Well known as one of the locations where a famous Japanese historical play, Chushingura takes place, Ako Castle ruins are located in the southwestern part of Hyogo prefecture.
This is the main gate and main corner turret, which are located around the front entrance. We cross the bridge built over the castle moat, pass through the gate and enter the castle grounds.
After walking for a while inside the castle grounds, you reach a second moat and gate. Ako Castle is protected by a series of moats – it’s a castle with solid defenses.
This is the Honmaru (‘inner citadel’) front gate protecting the heart of the castle. We cross another bridge, and pass through another gate.
The gates were constructed in two layers, which means that after passing through a small gate, a bigger watchtower gate will block your path. By stationing castle garrisons behind the buildings and gates, if any enemy soldiers tried to enter, the construction allowed a concentrated attack on the enemy from three sides.
We pass through the gate, and finally reach the inner citadel (‘honmaru’). The Honmaru gardens and pond have been restored, and you can also see what would have been the stone wall base of the castle keep.
The original plan was to build an impressive 5-storied keep, but by that time the era had become peaceful…
In the end, no castle keep was ever built.
However, there was a serious incident during the reign of Asano Naganori, the third generation feudal lord of Ako!
Naganori started a sword fight inside Edo Castle and spilled blood. He was sentenced to commit seppuku on the same day, and the house of Ako’s Asano clan was also abolished.
As the seppuku judgement ordered on their master seemed too unjust, in order to clear away Naganori’s chagrin, 47 ronin, with Oishi Kuranosuke, the chief retainer as their leader, they overcame hardship and took the head of Kira Kouzukenosuke, thus succeeding in their revenge.
That was a summary of the Genroku Ako incident, commonly known as Chushingura in Japan.
Within the grounds of the Ako Castle ruins Oishi Shrine was constructed to enshrine Oishi Kuranosuke and the other 47 ronin.
On the path leading to the shrine, starting from Oishi Kuranosuke, the leader, there are stone statues of all 47 ronin standing smartly on both sides of the road wearing the attire they wore during the raid on Kira Kouzukenosuke. (Text in photograph, left: The 47 Ronin, right: Oishi Kuranosuke.)
When you walk along the path under the protecting eyes of the 47 ronin, you may be feel emotions welling up inside…
We give a respectful bow to the brave men filled with conviction, who sacrificed their lives.
This is Oishi Shrine’s main shrine building. It’s blessing of realizing great ambitions is truly convincing, so we sent a prayer wishing for further development of the Setouchi region!
Well known throughout Japan, Ako Castle is truly the home of Chushingura. The ruins have been designated as one of Japan’s historical spots, and selected as one of the 100 top castles in Japan.
How about a visit to see the 47 Ronin at the home of Chushingura?
Location: Ako Castle Ruins Park 1278 Kariya, Ako city, Hyogo prefecture
Guide Homepage: http://www.ako-hyg.ed.jp/bunkazai/akojo/ (Japanese)
Ako Castle Inner Citadel (Honmaru)
Open: 9.00-16.30 (Closed Dec. 28 – Jan. 4. Other areas are open all year round.)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Hironobu Matsuoka
Hironobu Matsuoka / Photo-writer Born in 1974 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and currently living there, Hironobu is the president of Mediapolis Inc. "I travel around the country in Solar King, an eco-camping car that has a solar power generator, and film the beautiful scenery of Japan in high-definition. I want to move around the country as much as possible and leave behind videos of precious Japanese nature and scenery for future generations to enjoy. Although I travel all over the country, I love my home area of Setouchi." 'Healing Japan TV' - Traveling virtually around the country through 'healing videos'.
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