Come along to Akita – Travelling to the Land of the Rising Sun in the north of Japan. Akita is a region of Tohoku, and It’s a beautiful natural place with many cultures and life styles. People fall in love with the Akita region as soon as they arrive, and this first impression remains for a lifetime.
Akita City “The Passage to Tohoku”
Senshu Park, Akita City
This is a beautiful garden for all four seasons, in the middle of the town. In the Spring season late in April, the cherry blossoms are blooming. Pink flowers smother more than eight-hundred trees with their spectacular vibrant colour.
The ancient Kubota Castle was built in the sixteen hundreds, and is located on the hill in the middle of the garden. It is half castle and half fortress, and the Daimyo Satake family used it for their administrative centre. The historical records said that at the ending of the civil war the Satake Samurai were defeated, so Tokukawa Shogun banished the Satake family to the northern part of Honshu Island. Furthermore, in this garden there is the Daimyo Satake monument, and at the Shinto shrine there is a beautiful red Torii arch.
Kanto Festival, Akita City
Kanto Festival in Akita City is the biggest and most beautiful lantern festival in Japan. The festival goes from the 3rd to the 6th of August, and this festival is one in six big festivals of Tohoku. The festival is held to bring good luck for the harvest season because Akita is a farming region. All the lanterns in the parade are attached to sticks that are tied crossways onto a pole that can be from two to six metres long, and swings and waves like the wind blowing ears of rice. The person who holds a lantern pole must be a professional to be able to balance the lanterns together and not drop the pole. It is a colourful and fun festival time.
Oga “The Origin of Namahage”
Namahage Monument, Oga
On the way along the ocean from Akita City to Oga there are two huge statues, ten metres high, standing alongside the road, and they are named Namahage. The Namahage story inspires the Tohoku people in their beliefs. There are many stories about the origin of Namahage and some believe that Namahage comes from China. One belief is that Namahage is a god or the giant of the lofty mountain, and he appears in winter in the end of the year, and goes to houses to find children who tell lies and are lazy. No matter where people are in Akita, they can see Namahage.
Namahage Museum, Oga
Namahage Museum in Oga city is the best place to learn about Namahage history. Namahage artwork reflects what people in Akita believe Namahage looks like. Even though this museum is not large, everything is well set-up. It has an audio-visual room and Namahage puppet exhibition room. There are a hundred Namahage puppets and every one of them has a beautiful and different mask. In addition, there is a huge Namahage costume to try on. Before going home, there is a souvenir shop where tourists can buy Namahage products.
Namahege Shrine, Oga
This is where the belief in Namahege originated in Japan. Oga city has the ancient shrine that is more than a hundred years old. Shinzan Shrine is in the middle of a hidden pine forest, and is also a respected Namahege Shrine. Every year in early February Oga has the Namahage Sedo Festival. It is a very big Namahage parade that starts up in the snow-capped mountain and comes down to the town. In this year, 2017, the Namahage Sedo Festival was set up from the 10th -12th of February, at Shinzan Shrine.
Spectacular seaside landscape, Oga
Oga city is formed like a big sharp stick into the Japanese sea. The spectacular side faces to the west, and makes for an excellent location to view the sunset at Oga lighthouse. Also, in this area there is a lovely souvenir shop and delicious rice-seafood restaurant.
Daisen “Ancient Wisdom Heritage”
Suzuki Shuzoten Sake Brewery, Daisen
Sake is the traditional drink from the land of the rising sun. Akita is well-known for being a region that provides the best Sake because it has good soil and good water, so that they can grow lots of good-quality rice to make Sake. Furthermore, the weather here is frosty and the yeast ferments slowly in the rice, so that the Sake is not bitter like Sake from other towns. Suzuki Shuzoten is the best and oldest factory making Sake in Japan. The factory has been open since 1689, continuing up into the nineteenth generation now, and still making the old-style Sake. Furthermore, people can visit the factory and go inside to see how the Sake is made.
Omagari Firework, Daisen
Every year in the last Saturday of August in Omagari City, is the large and spectacular Omagari Firework Festival, the grandest in Japan. This is because the Tohoku region is a source of firework making, and has been very famous from ancient times. This festival is called ‘Hanabi Taikai’ by Japanese people. In the festival season, it’s hard to find accommodation and some people must book their room more than a year in advance. At this festival, everyone is continually surprised and amazed at the spectacular fireworks competition. It brings together the professionals who make the best fireworks in Japan, so that they can compete with each other and showcase their skills.
