The rhythm of nature
The best way to enjoy Akita is simply to go outside and be among it.
A northern slice of the far-flung Tohoku region, it’s no surprise that Akita’s attractions are nature-based. Akitans live their lives according to the rhythm of nature, celebrating events to a distinctly agricultural calendar – you’re likely to encounter some kind of festival when you’re there. Throughout the year, trekking, camping, boat cruising, swimming, climbing and hot springs abound.
Akita city is the prefectural capital. Year-round it’s known for it’s beautiful women but every August their beauty is temporarily upstaged by the spectacular Akita Kanto Matsuri, a harvest festival where skillful participants balance huge bamboo stacks of lanterns on their hands, waists, shoulders and foreheads to the beat of traditional taiko drum music.
Just north of the city is the axe-shaped Oga peninsula, offering far-reaching views from Mount Kampu and at Nyudo-zaki Point on the peninsula’s tip – on clear days, you can see the edge of North Korea. Spot the Godzilla rock, which actually looks a lot like the iconic monster. If you’re there in the winter, you can see the Namahage Sedo festival where people dressed as demons and bearing flaming torches descend from the mountains to the town to admonish badly behaved children.
Inland, Kakunodate is a picturesque castle town that has some of the region’s best preserved samurai districts, great for a historical wander through feudal Japan. There’s festivals for each season here too; one of the highlights is the Omagari National Fireworks Competition in nearby Daisen, where you’ll get to see the most advanced pyrotechnics exploding in the summer sky.
For camping, hiking and water-sports, the areas around Lake Tazawa and Lake Towada are popular destinations. The UNESCO World Heritage Shirakami-sanchi mountain spreads between Aomori and Akita prefecture. Dense forests, translucent lakes and mysterious marshes attract nature-lovers and those looking for a secluded getaway.
Akita is one of the largest rice producing regions in the country and has a great time enjoying the fruits of its labor, consuming the most sake (rice wine) per capita of all of Japan’s prefectures. Another local speciality is kiritanpo, made by wrapping rice around a stick and grilling it over a fire.