A long history of battles and powerful clans
In 1203, Harada Tanekatsu built two fortifications in Mt. Kosho and his residential castle at the foot of the mountain. He changed his clan’s name into Akizuki. For around 400 years starting from the Kamakura period, the Akizuki clan ruled the region. In 1587, the clan surrendered without fighting to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the powerful Daimyo of the late Sengoku period and the second “Great Unifier” of Japan. In 1600, just after the famous Sekigahara battle, the biggest samurai confrontation of all time, the Kuroda clan rewarded the castle. Nagaoki Kuroda, the third son of Nagamasa Kuroda, renews Akizuki Castle using materials from the two older castles. After the Meiji Restoration, the Akizuki rebellion, one of several samurai rebellions against the Westernization of Japan and loss of their class privileges, led to the dismantling of the Castle. All the leaders of the rebellion were executed or commited suicide.
This event ended the power of the samurai class in Akizuki which has lasted for hundreds of years.
What is left of it today?
Although only ruins of Akizuki Castle remain, including the main gate, Kuromon, another gate and some stairs, all the atmosphere of the town, its traditional style and the abundance of small picturesque paths recall its history.
Sugi no baba street with its magnificent sakuras adds a fairy touch to the whole place, making walkers dream of ancient times, reminds them of the philosophy of wabi sabi and the refinement of tea and tea ceremonies. flower arrangement, always popular in Akizuki.
Both the authorities and the locals agree to follow strict rules and preserve all the originality of the neighborhood. For example, several residences of former samurai are renovated and maintained (Kutabi, Tashino, etc.). Hisano’s large residence has been transformed into a Museum.
Crossed by the Koishiwara river, the small town has a romantic side. It is accentuated by the presence of the iconic Megane Bridge, other small stone bridges, the authentic style of the dwellings, the abundance of greenery and small paths, and finally the passage of the seasons which colors all Akizuki as per magic, harmoniously waltzing the ephemeral and the eternal.
Traditions preserved by the locals
Proud and happy with their heritage, the locals also preserve intangible traditions, while giving them a peaceful and artistic dimension. For example, the Kogetsu drumming style, once practiced exclusively by men drumming up samurai clashes, is now practiced by the members of the women’s association as well as the students of Akizuki Junior High School.
A great Kyudo master living in Akizuki, Mr. Shinohara, chose to enhance the entire aesthetic of Kyudo, practicing it as a complete ritual of meditation, peace and elegance. He also offers tea ceremonies with Kaiseki cuisine in a space entirely designed by his hands.
Every corner and every decoration of the place has a meaning and a purpose, everything is connected to the spirit of the master and his desire to create a welcoming and serene space for all his guests.
Our final advice
Visit Asakura. Explore its rivers and forests, climb its mountains, discover Akizuki, its traditions and cultures, take this journey back to the time of the samurai, talk to the locals and renew your energy with their kindness, modesty and astonishing strength. If you can, leave your car and opt for a bicycle to not miss out any detail of Asakura’s beauty.