Sure going south from Tokyo has its merits; otherwise no one would do it. But if you truly want to see rural Japan in all its beauty, you shouldn’t even consider going south… instead you should head directly to the north!
I suppose one good thing about everyone and her aunt travelling south is that you’ll have the whole of the northern Japan (i.e. northern Honshu) to yourself – RESULT!
OK – so now you’ve decided to not be a sheep, and head north where should you go?
Well you can’t go wrong by heading to the Akita Prefecture. Honestly, the area surrounding Akita is a fantastic place to backpack! Akita itself, in my opinion, is a place to visit for only one day. If you’re thinking about heading to Hokkaido, Akita is conveniently the location of one of the few ferry ports that connect Honshu (northern Japan) to Hokkaido. If you’re thinking of using Akita as an inexpensive way to get to Hokkaido you should spend one day here checking it out first, before you get on the ferry. If you need any information about taking the ferry, click here.
Top 3 things to do in Akita City for a day
1. Senshu Park
About 5 mins walk from the station, Senshu Park is most beautiful in Spring when the park is filled with blooming cherry trees. It’s also the site of Kubota Castle where the Satake Clan lords resided until 1875. Even though it is a replica it’s worth visiting.
2. Aoyagi Samurai House
Aoyagi Samurai House is one of the best preserved samurai manor houses of its kind in Japan. The estate features the Main House, the Armory, the Seiryu-an Gallery, the Akita Folk Museum, the Samurai Tools & Utensils Museum and a beautiful garden. If I were you I would definitely give yourself at least an hour to explore the entire estate – it’s well worth it.
3. Hotel Grantia Akita Spa Resort
This is one of BEST AND MOST RELAXING onsens I have ever been to. I’m not even joking… when I tell you that it was so relaxing I must have fallen asleep 3 times in 3 different areas.
A visit is a memorable experience; I must have spent at least 4 hours here just chilling out.
It’s cheap and has everything you need. A must, must, must for any weary traveller!
Top 3 things to do around Akita City
1. Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan – and because of its depth it never freezes! Local legend has it, that the lake doesn’t freeze because it is home to 2 serpent gods whose continuous movement keeps the water churned up. This is a great place to visit any time of year but is particularly magic in the summer when the sun is out and the water is warm. It’s a place that you can really relax and forget about all your worries.
2. Dakigaeri Gorge
The Dakigari Gorge is definitely on my top 5 list of things to do in Japan! The water is simply out of this world – it’s the color of cobalt and will take your breath way. This water feeds the rice fields in the valley below and is the reason that Akita rice is famous for its taste throughout Japan. If you don’t go to check this out – you will regret it – trust me! More than that – this place really comes into its own in winter.
Kakunodate is a former castle town and samurai stronghold. Unfortunately the castle no longer exists but the town has pretty much remained unchanged since it was founded in 1620. Kakunodate is famous for its samurai architecture and its hundreds of weeping cherry trees. The best time to come is around late April and early May when the blossoms are out. The best thing about this place is that there are still families living in all the samurai homes… which only adds to its authenticity and mass appeal.
Top 3 things to do in the Akita Prefecture
Shiakami-sanchi literally means white god mountain area and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shiakami-sanchi boasts an unspoiled expanse of primeval beech forest with incredible views over northern Tohoku and the Sea of Japan. It’s up the coast from Akita City, near the border with Aomori and is a beautiful and note-worthy coastal drive.
2. Hachimantai Plateau
If you have time this is also an amazing spot of natural beauty. The Hachimantai Plateau contains bubbling mud volcanoes, sulfurous fumaroles and searing onsens. Well, well, well worth getting here!
3. Tamagawa onsen
Tamagawa onsen, in Senboku, Akita Prefecture, is particularly famous throughout Japan for its health benefits and many of the visitors are cancer patients seeking a cure… the source of the onsen gushes out 9000 liters of 98 degree pH1.05 acid every minute, the most productive, hottest and most acidic hot spring source in all japan!
Enjoy Akita and Akita Prefecture! I wish I were still travelling around there…