Taylor is a 19-year-old student at an international university in Japan. Since she was 10 years old, she has been crazy about American pop music, and it made her study English very hard. She likes listening to music, going to cafes and cooking in her free time.
Akita Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan is a beautiful place with lots of nature and an abundance of things to do. It is a much less traveled part of Japan than most areas in the Kanto or Kansai regions as it is a bit hard to access from most of the bigger cities. However this doesn’t mean that it isn’t an amazing place worth visiting. Let’s dive into the northern part of Japan with our list of 10 of the best things to do in Akita!
1. Make Kiritanpo
Kiritanpo is one of the most famous foods in Akita. It is made of crushed rice, wrapped around sticks and then toasted. Akita is the third-biggest producer of rice among all prefectures in Japan and their rice has excellent transparency, is sticky and chewy. Even beginners can make Kiritanpo easily and well. It can be enjoyed in two different ways: in nabe and glazed with miso. The most popular way of eating it is by cooking it in a hot pot with chicken and vegetables. The other way is dipping it in miso, which is produced by fermenting beans.
2. Namahage Museum
Namahage is an orge in Akita. On the night of new year’s eve, young males in the Oga peninsula wear costumes made of straw and hold knife like figures in order to look like namahage. They visit the houses where children are living and scream to find children by saying, “Is there anyone who is crying?”. Since their appearances and voices are very scary, the children who notice the namahage often cry out and run away. This custom is unique to Akita and the purpose of this tradition is not to scare children but to exorcize evil spirits in the house and pray for good health and a bountiful harvest. If you visit the Namahage Museum, you can see real namahage and a demonstration of what new year’s eve is like.
3. Unshoji Temple (Hydrangeas)
In the Oga peninsula area, there is a temple called Unshoji that is famous for thousands of blue hydrangeas. The temple was built in 1624 during the Edo period. The hydrangea is known as the flower of the rainy season in Japan because the best season to see them is from the middle of June to the middle of July when there is a lot of rain in Japan. If you visit the temple in the afternoon, you can enjoy seeing the hydrangeas on the beach from the temple. You will have the opportunity to see three different yet beautiful shades of blue: sky blue, ocean blue, and hydrangea blue. Moreover, the temple is illuminated at night. The contrast between the lit-up hydrangeas and the dark and silent temple is truly a sight to see.
4. SUP At Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan and one lap around the lake is about 20 km. The water is very clear and a cobalt blue color. In this lake, you can enjoy various kinds of outdoor activities, such as cycling, kayaking, canoeing and camping. But one of the best activities to do here is SUP (stand up paddleboarding). There is no wake in the lake, making it a great place even for SUP beginners. The blue sky and lake is sure to make you feel refreshed. There are trees at the edge of the lake, so if you paddle over towards the trees, the course suddenly becomes more of a jungle cruise.
5. Farmer’s market in Gojome
If you ask the local people of Akita, a lot of them will probably say that Gojome farmer’s market is the best place to visit. The market has a long history of over 500 years and it is held on days ending with a 2, 5, 7, and 0 from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. You can not only get fresh vegetables and fruits but also delicious pickles and accessories. Moreover, each month has a unique theme/festival. For example, In May they have the Sansai Festival(vegetables), in October the Mushroom Festival, and in February the Hot Pot Festival. The local farmers that partake in the festivals are so kind and often are even willing to give you cooking tips.
6. Kanto festival
If you visit Akita over the summer, you do not want to miss the Kanto Festival. The Kanto festival is held for four days at the beginning of August. The history of the festival dates back to 1789, and people at the time did this festival to pray for bountiful harvests. There are two types of performers in the Kanto Festival: Sashite and Ohayashi. Sashite plays a main role in the festival. They hold the poles with dozens of lanterns on their shoulders, foreheads, and lower backs. Some of the poles are over 12m long and can weigh more than 50kg! Only men are allowed to perform as Sashite, and sophisticated balancing techniques are needed to perform this amazing feat. Ohayashi, on the other hand, play Japanese flutes and drums to make the Sashite performance more lively and fun. The lanterns lit up in the night sky with beautiful music is a pretty amazing sight to see.
7. Akita Dog Station
If you are an animal lover, you must know the Akita breed, or Akita inu. The Akita breed of dog is designated as a national monument in Japan. They are a good size and covered with thick and fluffy fur to adapt to the cold climate of Akita. There are many spots where you can see and even play with Akita inu in Akita. In some of these places, you can feed them and purchase goods such as stationary, key chains and plush toys among other things. Since Akita are very friendly, you can easily become friends with them!
You can fly like a bird in Akita! At Mount Kanpu, there is a great paragliding school. Even if you don’t have any paragliding experience, don’t worry. The instructor at the school has taken first place at national competitions and is a veteran when it comes to teaching paragliding to beginners. It is a refreshing and exhilarating experience with the beautiful landscape of mountains, rice fields, and a beach just below you, as well as the feeling of the wind breezing past your entire body.
9. Making Udon
When you are asked what Japanese food is famous, some of you might think of “Udon.” Udon is a thick noodle soup. and The thickness of the noodles and taste of the soup tend to differ from region to region. Local udon in Akita is called Inaniwa udon, and the noodles are relatively thinner than other types of udon. If you are interested in how Inaniwa udon is made, you should visit an Inaniwa udon factory! At the factory, you can not only observe the process in which the Inaniwa noodles are made, but also make some for yourself. The noodles you make will be sent to an address of your choice, so you can eat them later on!
10. Funoshi-no-taki Falls
There are many waterfalls in Akita, but we highly recommend you visit Funoshi Falls. The falls are located in Kawabe of Akita City which is in the center of the prefecture. The water of the falls is very clear and emerald green in color. You can enjoy different views depending on the season. From the end of spring to summer, the falls are surrounded by trees with stunning new green leaves. In autumn, the leaves turn orange and red, and the falls are covered with thick snow in winter. You can also enjoy swimming and jumping from the top of the falls in the summer if you have the guts.
As you can see, even though Akita is fairly isolated from the more popular parts of Japan, it is still a great place to visit with lots of hidden gems. If you are looking for a nice getaway from all of the hustle and bustle, the Tohoku region and Akita might be just what you are looking for. We hope you found a few things that you want to do from our list of the 10 best things to do in Akita!
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