When Asano Naganao was transferred here in 1648 he was instructed by the Tokugawa government to build a new castle. Originally the ocean would have come close to the southern boundaries of the castle providing direct access to the sea. The vast castle had 10 corner turrets, 12 gates and the length of the outer baileys is nearly 3km long. There is a main keep foundation at Ako Castle but the main keep was never built because the Tokugawa Bakufu never granted permission to do so. Ako Castle was dismantled in 1873.
Ako Castle was much more vast than I had imagined. I'm actually quite surprised that so much good land was not developed over the years. Some of the remains have been rebuilt but the fact that they had the land or could acquire it is very impressive. There are ongoing plans to rebuild more of the castle. I was not able to visit the museum this time and the gates for the samurai homes were not open so I will definitely visit again some time to see those and whatever they rebuild next.
Whether the castle was a strong and defensible castle or not may be open for debate. Having been to many Edo Period castles I feel the moats are too narrow and walls too short to be of much defensive use. On the other hand, the Otemon and Honmaru Gates are well designed formidable gates and the many corner turrets with good angles for flanking fire are certainly well planned, but I'm not sure about the rest. I once heard someone once describe this as a "50,000 koku daimyo trying to build a 500,000 koku castle." Regardless, it is still a beautiful and photogenic castle. There are many stone walls and moats and different landscapes to photograph. You'll see some complete castle structures and some in ruins. I spent over 3 hours here early in the morning but could have easily spent more. I would like to have taken some more photographs of the Honmaru and Ninomaru Gardens which are also designated as National Scenic Locations. I love these cold December mornings with bright blue skies for photographs even if there are some long shadows to compete with.
|English Name||Ako Castle|
|Castle Condition||No main keep but other buildings|
|Designations||Top 100 Castles, National Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Edo Period|
|Features||gates, turrets, bridges, samurai homes, water moats, stone walls, walls|
|Access||Banshuako Sta. (Ako Line); 15 min walk|
|Visitor Information||gardens open 9;00-16:30; closed Dec. 28 - Jan. 4|
|Time Required||180 mins|
|Location||Ako, Hyogo Prefecture|
|Coordinates||34° 44' 46.07" N, 134° 23' 19.28" E|
|Added to Jcastle||2009|
|Admin Year Visited||2018|
|Admin Visits||December 21, 2018|
|Friends of JCastle|
|Malcolm Fairman Photography - Ako Castle|