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city, Hyogo ken (prefecture), western Honshu, Japan. During the Heian period (794-1185), it was a seaside resort for courtesans from Kyoto. It became a castle town in the 17th century, when the powerful Ikeda clan took up residence. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the establishment of chemical factories and steel mills has transformed Ako into one of Japan's most polluted industrial cities. The city's traditional cotton-weaving and salt-making industries no longer have much significance. Ako is well known in Japan for its Kabuki theatre productions featuring swordplay and samurai, and the city attracts tourists to its annual Ako samurai festival in December. Inc. city, 1951. Pop. (2005) 51,794.