About Asago

About Asago

As the age when humans wandered the world in search of paradise came to an end, it gave rise to a culture which encouraged settling down and farming, and rice cultivation spread throughout Japan. A secure life at home and a steady supply of food led to the rise of a centralized power system in the country, and many powerful families and clans formed all over the country. Villages throughout Japan had different fates; some evolved into bigger cities as time passed, some were defeated in battle, and others became part of other cities.

Asago City is where visitors can see ancient places such as Awaga Shrine, which is said to have existed since 2000 years ago, as well as the Chasuriyama Kofun Tomb, which was constructed in the early 5th century.In addition, Takeda Castle was constructed during the Sengoku period when many samurais fought to strengthen their power, and the castle played an important role in defending the borders. The stone foundations still remain to this day, and its magnificence definitely lives up to its name of “The Castle in the Sky”. As the era of topknots came to an end, Ikuno Silver Mine played an important role in supporting the Japanese economy after the industrial revolution. Visitors can still witness the glory of the mine to this day as they walk through the long and seemingly never-ending tunnels, and experience the strength of the miners back then.

With its long history, Asago will provide an unforgettable experience that will enrapture people’s hearts.

This is one of the rare places that can provide insights into the different eras in Japanese history. Do come and experience the dynamic history of Japan for yourself.

Era of the Ancient Kofun Tombs

The beginning of the 5th century was when the Kofun period entered its later half, and this was also when the Yamato court, a powerful polity located primarily around the area of present-day Nara with a centralized government, started to exercise its power. The large 144m-high Chasuriyama Kofun Tomb is a round-shaped burial mound built during this period. It is rare to find round-shaped kofun tombs in Japan, and this is the biggest circular kofun tomb found in the Kinki region, which was where the Yamato court was founded.

This kofun tomb was excavated during the construction of a highway, and a large number of grave goods such as weapons, magatama beads, and haniwa figures were unearthed. From the grave goods, it was concluded that this was a royal tomb from the Tajima region (a large region where Asago is also located) constructed during the mid-Kofun period, and was the tomb of a member of a powerful local clan with strong ties to the Yamato court. There were diplomatic relations established between China and Japan during that period, but there are close to no documents or artifacts supporting this. However, the Tajima region faces the Sea of Japan, and is directly opposite China, hence there is a possibility that the Tajima region saw Chinese mission ships on its shores during that time.

It is generally thought that the size of the kofun tombs are directly correlated to how powerful the person buried was, just like the pyramids in Egypt. Questions remain as to what kind of clan member was buried here in Asago. Visitors can have a look at the artifacts that were unearthed from the kofun tomb at the Center of Buried Cultural Assets.

Era of the Warring States

Although the exact year of construction is unknown, there are written records stating that Takeda Castle was said to have been built around 1443. After conflict with neighboring states, Takeda Castle was often targeted by surrounding territories, and even 100 years after it was built, a lord who had established a large and powerful state tried to attack the castle many times in a quest to gain control of Ikuno Silver Mine. It was said that “he who has control over Ikuno has control over the country”, which showed the importance of Ikuno.In autumn when temperatures vary largely between day and night, the mist that rises from the Maruyama River causes a sea of clouds to form, and on some days, this sea of clouds covers the foot of the castle ruins, which stands atop a small mountain.

You can get a magical view of the Takeda Castle Ruins seemingly afloat on the clouds from Ritsuunkyo, which faces the castle ruins directly. It makes one wonder what kind of thoughts ran through the minds of the castle lords who ruled the castle before. You can also enjoy a bird’s eye view of Asago’s mountains, vast paddy fields and town from the top of the castle. There are various different paths up the mountain to the castle, and a small forest path appears halfway up these routes. Take a journey up the mountain to enjoy a spectacular view.

Era of Industrial Modernization

Silver has always been treated with much importance in the form of precious metals and coins, and it has always been sold at high prices ever since ancient times, with its price sometimes exceeding that of gold.

Especially in Europe, no large silver mines were found before the discovery of the New World, and hence they imported silver from all over the world, including large amounts of silver from Japanese silver mines. From the later half of the 16th century to the first half of the 17th century, Japan was the only main silver-producing country in East Asia, which made silver mines flourish as government-owned corporations. Asago’s Ikuno Silver Mine produced large amounts of silver, being said to produce silver like sand, and the silver here supported Japan’s industries for a long time.

In order to more effectively mine greater amounts of silver, there was a need to upgrade manual mining processes to more modernized methods of mining. Technicians from France were hence invited to Ikuno Silver Mineby the government in 1868 for this purpose, and started relations with the French. The French technicians brought in new technology like mechanization, the use of gunpowder in mining, larger mining tunnels which made use of minecarts, and the use of mercury in extracting silver from the ore. These developments in technology led to the construction of the Mikobata Ore Processing Site, and also brought in Western culture, including the invention of hayashi rice. In Asago, visitors can walk through the well-preserved Ikuno Silver Mine, and learn about the change in eras which brought about the westernization of Japan.