We have been focusing on the Tohoku region for a couple of articles we posted recently (find more articles from here). And our final destinations is Akita, which is also located in the Tohoku region. Compared to other big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, you probably can’t get much information about it on guidebooks, but there are a number of tourist attractions which is worth visiting!
In this article, we will introduce places to visit in Akita.
1. Kakunodate Samurai House
Kakunodate is where you should definitely go if you are interested in Japanese history or culture. It was once a lively castle town during the Edo era, and is nowadays recognized as a special district visited by a lot of tourists to see the Japanese traditional houses standing along a peaceful street with plenty of nature around. One of the highlights there is Samurai Houses that were practically used as a residence for Samurai back in the old days. You can enter some of them and explore the inside. Everything is beautifully preserved, and still retains the historical value!
Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum is one of them, which exhibits a collection of valuable properties and items to the public. They also offer some light meals and drinks at a cozy cafeteria and restaurants, so you might end up spending much more time than you have initially planned!
In Spring, they hold a special festival called Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Festival. It usually lasts for 2 weeks from the middle of April, and more than 1 million people flock there to enjoy the cherry blossom viewing with the historical structures in the background!
【Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum Opening Hours】 9am-5pm (from Apr. – Oct.), 9am-4pm (from Nov. – Mar.)
【Admission】￥500 (adult) ,￥300 (high/ junior high school student).￥200 (elementary school student)
2. Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa is located in Senboku city in the east of Akita prefecture, and known as the deepest lake in Japan with the depth of 423.4 meters. The origin of the lake remains unclear, but it is believed by some experts that it is a caldera lake formed by an explosive eruption of volcano. It is selected among the top 100 most scenery spots in Japan, and you can easily tell the cleanness of the water and the calm atmosphere even from the pictures.
There is an iconic golden statue standing in the lake.
It is called Tatsuko-zo (the statue of Tatsuko), which was built based on an old story about a woman who eagerly wished an eternal beauty. She was unfortunately turned into a dragon by the God, and her wish never came to alive.
You can also visit Gozanoishi Shrine which enshrines Tatsuko near the lake.
The Tori gate standing by the water makes a stunning view, which offers you an impressive memory through the sad story of her. Besides that, there are lots of tourist spots around the lake which includes refreshing parks and a huge herb garden. Explore the area on your own and find your favorite spots!
3. Oga Peninsula
Oga peninsula sticks out to the Sea of Japan, and it is not just an ordinary peninsula. Popular tourist spots exist everywhere around the peninsula, and each of them provides unique experiences and unforgettable memories for tourists.
Along with introducing our recommendations, let us tell you an old story about an imaginary creature which has been told and passed down through centuries in the area.
Namahage is a deity featured with its scary looking which appears in Japanese folklores. Oga peninsula is said to be the origin of them, and there are still some places which tell the history and preserve traditional customs related to them.
On New Year’s Eve, men living there visit local houses in a demon-like costume, and they warn the children to listen to their parents and not to be lazy.
The number of people participating in the event has been decreasing but some people are aware of the importance of inheriting the precious tradition and carrying on the custom. It was added to the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Property in 2018.
If you want to get Namahage experience, visit Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum! They offer a Namahage performance where you can meet the overwhelming Namahage in an intense atmosphere! Namahage Museum is also an enjoyable place which exhibits the Namahage masks and related items which help you understand the history and backgrounds of Namahage in various ways.
【Namahage Museum Opening Hours】 8:30 am-5pm
【Admission】￥550 (adult) ,￥275 (elementary/ junior high/high school student)
Within a walking distance from the Namahage museum, you can find a calm, sacred place called Shinzan Shrine. It has been playing a role as a center of mountain worship with the support of authorities through centuries. There is a famous 1000 years old Torreya tree which is designated as a prefectural natural monument .
They carry out an annual event called Namahage Sedo Festival every February, but even in other season, just taking a refreshing walk while looking around the buildings brings you a peaceful time!
Oga peninsula has other tourist spots which has no connection with Namahage. As many people know, Godzilla is a world-famous character which was made into even a Hollywood movie. The Godzilla Rock refers to a huge rock which resembles Godzilla with its unique figure. It is situated on the south point of the Oga peninsula, and a number of photographer flock there to take the best shot at sunset. When the sun goes down the sea in the background, it creates a stunning contrast with the figure of the rock!
Nyuto Onsen is a famous hot spring resort situated at the foot of the Mount Nyuto.
This area is included in the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, and there are only 7 Japanese traditional Ryokan (Japanese style hotel) within the specific area. Each Ryokan has different types of hot springs, and you can receive a variety of health benefits depending on the effects of them. In addition, they officially issue a special passport with which you can have an access to all of the hot springs in the area! This passport is valid for a year, and only those who stay at any of the 7 Ryokan can purchase it.
Masudamachi is another traditional district in Akita prefecture along with Kakunodate. In the Edo era, it was a center of trade and business, and rapidly developed later during the Meiji era, when Japan experienced the modernization. The economical growth was supported by the local merchants, and there are still traditional buildings which are well-preserved and open to the public along the main commercial street called Nakananoka Street. Each building has a warehouse inside, which is known as a unique architectural feature that can be seen there. The entire area is nationally designated as Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
There are some local foods you should not miss in Akita. Among them, Kiritanpo is the most popular one. It is a traditional food made from mashed white rice, and they don’t use any other special ingredients! They put the rice around a wooden stick, and bake it usually with miso on top to add some flavor and taste. The simple, but heartwarming taste will satisfy your appetite!
It is tasty even in a hot pot. If you stay at a Japanese traditional Ryokan in Akita especially in winter, they will possibly serve Kiritanpo-nabe (hot pot with Kiritanpo). All ingredients directly delivered from local producers in a mild soup help you warm up your body and heart!
Don’t forget to check out our private tour!
If you need some help to organize your trip to Akita, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We’re glad to help you make your trip to Akita a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!
【1. Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)】
Enjoy our private walking tour in Tokyo, and head for Akita on a bullet train!
【2. Sendai & Matsushima 1–Day Highlight Private Walking Tour (7 Hours)】
We also offer a memorable tour in Sendai & Matsushima located in Miyagi prefecture, which is also located in Tohoku region. It is recommendable to take part in our tour first and visit Akita on your own afterwards!
Where to stay in Akita
- Akita Onsen Satomi —Great hot springs, buffet style breakfast with local ingredients, about 10 minutes drive from Akita station
- Akita Onsen Plaza —Traditional Ryokan style hotel with onsen hot springs which is 15 minutes drive away from Akita station
Because of the relatively isolated location, it is true that Akita is not easily accessible from Tokyo or other urban areas, but definitely worth visiting throughout year. A relaxing trip to Akita offers you an opportunity to discover traditional aspects of Japan, and also helps you get away from busy days in the crowd!
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