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Akita Travel Guide Explore lush valleys and and sleepy onsen towns

Akita Prefecture Green Nature Waterfall

For genuine experiences without the crowds, golf your way through Akita. Located in the northern part of the main island Honshu, Akita is one of the six prefectures that make up the Tohoku region. The area, abounding with lush valleys and and sleepy onsen towns, is the perfect escape back to nature. Akita is also filled with tradition and hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year. Despite this, the region is still relatively untouched by foreign visitors compared to other destinations in Japan like Kyoto or Hiroshima. Accessible from Tokyo by a four hour bullet train (or a one hour flight), you’ll have plenty of time to golf and explore Japan’s history in Akita.

Things to do

Kakunodate Samurai Town Akita

Akita is a region teeming with natural beauty and culture that you’ll love exploring when you’re not on the green.

Get lost in nature in Shirakami. The Shirakami Mountains, located in both Akita and neighboring Aomori, is home to a World Natural Heritage site and one of the world’s largest primeval beech forests. Here you’ll find an ecosystem of thriving vegetation and animals. At Shirakami, you can also visit Anmon Falls. With crystal clear waters, these falls are breathtaking and cannot be missed.

Another beauty is Lake Tazawa, located in the southeastern part of the prefecture. This lake is the deepest in Japan and has calm, cerulean waters. Nearby hotels and onsen make it easy for you to enjoy the sites and activities during the day and rejuvenate at night.

For a bit of culture, head to Kakunodate. Also referred to as the “Little Kyoto of Michinoku”, this quiet castle town is a mirror into Japan’s rich past. Walk the path of the samurai, literally: the town was developed in the early 1600s and was home to hundreds of samurai. While many of the homes are now privately owned by descendants, some residences are open to the public.


Flavors of Akita

Kiritanpo Hotpot Akita

Along with the unspoilt nature, Akita is known for its premium quality rice-based products. Akita prefecture is one of Japan’s top producing regions of rice.

One such rice dish is kiritanpo. Kiritanpo is arguably Akita’s most famous dish. Rice is freshly cooked and pounded before it is molded around a stick and grilled. In cooler months, kiritanpo will often be served in nabe, or a hot pot, along with mushrooms and burdock. When the weather is warmer, kiritanpo is served as a snack with a sweet miso and sesame glaze.

If you get thirsty, try some local sake. Akita is the fourth largest producer of the rice wine, with over 50 producers in the region. Sake from this prefecture is premium quality, and locals lovingly refer to the area as “bishuoukoku”, or the Empire of Beautiful Sake. A combination of the pure underground soft-water, fertile soil, and dust-free environment make the sake of Akita stand apart from the rest.

Events and Seasonal Happenings

Namahage-Sedo Festival Akita

Tucked away behind mountains, Akita prefecture has preserved many events from eras past. To ring in the New Year in a very traditional way, visit the Namahage-Sedo Festival in Oga, a peninsula off the western part of the prefecture. Here, men dressed in demon masks re-enact traditional folklore and you’ll see them berating badly behaved children around town. Or, in February, head to the southeastern border for the Kamakura Festival in Yokote City. In this tradition that dates back 400 years, hundreds of white snow houses are lit by candles, and the larger ones have altars of gifts for the Gods. Later in the year, you can see the region’s largest festival in Akita City. The Kanto Lantern Festival takes place in August and features lights, music, and dancing. At the festival, locals lift paper lantern displays, or Kanto, in a prayer for good harvest.

Photo: Namahage-Sedo from Flickr cc by Chris Lewis

What to Bring Back

Pouring Sake Akita Prefecture

Akita has plenty of souvenirs that represent the region, but the best are probably the consumables. Thanks to the region’s renowned rice production, you can find a variety of snacks and drinks to bring home. For a little crunch, look for mamegaki rice crackers, made by baking rice cakes containing black soybeans. Likewise, pick up machiko’s sesame rice cakes if you’re looking for a healthy treat. These chewy delights are made with white and black sesame and glutinous rice flower. If you’re more into beverages, then get yourself a bottle of local sake. Some of the region’s oldest and most respected producers included Hideyoshi and Manabito.

Photo: Sake from Akita Prefecture from Flickr cc by Christina Chan

Where to Stay

While Akita is not the most famous tourist destination, the region is  well-known for its quality onsen and relaxing ryokan. For authentic Hinai chicken and traditional ambience, book your stay with Akita Zukushi Yuze Hotel. Located in the eastern part of Akita, the hotel is very beautiful and has been featured in multiple TV dramas. If you’re looking for ocean views, try Hotel Kiraraka on the Oga Peninsula. The blue waters can be enjoyed from the restaurant as well as the indoor and outdoor baths.

Photo: Akita Zukushi Yuze Hotel from website

Wrap up

For complete serenity, enjoy a golf trip to one of Japan’s underrated gems, Akita. This prefecture, much preserved from metropolitanization, favors nature and tradition. So, take some time away to destress and enjoy the Akita people, traditions, and, of course, the golf. You’ll return home reenergized.

Getting there

From Tokyo, take the JR Akita Shinkansen Line to Akita Station. The train ride takes approximately 4 hours. Conversely, fly direct from Haneda Airport to Akita Airport. The flight is 1 hour. From the airport, take a bus to Akita Station. The bus ride takes about 40 minutes.

From Osaka, fly from Itami Airport to Akita Airport. The flight takes 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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