Akita: Ancient Traditions and Outdoor Adventures
A distant land of adventure, natural beauty and ancient traditions, Akita is a little-known land waiting to be explored. Spend your days immersed in stunning scenery and your nights sinking into steaming hot springs, with folklore and festivals bringing the culture to life.
Gliding across Lake Tazawa’s sapphire blue waters, visitors can breathe in the fresh mountain air as they absorb the panoramic views of the surrounding Tazawa-ko-Dakigaeri Prefectural Park. Formed in an ancient crater, it is Japan’s deepest lake with crystal clear waters that change from deep indigo to glittering turquoise depending on the season. Along the shore, you can spot the golden statue of Princess Tatsuko who was transformed into a dragon in her pursuit of beauty as well as the waterside tori gate of Goza no ishi-jinja Shrine. Afterwards, grab a seat at Orae—a shoreside brewery with local produce and delicious beers made with local Akita Komachi rice. Meaning ‘my house’ in local Akita dialect, the restaurant is a welcoming spot to enjoy the views of the water.
After a day of exploring, settling into one of Nyuto Onsen’s ryokan is the perfect way to relax. Japanese hot springs are a natural wonder, and when surrounded by snow, they offer a unique opportunity to enjoy the bracing contrasts of northern Japan. Found in the heart of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, the seven traditional inns that make up Nyuto Onsen are surrounded by primeval beech forests, allowing a true escape into the landscape, all with the comfort of a ryokan-experience.
Heading south, the quiet Samurai Residences of Kakunodate are one of the best-preserved areas in Japan. Weeping cherry trees line the wide roads and frame courtyards, with six homes open to the public. Many local restaurants serve the Akita speciality of Kirintanpo Nabe, a hearty hotpot made with burdock root, maitake mushrooms and the namesake: pounded rice roasted beside the fire. Passed down by generations of farmers to fuel a hard day’s work, the stew sets you up for an afternoon of cycling the Oga Peninsula. Cheered on by the larger-than-life Namahage statues, you can tour for an afternoon or more, visiting coastal roads and rice paddies alike.
The Namahage are Akita’s most familiar yet fear-inducing faces, appearing in festivals as well as the local museum. Legend has it the blue and red ogre-like creatures will cut off the fire-hardened skin of those who spend too long seated by the fire. Every year on the second weekend of February, the Namahage Sedo Festival is held with bonfires, ceremonies and terrifying Namahage serving as a reminder to never be lazy. If you’re not lucky enough to visit during the event, you can learn all about the Namahage at the dedicated museum in Oga City. Displays of the straw-hewn costumes and elaborate masks offer an amazing insight into centuries of carefully preserved tradition and folklore, with the Namahage recognised as one of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage assets. To bring the costumes to life, a local dinner paired with a Namahage drum performance is a unique experience you won’t forget.
Another popular festival in the region is the Akita Kanto Festival: an incredible display of lantern-strewn bamboo poles reaching heights of up to 12-meter tall. Held over four days in August, the festival floats can also be seen at the Akita City Folklore and Performing Arts Center in Akita City, with live displays and an opportunity to try the traditional festival clothes yourself. If you enjoy the costumes, consider visiting the nearby Café Matsushita to try a tour or an Akita Maiko performance—the afternoon tea experience is especially relaxing. Dressed in ornate costumes and performing elegant dances, the maiko continue to reflect the nation-wide reputation of ‘Akita beauty.’
From terrifying ogres to beautiful maiko, snow-covered onsen to shimmering lakes, the contrasts of Akita mean every moment holds the opportunity for a unique and exciting experience.
For more information, please visit Stay Akita web portal
Akita Prefecture Tourism and Cultural Spots Department Tourism Promotion Division
Reception Hours: 9:00-17:00 (Sat, Sun and Holidays Closed)
For more details, contact DMC Japan to discuss ideas and locations.