Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Akō City – The Salt, The Castle, And The Sunset

Akō (赤穂) is a rural city that isn’t too far away from the most elegant castle in Japan – Himeji Castle. While it is certainly not a top must-see destination in Japan, it does have its charm. In spring, it is the place that you want to be for its beautiful cherry blossom in the coastal area with moderate crowds.

Did you know that the city is famous for its salt industry? This could be heaven for those who aren’t the sweet tooth kind of person. You can find and taste salt in all its specialties, even in traditional Japanese confectionary!

Below is a list of places that we find worthwhile to visit.

Transportation in Akō City

Apart from the JR trains, some attractions in the city are easier to be accessed via bus services running by West Shinki Bus (ウエスト神姫バス). The timetable HERE has all the major stops listed, which you can refer to using the bus stop’s Japanese name.

Apart from West Shinki Bus, Akō City also has its own community bus service called Yuranosuke (ゆらのすけ). The bus services also complement services running by West Shinki Bus, including more frequent stops in the city. The timetable HERE has all the Yuranosuke bus stops.

Important: Services running by the community bus – Yuranosuke may not run every day. Please refer to the access information for each attraction below for more details.

Discounted Bus Tickets

If you plan to hop on and off the bus services more than five times a day, it is worthwhile to purchase a One-Day Bus Ticket (フリー乗車券1DAY) for 500 yen (250 yen for kids). If you are spending two days or more in Akō, consider purchasing the Two-Day Bus Ticket (フリー乗車券2DAY) for 700 yen (350 yen for kids).

Because not all bus drivers speak English, you can use the phrases below to purchase your one-day ticket. If you are after the two-day ticket, simply replace the 1 below with 2.

Furī jōsha-ken 1 DAY o kaitaidesu (フリー乗車券1DAYを買いたいです)

Important: Please note that the tickets can be used on all bus services in Akō City except the community bus services – Yuranosuke (ゆらのすけ) and Teijūrō (ていじゅうろう).

Tips: With the one-day or two-day bus ticket, you can get a discount at some of the attractions in Akō as long as it isn’t expired. So remember to show the staff your ticket before paying your entrance fee!

Akō City’s Sightseeing Bus – Jintakun-gō (陣たくん号)

Important: Please note this service is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.

On weekends and public holidays, the city’s sightseeing bus – Jinkungō connects tourists from JR train stations with the best attractions in Akō. A single ride will only cost you 100 yen.

Bike Rental in Akō City

From JR Banshū-Akō Station (播州赤穂駅)

If you enjoy riding a bicycle, you can rent one out from Akō Tourism Association (赤穂観光協会), located on the second floor of JR Banshū-Akō Station (播州赤穂駅) between 9 am and 5 pm. There are two types of bikes to choose from. If you are traveling with kids, their bikes also come in different sizes.

  • Electric assisted bikes: 800 yen per day
  • Normal bikes: 500 yen per day

Important:
☛ Bike rental is unavailable between the 29th of December and the 3rd of January and on the 14th of December when Akō-Gishisai Festival (赤穂義士祭) takes place
☛ The Association won’t be responsible or liable for any accidents that could happen during your bike trip
☛ Please return the bike before 5 pm on the same day

From JR Sakoshi Station (坂越駅) and JR Une Station (有年駅)

  • From JR Sakoshi Station, you can rent a bike from the rental machine between 7 am to 7 pm for 1,000 yen. Given its 24/7 access, you can also return the bike at any time.
    • You can return the bike the next day, although this will incur an extra 300 yen
    • When you return the bike, 700 yen will be refunded to you
    • The bike rental machine is located in the car park next to the station
  • From JR Une Station, bikes can be rented out from Une Station Car Park (有年駅前自動車駐車場) in front of the station
    • The cost is 300 yen per day, and you will have to return the bike by 4 pm on the day
    • The service is unavailable on Tuesday, Thursday, the 31st of December, and the 1st of January

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Akō City.

Akō Castle Ruins (赤穂城跡)

© Hyogo Tourism Bureau

We picture tumbledown walls and rocky boulders when we think of castle ruins. Unless notable or famous historical events have taken place there, there aren’t many incentives for international tourists to visit those places.

So what is so special about this castle ruins that it was chosen to be one of the Top 100 Castles in Japan? To find out the reason, refer to our article on Akō Castle Ruins!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Akō City.

Akōmisaki (赤穂御崎)

The most famous cherry blossom spot in Akō City is probably Akōmisaki. Every year, around 1,700 cherry trees bloom from early to mid-April.

If you are more of a beach-goers, you will definitely appreciate the contrast between the blue Seto Inland Sea and the pink/white cherry flowers!

Also, the sunset from Akōmisaki was chosen as one of the 100 Best Sunsets in Japan. So if you arrive in the late afternoon, you get to enjoy the cherry blossom, one of the best sunsets in Japan, and the light-up session as the sun disappears from the horizon… all in one go! (=゚ω゚)ノ.

How to Get to Akōmisaki

From JR Banshū-Akō Station (播州赤穂駅), take bus services running by West Shinki Bus (ウエスト神姫バス) that is bound for Kanpo-no-Yado Akō (かんぽの宿赤穂) and get off at Higashimisaki (東御崎).

The bus trip should take around 20 minutes.

Iwatsuhime Shrine (伊和都比売神社)

Another great photo spot on this side of Akō is the Iwatsuhime Shrine.

The view of the shrine’s torii gate and the two great pillars with the Seto Inland Sea as a backdrop is just unique and amazing. There are also a few trendy cafes around the shrine for anyone who fancies a cup of coffee and a light meal (^_-)-☆.

For all the early birds out there, you can take a relaxing morning stroll to Iwatsuhime Shrine, where the sunrise is absolutely breathtaking.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Akō City.

