I am standing on the edge of a mountain highway looking at the mist soaked mountains. It’s early and I am cold because I left my jacket back on the bus. Stopping here was not on the itinerary but as we descended down the mountain we noticed a group of people with impressive cameras perched on the edge of the road so we asked our driver to stop.
It turns out they are waiting for the mist to pass so they can take photos of Gujo Hachiman Castle, the very place we are heading to! I asked one of them what time the mist will pass and he smiled at me saying only nature knows. A very zen answer! The group have been here since 05:30 and have had no luck so far. Suddenly there are gasps of delight as the mists start to disappear.
I can’t believe how lucky we are, we have only just got off the bus and we are presented with Gujo Hachiman Castle in all its glory surrounded by the colours of autumn and wispy mists. They call Gujo Hachiman Castle “The Castle In The Sky” and it is not hard to see why.
Gujo Hachiman Castle was built in 1559 by Endō Morikazu. Morikazu had barely finished the castle when he died, leaving it to his son Endō Yoshitaka. For 400 years the castle stood with additional wings added to it but by 1870 the castle was torn down during Japan’s attempts to modernise. Thankfully in 1933 it was reconstructed out of wood.
I am taking my 1,000th photo of the castle and the mists are creeping back towards it. Just like that the castle is hidden behind a blanket of cloud. It reminds me of the times I have spent in San Francisco watching the famous Pacific mists covering the Golden Gate Bridge.
Gujo Hachiman Castle is situated above the small town/city of Gujo Hachiman. I am walking around the beautiful castle grounds marvelling at the kaleidoscope of colours Autumn in Japan brings. Our guide mentioned that the grounds are also very popular during Sakura (Cheery Blossom season.) In mid-November, the castle is the venue for a Momiji (maple leaf) Festival which includes taiko drum performances and light-ups of the trees at night which I imagine looks spectacular.
The autumn leaves are so beautiful I almost forget why I am here. I head into the castle’s interior where there is a small museum showcasing samurai armour, swords, and folding screens. As we ascend I can see why they chose to build the castle here. I am rewarded with 360˚ views of Gujo Hachiman City. It must have been almost impossible to attack the castle without being spotted. Thankfully I don’t need to worry about invading marauders attacking us but I do see a coach load of domestic tourists heading this way so it is time to make a sharp exit.
If you are heading to Gifu prefecture then I highly recommend you visit Gujo Hachiman City and Gujo Hachiman castle. The city itself has enough to keep you occupied for a couple of days and the surrounding countryside is beautiful.
Gujo Hachiman Castle is a short (roughly 20 minutes), steep walk from the Jokamachi Plaza bus station. Go past the Anyo, Zenkoji and Gochikuin temples and the Hotel Sekisuien. Alternatively walk up the steps from the Kahi Poem Stone over the bridge from the tourist office. Gujo Hachiman Castle is easily visible from most parts of town so if you do get lost it is easy to spot.
If you are driving there is a road leading up to the castle, and a car park right next to it to park your car. There is also a souvenir / snack shop at the top of the hill near the castle entrance.
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