Ukan Tsuneyama Castle was built by the feudal lord of Bitchu Matsuyama Castle (also located in present-day Takahashi City), Akiba Shigenobu. Both fortifications were constructed in the 13th century and the Ukan complex would have served as a kind of satellite for solidifying control of the entire domain.
The structure that stands today is a reconstruction of one of the castle towers and a surrounding wall. Visitors often mistake it for the castle itself, whereas it is only one of the keeps that would have served to protect a full-scale fortress.
The castle tower serves two other purposes, as it functions as both a museum and observation deck. Inside are fossil exhibits and a multimedia display on the history of the area. The most curious object on display is a replica of a turtle that would have lived around 16 million years ago when the Ukan district was at the bottom of the sea. Some of the fossils at the site have been dated as far back as 20 million years.
The third floor of the tower is an observation deck and rest area. You can appreciate an amazing panoramic view of the Ukan Valley from this point and see why this particular spot was viewed as having great strategic importance.
The castle tower and the surrounding park make up one of town’s main venues for festivals and annual events. No matter what time of the year that you happen to visit, there is something likely to be going on.
Today, the summit of the 265 meter high Mt. Tsuneyama and its surrounding environs encompass Tsuneyama Park and have become a well-visited spot for nature lovers.
About the Area
Takahashi City is a place that requires several days to even scratch the the surface of the diversity of its culture, landscape and people. As the city center is easily accessible by train that is the best place to start.
Right next to the station is the Takahashi City Library, which was conceived as a gathering place for the 21st century by town planners. An overwhelming success, the space draws locals and visitors from across a great distance.
Central Takahashi is also the home of the historic district, which includes the former residences of the samurai who served the lord of Bitchu Matsuyama Castle.
The castle occupies the highest elevation of any in Japan and is a challenging hike from the bottom of its access road. Actually reaching the castle gate requires a relatively steep climb up steps that have been set into the mountainside.
There are many options when its comes to getting outside the city but if you have limited time Fukiya Furusato Village and Nariwa are good choices. Fukiya is a historic bengara (iron oxide) mining town where the reddish-brown pigment takes on many forms. Nariwa is location of the Tadao Ando designed Nariwa Museum of Art.
Access: Take the JR Hakubi Line from JR Okayama Station to JR Takahashi Station. Take the Ukan Interchange bound bus to the Doi bus stop. It is about an 11-minute walk from the Doi bus stop to Ukan Tsuneyama Park.
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