Akashi Castle

Sometime during the 1620s, Musashi became the guest of Ogasawara Tadazane (1596–1667). Like Musashi, Tadazane had participated in the Osaka campaigns and in reward for his service he had been awarded the fiefdom of Akashi in Musashi’s ancestral province of Harima. It is not clear when the two met, but it was probably not long afterward that Musashi became Tadazane’s guest.

To guard his newly won fiefdom and to boost the economy Tadazane began on the construction of Akashi Castle, a castle town, as well as a harbor. With his experience of siege warfare Musashi served as an adviser to the zōei bugyō, the construction magistrate in charge of the whole project. Recognizing the warrior’s artistic qualities Tadazane also put Musashi in charge of the design of the castle gardens, as well as a small tea house. The Seiryūwa describes how: 

三の丸の西の端に南北に細長い捨曲輪があって、芝原であった所に、忠政は新しく樹木屋敷という遊興所を造るため作庭を宮本武蔵に命じ。

Facing the western side of the third ring of Akashi castle was a narrow strip of enclosed land stretching northward. On the part that was barren and uninhabited the lord ordered Musashi to build a yashiki surrounded with trees and shrubs.

For more than a decade Musashi remained in Akashi, leading a relatively peaceful existence, but his life was uprooted once more when Tadazane was promoted to the Kokura fiefdom on the southern island of Kyushu. Musashi’s son, Iori, who had meanwhile entered Tadazane’s service moved down with him.

Sadly, today, the gardens originally designed by Musashi lie once again barren. In 1922, during a major redesign of the castle gardens many of the trees, shrubs and rocks were transferred to create a new garden in the vicinity of the Otome pond, on the castle’s south-eastern side. After the war, the original gardens were turned into an athletic field and have remained so until the present day. In 2003, to attract more visitors to Akashi castle on the wave of a Musashi boom, the gardens around Otome pond were renamed Musashi Teien, or the Musashi Gardens.

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