Renewed Ako Castle and Sasayama Castle


Renewed Ako Castle and Sasayama Castle Profiles


I completed one more Jcastle update just under the wire for 2019! Today I'm updating Ako Castle and Sasayama Castle. Even thogh it's only two castles it's a big update. Ako Castle is a very photogenic castle and I had such a great day for photos that it was hard to narrow them down to the set you see here. For Sasayama Castle, this update includes a samurai home and albums for kokuin and the samurai quarter. Only one house is open to the public so the Anma Residence gets it's own page while some other homes, not open to the public and with sparse information, are combined in the Sasayama Castle Samurai District album.


Ako Castle / 赤穂城


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.
Sasayama Castle / 篠山城


This is a fascinating castle. It's a simple stout stronghold with tall thick stone walls and an ominous presence that dominates the whole plain. The main keep was never built but it just shows how the main keep is really just for show, not for military purposes. Sasayama Castle's purpose was to control the Western lords and fortify the roads to Osaka.

The castle is also well preserved. The palace unfortunately burned down in 1944, but it was rebuilt (1996-2000) using original photos and with reference to the Ninomaru Palace at Nijo Castle. They may be often overlooked, but Sasayama Castle should also be noted for the 2 umadashi style gates that fortify the main compounds of the castle to the northeast and southwest. Since this is one of the tenkabushin castles (large scale construction projects of the Edo Bakufu) it was built by multiple lords and you can find many of their marks, or kokuin, in the stone walls. See the separate Sasayama Castle Kokuin album below.

Besides the castle, Sasayama is an interesting little town that retains the charm of a rustic castle town including a samurai quarter with some former samurai homes (only the Ama Residence is open to the public) and a variety of local shops and specialties. See the Anma Residence page and the Sasayama Castle Samurai District pages for more details.
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