in this case.
Kuranosuke Ooishi came to the land as a spearhead.
According to the record, Asano sent a huge number of people to the castle town.
In the mountain, there is a stone called “Ooishi no Koshikake-ishi” (stone on which Ooishi sat down).
It is said that Ooishi went up to the castle almost everyday after he took over the properties, and often rested on the stone.
To be exact, the Asano family was not a new owner, but a sort of temporal house-sitter.
The new owner, Shigehiro Andou moved to the castle in 1695.
– How to get there –
You cannot go to the top by car, so this means you have to climb up for a fair distance.
If you just want to visit the castle, better forget about renting a bicycle, because you’ll have to leave your bike at the bottom of the mountain.
There are two routes.
One is to go to the “Fuigo Touge” car park, the nearest one from the castle, by car.
During on-season, there is a share-ride taxi service from the train station.
From the car park, you have to walk about 20 minutes on a (rather paved) road.
The other route is a trail up to the mountain.
I left my bike at the starting point of the trail and walked up an unpaved, rough track to the “Fuigo Touge” car park, then take the same route to the castle.
It took about an hour in total, I think.
On the way, I saw a warning to watch out for wild monkeys, but there was no sign of them.
To be continued…
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