The perfect spot for a spring picnic, the castle ruins in Shingu (Tankaku Castle 丹鶴城) is an easily doable stop during a day-trip to Shingu in southern Wakayama-ken.
The castle took fifteen years to build during the Edo period, and stood tall for 240 years until, like most Japanese castles, it was leveled to the ground during the Meiji Restoration in 1873 in favor of a “more modern” representation of Japan. While only its foundation remains, the castle runs along the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, and sits above a large hill. From this vantage point, visitors are treated to views of the entire city, as well as a peek of Kiho-cho in neighboring Mie-ken.
It takes less than 15 minutes to walk from JR Shingu station to the castle ruins, or about five minutes to walk from Hayatama Taisha shrine. However, there is a limited number of bikes for rent at the Shingu Tourism Office, which is located nright next to the train station. Once there, it takes less than 10 minutes to get to the top of the castle ruins, and you can easily see everything in 10 minutes, or lay a picnic down and take your time. The castle site has been converted into a public park, and it's very common to see locals walking through the gardens, or find children playing around the ruins.
There are two entrances to the ruins – the “old steps” and the “new steps.” In some places you can’t access the original stairs because they’re simply too old and unsafe, however the city has enacted restoration projects in recent years in order to make the site more accessible to visitors. Despite these projects, towards the top the steps can be very steep and uneven, so proper footwear is advised.
The best time to visit the castle ruins is undoubtedly during spring; it offers the best hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot in town. It’s very common to find picnickers at the castle during mid-late March for the blossoms, and Shingu hosts a dance competition during hanami every year, which can be seen near the castle site.
If you find yourself in Shingu and have the time, visiting the castle ruins is a great way to see the city and relax – and is a much easier climb than Kamikura Jinja, the other vantage point in town.