Semboku “Harmony of Nature & Culture”
Samurai Village Kakunodate, Semboku
Kakunodate Samurai Village is an antique Samurai area that has been conserved to protect its heritage. Visitors can experience village life in the past right up to the time before the Meiji period (new period). There are more than eighty Samurai families that are living and trading in this area. They have opened about six to eight Samurai houses for people to visit. This village also has a Kimono dress and Samurai costume shop so that people can rent dresses and costumes for the day, taking all the photos that they desire, dressed in the clothes of the day.
For the less energetic, there is time to relax and drink tea. In the Samurai village, the two separate zones are the Samurai District and the Merchant District, which commenced being built in 1620. For those who visit in the Spring season, the roadside cheery trees are covered in beautiful cherry blossoms.
Sakura Souvenir DIY, Semboku
There is a fun activity in Semboku for the tourist, and this activity is just for exclusive groups to book in advance. The activity is bringing the bark from Yamasakura that is growing up on the top of the hill, and is very hard to find in Kakunodate town. After tourists bring the bark down, they make words or shapes by using a hot iron to burn their designs onto the bark. These are kept by the tourists as their unique self-made souvenir. Handmade Sakura Souvenir DIY is the modern-day reflection of one of the handicrafts invent by the ancient Samurai. The Samuri would use their finished work to make boxes for household use, such as the bento box that stored foodstuffs.
Tazawa Lake, Semboku
This is the best secret lake in Japan. It’s four hundred and twenty-three metres deep. The lake is in an old extinct volcano crater. Even in the depths of Winter, the water in the lake cannot turn to ice because the heat from under the ground comes up to the bottom of the lake. Tazawa Lake has a love story about the princess Tatsuko and Hachiro, and holds a special romance about itself. This lake stays in visitor’s memories forever.
Nyuto Onsen, Semboku
Tsurunoyu Secret Onsen is one of eight popular accommodation spas of Ryokan Onsen style in the Nyuto area. Tsurunoyu Onsen is a secret spa in the middle of the freezing cold valley. A hundred years ago Daimyo and the Samurai visited this spa, which is one of the Japanese Onsen. Japanese people desire to go there at least once in their lifetime, because the water is turquoise in colour and full of minerals to help with relaxation and health.
Tazawako Ski Area, Semboku
The western of foothills of Komagatake mountain and the Tazawa lake area are a famous ski area in Akita. Because of the freezing mountain, it is the best place to do skiing and snowboarding. Every year in Winter it has a big ski racing competition. The ski area has been open since in 1969, and welcomes basic skiing through to professional. There is a beautiful view, overseeing Tazawa lake down below and it has a Gondola cable car that takes visitors up to the top of the hill to see the view.
Seisetsukan Farmer House, Semboku
Anyone who comes to Akita will want to experience the local lifestyle and people. They have a deep connection with agriculture. People can go to Seisetsukan Farmer House, which is an Eco-Argo style accommodation facility. It provides a lovely and inviting warmth, just like being at home. The property owners are very kind and look after all of the visitor’s needs, including food, room and facilities. Seasonal activities include planting rice, planting vegetables and raising animals. In winter visitors can even enjoy playing outside in the snow.
(contact 0187-48-2914 or www.akita-gt.org/stay/minshuku/seisetsukan.html.)
Ugo “Peaceful Way of Life”
Bon Odori Dance & Museum, Ugo
Bon Odori festival is a very large festival in Akita. The festival goes from 15th -18th of August every year. It is like a family reunion, and it has a dancing parade on the road. A dress, hat and rhythm identifies who the people are. For those visitors who attend at other times of the year, in Ugo town there is the Bon Odori museum to visit and this museum provides a dancing show in the style of the festival, giving visitors a taste of the event.
Farmer Market, Ugo
Ugo has been a farmer town for many generation. People do farming, planting fruit and vegetables, and make money from selling their produce. They have built Farmer Market, which is a large, modern facility that focusses on bringing together vegetable, fruit and local handicraft in Akita to sell at reasonable prices. People are friendly, and whoever who likes to eat apples and big sweet strawberries must to come here, as they will not be disappointed. This market is located on the middle of Ugo town and is open from 9am-6pm every day.