Akita: Explore Snowy North Japan, 2 Day Itinerary
Akita Prefecture, in the far north of Japan on the west coast, is full of culture, history, natural beauty and friendly people. As our flight from Tokyo to Akita descended for landing, an endless snow covered mountain range welcomed us to this prefecture. Met at the airport by Akita Prefecture’s tourism officials, a whirlwind 2 days was about to commence. We set out into the snow to explore areas around Akita City.
This article is an overview of 2 full days and 1 night in Akita Prefecture. Follow us for the upcoming detailed Akita travel articles about each location visited.
Inaniwa Udon, Yuzawa City
After a friendly welcome to the udon factory, we were given a tour. The tour was very informative, as the workers were present actually making udon, going about their duties. After the tour, I had the fun experience of making udon myself! It was an interesting experience, and really put me in touch with udon noodles. After stretching the noodles and leaving them to dry, we were given a souvenir of udon “off-cuts”. Then we proceeded to the udon factory’s own udon restaurant, and had a delicious udon with tempura, while watching the snow fall outside.
Loved strolling around this village. The cold and snow only heightened the experience. We stepped inside rustic storehouse, antique stores and a small sake brewery. The old style Japanese buildings topped with snow were stunning.
Kamakura Festival at Minkaen Kido Gorobei Village
Kamakura Festival is an annual event that has been taking place for hundreds of years. The festival here is a smaller satellite festival of the larger Yokote Kamakura Festival. A kamakura is similar to an Inuit igloo. A quaint introduction to kamakura, less populated with tourist with better access to the kamakura themselves.
On display were traditional dress (including a stoic old man wearing traditional snow boots, coat and hat) and the tradition of welcoming guests into a kamakura. We then stepped into a traditional old house and sitting around a fireplace, enjoyed some warm tea and snacks. Before leaving I explored the grounds of this park, including an old shrine with connections to Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Yokote Kamakura Festival
As the sun set the kamakura came alive with lights, candles and people. Dotted around the town, this was the standout from a day of seeing some less touristy areas of Akita. A shuttle bus took us to Yokote Castle, a stunning night scene, with tiny kamakura in the foreground and the castle lit up in the background. I could have spent hours here taking photos, watching the scenery and the people enjoying the kamakura – but we had to get back into town! On the way we stopped a few minutes walk before town, and there besides the river were hundreds of small kamakura, each made by local school children. We then strolled back into town, I love walking through Japan rather than taking transport, we saw some very unique kamakura along the way. Back in town we caught the last light of some snow statues (Totoro!) before calling it a night and making our way back to the hotel.
Akita City Market
The next morning we caught the train to Akita City. First stop was the Akita City market. Very authentic, full of colourful local wares, fruit, vegetables and seafood.
Akita Museum of Art
An angular architectural example of beauty in simplicity, the building exterior and entrance was full of clean lines and curves. Inside an exhibition by local university students showed the genius and creativity of the next generation of artists from the region.
I love the Japanese local festival culture, where many regions, hundreds of years ago, created their own unique festivals. In Akita, the Kanto festival is a skillful display of local neighbourhood teams balancing a huge array of lanterns hanging on bamboo poles. At the hall, locals showed us their skill, balancing these weighty poles on their hands, hips and heads! We even got a turn, and handling the lightest pole of them all, I could barely balance the bamboo pole one handed! After an informative introduction, we walked through the various levels of the hall and discovered more of the long tradition of the Kanto Festival. One of our tour guides plays the taiko drum in this local festival, and gave us a demonstration of her musical talent (and tried to teach me how to beat the drum too!).
Akita Cultural and Industrial Facility Matsushita
Stepping into a huge room, lined with tatami mats and a few simply arranged low tables, we settled in for a delicious bento. After a while, a guide from the facility joined us and explained the history of this building. She was very informative and spoke amazing English. The guide then informed us that we would be entertained by two maiko. The maiko, dressed in stunning kimono, with elaborate make-up and hair, gracefully danced and sang to us. After two rounds of song and dance, the guide then interpreted questions to the maiko, and we learned much about a tradition being revived here in Akita City.
Takashimizu Sake Brewery, Kura tour
A large brewery, we started with an informational video (in English) explaining the process of making nihonshu, and the special approach that Takashimizu takes to its brew. Touring the large facility, we saw the nihonshu at all stages of brewery, and got to taste premature sake straight from the factory. We finished off with a tasting of all of the brewery’s nihonshu, it was so good that we all bought a bottle as a souvenir!
Followers of this site know that I am a Japan castle geek! Although not on the itinerary of our tour, we visited Kubota Castle in Akita City. The surrounding park and castle grounds were stunning in the snow. The main gate of the castle was actually close to foot entry as there was so much snow!
Arriving at Akita Airport in the evening, I finished off the day with an award winning Tazawako Alt Beer, and some very good airport food.
After a browse of the souvenirs – always humorous! – we boarded an ANA flight back to Tokyo.
Akita is the most northern place in Japan that I’ve visited, and I’d love to return in the spring time. But the snow was amazing, being an Australian who has only seen snow a handful of times, seeing this part of the country in a white winter wonderland has made me want to return!
I’ll be writing in detail about several places visited in Akita, so be sure to follow Japan Travel Mate to see more of this special part of Japan!