Myōkenji Temple (妙見寺)

Myōkenji Temple, located on the hillside of Mt. Hōju (宝珠山), was first built in the 750s. The Kan’nondō Hall (観音堂) in the temple was later built in 1659 and then reconstructed in 1772.

© Hyogo Tourism Bureau

Kan’nondō has the same architectural style as the Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) in Kyoto, where beneath the hall, there is nothing else but pillars. The difference is, instead of overlooking Kyoto City, which is full of houses, you will get a beautiful view of Sakoshi Bay (坂越湾) and Iku Island (生島) from Kan’nondō instead!

In Kan’nondō, there are slippers for you to wear. So even during the freezing winter, your feet will be protected from the cold floorboards. To make you even more comfortable, there are tatami mats for you to sit on (=゚ω゚)ノ.

During the cherry blossom season, there might even be matcha and Japanese sweets for you to enjoy while you observe the stunning view of cherry blossoms and the Seto Inland Sea right in front of you!

How to Get to Myōkenji Temple

From JR Sakoshi Station (坂越駅), you can take either service running by West Shinki Bus (ウエスト神姫バス) or Akō City Community Bus Yuranosuke and get off at Sakoshikō (坂越港). After that, it will be another 10 mins walk from the bus stop.

  • West Shinki Bus (ウエスト神姫バス):
    • Take bus services bounding for Ojima (小島)
  • Akō City Community Bus Yuranosuke:
    • Route Takano (高野ルート) will stop at Sakoshikō (坂越港) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Akō City.

Ōsake Shrine (大避神社)

On the way to Myōkenji Temple from Sakoshikō (坂越港) or Sakoshi Port, you should be able to walk past Ōsake Shrine. While the old shrine’s establishment date is unknown, it was already deemed a major shrine in the Banshū Province in 1182.

The current main worship hall was reconstructed in 1769, with the gate of the shrine and the other worship hall being rebuilt earlier in 1746.

The highlight of the shrine is the more than 40 wooden plaques displayed in the corridors, called Emadō (絵馬堂), leading to the worship hall. The oldest plaque was made and drawn more than 300 years ago in 1722!

© Hyogo Tourism Bureau

You must have seen wooden plaques hung on one side of the shrine with people’s prayers and wishes written on the back. These wooden plaques are called Ema (絵馬) in Japanese. Those wooden plaques were used as a replacement when it was believed that gods arrived in our human world by riding horses. Instead of real horses, horse statues or wooden plaques with horses drawn were offered instead over time.

That is why these old Emas on display are much bigger than what you may have seen in other shrines. In today’s world, to make things more convenient, the wooden plaques’ size is much smaller, and the pictures are all pre-drawn for us.

Sakoshi no Funa Matsuri (坂越の船祭り)

There are three major boat festivals in the Seto Inland Sea. One of them is held at Ōsake Shrine!

The Sakoshi no Funa Matsuri or Sakoshi’s Boat Festival is held on the second Sunday of October. On the day of the festival, 11 traditional boats will be heading to the Inner Shrine of Ōsake Shrine on Iku Island (生島).

Since ancient times, the Iku Island has been treated as a sacred place for the gods that are enshrined at Ōsake Shrine. People were not allowed to be on the island except during the Sakoshi no Funa Matsuri, making the island itself a designated National Nature Monument. The festival itself is also a designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property (重要無形民俗文化財)!

So while you won’t be able to paddle across the sea to Iku Island, it is still highly recommended to schedule your visit to the shrine on the day of the festival. That way, you can still witness the rituals, which are really entertaining to watch (^_-)-☆.

How to Get to Ōsake Shrine

From JR Sakoshi Station (坂越駅), it is a 30-minute walk.

You can also take a bus from the station and get off at Sakoshikō (坂越港). The shrine is just a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Akō City.

Mt. Hōju (宝珠山) and Mt. Chausuyama (茶臼山)

If you enjoy hiking and have a bit of spare time, you can trek all the way up to the summit of Mt. Hōshu and Mt. Chausuyama (茶臼山) from Myōkenji Temple (妙見寺) for an even better sea view (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Mt. Hōshu and Mt. Chausuyama are located next to each other. The trekking course starts from Ōsake Shrine and leads you to the two peaks with an altitude of 166 meters (Mt. Chausuyama), and 180 meters (Mt. Hōshu) can be easily completed within 2.5 hours. Throughout the course, you should be able to see 88 Buddha statues, big and small in size, which is why the course is named 88 Stone Buddha Pilgrimage Panorama Course (石仏88巡礼眺望コース).

© Hyogo Tourism Bureau

HERE is a map of the three trekking courses on Mt. Hōju (宝珠山) And Mt. Chausuyama (茶臼山). The orange line marks the 88 Stone Buddha Pilgrimage Panorama Course (石仏88巡礼眺望コース). If you don’t feel like hiking two peaks in one go, the Mt. Chausuyama Panorama Course (茶臼山パノラマコース) that will take you to the peak of Mt. Chausuyama takes around 2 hours.

As parts of the trails leading to the peaks aren’t maintained and the slope can be steep, for those who would like to just stroll in the forest exploring temples and historic sites, follow the course marked by a blue line. It will only take around an hour one way.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Akō City.

Discover the Fascinating Attractions in Bizen City Next Door

Takuraushi-Shrine-Bizen-Okayama-Japan
Click the photo to find out about all the great attractions in Bizen City!

Bizen City, next to Akō is known for the Bizen ware. Not only will you find ceramic products in the local shops, but the Bizen ware is also used to decorate the cityscape and shrines.

You will also encounter an awesome shrine where hundreds and thousands of ceramic calves are placed around the statues of three cows!

For more information, please refer to our article on Bizen City!

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