Japan’s Akita prefecture is located in the Tohoku region and borders the Sea of Japan. The area is known for its natural beauty thanks to its mountains, hot springs, and the sea. The prefecture is even home to one of the most noteworthy samurai districts.
Here we’re going to tell you about the best things to see and do while exploring Japan’s Akita prefecture. There is something for everyone to experience in Akita prefecture.
Where is Japan’s Akita prefecture located?
While many people choose to travel to Tokyo on their trip to Japan it is worthwhile looking beyond the capital city and traveling away from Tokyo and exploring more of the countryside. Akita prefecture is a great example of why you should consider traveling around the country.
Akita prefecture is located on the main island of Japan but it sits at the northern end of the island in the Tohoku region. The prefecture borders the sea as well as the following prefectures: Miyagi, Iwate, and Yamagata.
Akita prefectures attraction for visitors
Akita prefecture is a popular destination both for Japanese citizens and tourists due to its natural beauty.
Because the prefecture is predominantly rural there are many unspoiled landscapes and natural attractions here. Although Akita prefecture is the sixth-largest prefecture in Japan its capital, Akita City, is only home to 330,000 people.
When should I visit Akita prefecture?
The best time to visit Akita prefecture depends on what your itinerary involves. In the summer the prefecture is much cooler than many others to the south, so July and August are great times to visit if you want to escape the hot and humid cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
If you want to experience the snow then visiting Akita prefecture in winter is a great option as the area typically gets very heavy snowfall.
Where are the best places to explore?
When it comes to visiting Akita prefecture there is a multitude of interesting things to see and do. Because there is so much to explore and just about something to suit everyone, we have summed up some of the best spots to visit below.
An onsen is what the Japanese call a hot spring spa. Akita prefecture is famous for its hot springs and so it comes as no surprise that an onsen is one of the best things to do when you are in the area.
The Nyuto onsen is actually a collection of hot spring baths in the Eastern mountains in the prefecture. The attraction has over 300 years of history behind it, meaning that you will get the chance to see more traditional styles of onsen. The best place to experience this history is the historic inn Tsurunoyu.
The meaning behind the name “Nuyto onsen” comes from the shape of a nearby mountain. The literal meaning is “Nipple hot spring”, which reflects the suggestive appearance of Mount Nyuto.
Many people believe the name to be derived from the milky colors of the hot springs but this is simply a common misconception.
When visiting Nuyto onsen you can either choose to stay overnight or to book a slot as a day guest for which you will be charged an admission fee. There are both gender-specific and mixed baths.
If the history of the samurai is something that interests you then it is definitely worth your time visiting the castle city of Kakunodate.
Although the castle is no longer standing, Kakunodate was a stronghold during the time of the samurai. The historical significance of this town is still noted but many people now visit to see the abundance of cherry blossoms in the spring months.
The town itself remains incredibly similar to when it was built in 1620. There were two districts: one for the samurai and one for the merchants.
There are currently six still-standing examples of samurai architecture and traditional homes that are open to the public, two of which are noteworthy due to their size and quality.
Hachimantai (National Park)
Hachimantai actually refers to a mountainous region in the northern part of Akita prefecture. This area forms the southern section of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park.
This area is wonderfully rural and as such, it is home to some of the best natural beauty that Japan has to offer. There are both hot springs and volcanic areas to explore. In fact, Nachimantai is home to the famous Nyuto onsen we mentioned previously.
If you are looking to go on an adventure then consider hiking Mount Hachimantai. This mountain has a flat top with a peak that stands at 5300 feet above sea level. You can see breathtaking views from the summit even though Mount Hachimantai is only the third tallest mountain in the national park.
There is a large network of hiking trails on and around Mount Hachimantai. The trails can range from 40 minutes to 2 hour long routes. However, the winding trails will lead you past ponds and forests, making the trek well worth it.
One of the best times to visit the Towada-Hachimantai National Park is in the fall when the beautiful colors of the leaves can be seen from the top of the mountain.
Yokote Kamakura Festival
If you are traveling to Akita prefecture around February then stay for the Yokote Kamakura festival which is held annually on the 15th and 16th of February.
The festival dates back 450 years and was used as a ritual to pray for an abundance of water.
During the festival, locals will build igloo-style houses which are known as “Kamakura”. These Kamakura houses are the offering to the deity for the water.
In the evenings the local children spend time inside a Kamakura and offer people rice cakes and rice wine. It is in return for these treats that the visitor pays an offering.
The area for the festival stretches between Yokote Station and Yokote Castle. You can even choose to help build a Kamakura if you so wish. This is possible in Komyoji Park.
You can also simply stroll along and enjoy the lively atmosphere and try local dishes from one of the many food stalls.
If you are not traveling during the festival dates then you can still appreciate it thanks to the preserved Kamakura in the Kamakurakan Hall. Here you will find several Kamakura kept in ice-cold conditions.
When heading to Akita prefecture you won’t want to miss out on its main city: Akita City. Located in the north, this city is a sight to behold just wandering through the streets but there are also a few noteworthy attractions which we will detail here.
The first of these is the Kanto festival which is one of the reasons why the city is so well-known. It is called called the Kanto Matsuri or the Pole Lantern Festival. The festival runs annually from the 3rd to the 6th of August and is one of the three main celebrations in the Tohoku region.
One of the biggest attractions of the Kanto festival is the act of skill in which participants balance long poles made from bamboo (Kanto) with a paper lantern attached at the end.
This act becomes even more impressive if you remember that the bamboo poles can be up to 12 feet long and weigh 110 lbs and can have up to 46 paper lanterns which are lit by actual candles.
There is also a night parade that occurs every night of the festival. They are held on Chuo Dori street and consist of various performance groups each showing off their own unique skills.
The second of these attractions is the city’s art museum: the Akita Museum of Art. The museum itself was designed by the famous architect Ando Tadao. The museum is a great place to experience the work of the western-style artist Fujita Tsuguharu who also went by the name Leonard Foujita.
The Akita Museum of Art is one of the few places that it is possible to see his works of art. However, the museum is also home to many other artworks, including a piece by Hirano Masakichi who was actually born in Akita. There are also often temporary exhibitions of pieces by locals.
The building’s architecture is particularly interesting with its free-standing staircase and triangle-shaped skylight. From the moment you step foot into the building, you can appreciate art.
Entrance to the museum’s cafe and the shop is free of charge but in order to explore the artwork on display, you will be charged an admission fee.