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Kinojo Castle (Demon Castle) is located atop Mt. Kinojo in Soja City, approximately 40 minutes by car from Okayama City. Originally a Korean-style mountain fortress built in ancient times (late seventh century), the castle ruins of Kinojo were designated a historical landmark in 1986. It is believed that Kinojo was one of twelve similar fortresses built in Western Japan during the time, ordered by Emperor Tenji after Yamato Japan’s defeat in 663 against an alliance of the Korean kingdom Silla and Tang China. Based on the ruins, Kinojo was unlike any other fortress in Japan and was also one of the largest castles. Kinojo is listed as one of the top 100 castles in Japan.
According to the tale of Momotaro, the legendary folklore hero of Okayama Prefecture, a ‘demon’ called Prince Ura once ruled the area from this castle, and the hero Momotaro was sent by the emperor’s government to defeat him.
From the carpark below, it is a short walk to the main lookout point, Western Gate and castle ruins. From the lookout point, you can see the Western Gate with a panoramic view of Soja City. Within the fortress, there are remains of a smoke tower, well and food storehouse, among other buildings.
While one hour is enough time to see the main spots, there are walking trails around the area which take you past some more sites and lookout points, which you will also find displayed on a map. If you continue driving along the road you came for another five minutes, you will reach a carpark where there is another tourist spot hidden away. It is a brief hike up into the mountain, where there are some small and relatively unknown cultural sites. One of which is the demon rock, a 15x5x5m rock sitting atop others, forming a small cave-like area and place of worship. This rock is thought to be in the shape of a demon’s hand and is also associated with the tale of Momotaro.