Japan by Prefecture: Akita (秋田県)

It’s time for ‘Japan by Prefecture‘ again! This is the series that aims to provide the highlights of each prefecture of Japan, along with my personal favourites and suggestions from readers. This week, we’re looking at Akita Prefecture (秋田県).

Akita Prefecture

Akita Prefecture

Akita Prefecture is part of the Tohoku region (東北地方) in northern Honshu, and its capital city is Akita City (秋田市 ). Akita Prefecture is made up of 13 cities, none of which are particularly well-known except Akita City itself.

Akita is most famous for its Kanto Festival (竿燈まつり), which takes place from the 3rd to 6th August. Japan Australia mentioned in last week’s comments that “the long bamboo poles with paper lanterns used for the festival look amazing”, and indeed they do!

Akita Kanto Festival © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Akita Kanto Festival © Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

I was lucky enough to see the lanterns close up at Rokkonsai last year – they really are impressive.

Akita Kantou Festival

Akita Kanto Festival lanterns

The Kanto Matsuri is a Tanabata (七夕) related celebration. Performers balance ‘kanto’ (long bamboo poles) on their shoulders, hands and even their heads. The poles are decorated with these paper lanterns (as many as 46 can be attached to one pole) and they are lit with real candles. Kanto poles come in different sizes with the largest measuring 12 metres and weighing 50 kilograms.

I’ve not been to Akita unfortunately, but Zooming Japan has, and she recommended visiting Kakunodate, especially in spring.

Kakunodate in spring

Kakunodate in spring

(Image source)

Kakunodate (角館) is a former castle town, featuring a samurai district and merchant district which are home to some beautiful examples of samurai architecture. Some of the samurai houses are open to the public and some of the merchant buildings have been converted into museums, shops and restaurants.

Kakunodate ©Daisuke Yatsui/©JNTO

Kakunodate ©Daisuke Yatsui/©JNTO

Unfortunately the castle no longer remains, but Kakunodate still looks like a really interesting place to visit. Around late April to early May is the best time to see the cherry blossom in Kakunodate, and around one million people will visit each year at this time!

I must also mention one of Tohoku’s top hot spring towns: Nyuto Onsen (乳頭温泉). Nyuto Onsen is a collection of onsen ryokan in Akita Prefecture, and part of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park (十和田八幡平国立公園). Nyuto Onsen means ‘nipple hot spring’ – a name which comes from the shape of nearby Mount Nyuto rather than the milky appearance of the hot spring water, apparently. Nyuto Onsen has a history of over 300 years, and the most famous onsen there is Tsurunoyu Onsen which dates back to the Edo Period (1603 – 1867).

Rotenburo at Tsurunoyu

Rotenburo at Tsurunoyu

(Image source)

Finally, a beautiful spot to visit near Nyuto Onsen is Lake Tazawa (田沢湖). Lake Tazawa (or ‘Tazawa’ko’) is a caldera lake or crater lake just south of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. Lake Tazawa is similar to Lake Towada, but smaller and deeper. Actually, it’s Japan’s deepest lake at a depth of 423 metres.

Lake Tazawa

Statue of local girl Tatsuko at Lake Tazawa

(Image source)

 The Omiyage Section

Akita Prefecture doesn’t seem to have that many famous souvenirs (or ‘omiyage’ / おみやげ), but there is one product which has made a name for itself: Inaniwa Udon (稲庭うどん). These dry wheat noodles originated in Inakawamachi at the beginning of the Edo period. Wheat noodles are usually very thick, but these noodles are thin and stretchy.

Inaniwa Hoshi Udon

Akita Omiyage

(Image sources: Rocket News)

 ☆★☆

Next week I will be writing about Yamagata (山形県). Have you been there? What’s good to eat there and what omiyage should I buy? What are the best sightseeing spots or hidden gems? Please do share your thoughts below, and join me next week for Japan by Prefecture!

8 thoughts on “Japan by Prefecture: Akita (秋田県)

  1. You’ve got my even more excited for my trip to Akita this summer! Hoping to catch the Kanto matsuri and visit Lake Tazawa. I really want to go to Nyuto Onsen as well, but hot springs in 90 degree (F) heat aren’t all that fun and Tohoku was blazing last summer!

    For the Yamagata post, I loved Ginzan Onsen and the hike up to the crater at Zao Onsen. And don’t miss the watermelon sodas in Yamagata … really good! The hike up to Yamadera is worth it as well, but really tough when it’s super hot! I hear it’s a great spot for autumn leaves.

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  2. Yes, the Kanto Matsuri is high up on my list of events to experience in Japan. Yamadera is Yamagata’s most famous attraction, but I also want to visit the famous hot spring town of Zao Onsen for its thermal waters. The Snow monsters (樹氷) of Mt. Zao also look pretty cool in winter.

    Yamagata is famous for its fruit, especially cherries and ‘La France’ European style pear.

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  3. I have to admit that I didn’t travel around too much in Yamagata.
    I was lucky being there in spring, though. The Yamagata Castle ruins were so lovely. A great spot for cherry blossom viewing, also at night! 🙂

    Oh, and let’s not forget the famous Yamadera!! 😀

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  4. The statue on lake Tazawa is pretty cool looking, when I did my research on Akita, I honestly feel like I didn’t find much, thusly why I’m here. I like the little tid bit on the omiyagi, that is rather interesting. I think I just added a new section on my own studies. Thanks!

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