Akita Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan is a beautiful place with lots of nature and an abundance of things to do. It’s a much less crowded part of Japan than most Kanto or Kansai regions because it’s a bit difficult to get to from most major cities. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not an amazing place worth visiting. Let’s dive into the northern part of Japan with our list of the top 10 things to do in Akita!
1. Kiritanpo Fair
Kiritanpo is one of the most famous Akita foods. It is made from mashed rice, rolled into sticks, and then grilled. Akita is the third largest rice producer among all Japan’s prefectures, and its rice has excellent transparency, is sticky and chewy. Even beginners can do Kiritanpo easily and well. It can be eaten in two different ways: nabe and ice cream with miso. The most popular way to eat it is to cook it in a pot with chicken and vegetables. The other way is to soak it in miso, which is produced by fermenting the beans.
2. Namahage Museum
Namahage is a barley in Akita. On New Year’s Eve, young men from the Oga Peninsula wear straw suits and hold knives as figures to look like namahage. They visit homes where children live and cry out for the children saying, “Is anyone crying? “. As their appearances and voices are very scary, children who notice the namahage often scream and run away. This custom is unique to Akita and the purpose of this tradition is not to scare children but to exorcise evil spirits in the house and pray for good health and a bountiful harvest.If you visit the Namahage Museum, you can see real namahage and a demonstration of what New Year’s Eve is like.
3. Unshoji Temple (Hydrangeas)
In the Oga Peninsula area, there is a temple called Unshoji that is famous for its thousands of blue hydrangeas. The temple was built in 1624 during the Edo Period. Hydrangea is known as the flower of the rainy season in Japan because the best season to see them is from mid-June to mid-July when it rains a lot in Japan. If you visit the temple in the afternoon, you can admire the hydrangeas on the temple beach. You will be able to see three different but beautiful shades of blue: sky blue, ocean blue and hydrangea blue. Also, the temple is illuminated at night. The contrast between the illuminated hydrangeas and the dark and silent temple is truly a sight to behold.
4. SUP on Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan and one lap around the lake is about 20 km. The water is very clear and a cobalt blue color. In this lake you can enjoy different types of outdoor activities, such as cycling, kayaking and camping. But one of the best things to do here is SUP (stand up paddleboarding). There is no wake on the lake, making it a great spot even for SUP beginners. The blue sky and the lake will surely refresh you. There are trees on the lake shore so if you paddle into the trees the course suddenly becomes more like a jungle cruise.
5. Gojome Farmers Market
If you ask the Akita locals, many of them will probably say that the Gojome Farmers Market is the best place to visit. The market has a long history of more than 500 years and is held on the days ending in 2, 5, 7 and 0 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. You can get not only fresh vegetables and fruits, but also delicious pickles and accessories. Also, each month has a unique theme/festival. For example, in May they have the Sansai (vegetable) festival, in October the mushroom festival and in February the Hot Pot festival. The local farmers who attend the festivals are very friendly and are often even willing to give you cooking tips.
6. Kanto Festival
If you visit Akita in the summer, you won’t want to miss the Kanto Festival. The Kanto Festival takes place over four days in early August. The history of the festival dates back to 1789, and people at that time celebrated this festival to pray for bountiful harvests. There are two types of performers at the Kanto Festival: Sashite and Ohayashi. Sashite plays a main role in the festival. They hold the poles with dozens of lanterns on their shoulders, foreheads, and lower backs. Some poles are over 12m long and can weigh over 50kg! Only men can act as Sashite, and sophisticated balancing techniques are required to accomplish this incredible feat. Ohayashi, on the other hand, plays Japanese flutes and drums to make Sashite’s performance livelier and more fun. The illuminated lanterns in the night sky with beautiful music are an amazing sight to behold.
7. Akita Dog Station
If you are an animal lover, you must know about the Akita breed, or Akita inu. The Akita dog breed is designated a national monument in Japan. They are a good size and covered in a thick fluffy coat to suit the cold Akita climate. There are many places where you can see and even play with Akita inu in Akita. In some of these places you can feed them and buy items such as stationery, key rings, stuffed animals, among others. Since Akitas are very friendly, you can easily make friends with them!
You can fly like a bird in Akita! At Mount Kanpu, there is a great paragliding school. Even if you don’t have paragliding experience, don’t worry. The school’s instructor has won first place in national competitions and is a veteran when it comes to teaching beginners to paraglide. It is a refreshing and exhilarating experience with the beautiful scenery of mountains, rice fields and a beach just below you, as well as the feeling of the wind blowing all over your body.
9. Make udon
When asked what Japanese food is famous for, some of you might think of “Udon”. Udon is a thick noodle soup. y The thickness of the noodles and the flavor of the soup tend to differ from region to region. The local udon in Akita is called Inaniwa udon, and the noodles are relatively thinner than other types of udon. If you are interested in making Inaniwa udon, you must visit an Inaniwa udon factory! At the factory, you can not only watch the process of making Inaniwa noodles, but also make them yourself. The noodles you make will be shipped to the address of your choice, so you can eat them later!
10. Funoshi-no-taki slides
There are many waterfalls in Akita, but we recommend visiting Funoshi Falls. The falls are located in Kawabe of Akita City in the center of the prefecture. The water of the falls is very clear and emerald green in color. You can enjoy different views depending on the season. From late spring through summer, the falls are surrounded by trees with stunning new green leaves. In the fall, the leaves turn orange and red and the falls are covered in deep snow in the winter. You can also swim and jump from the top of the falls in the summer if you have the courage.
As you can see, even though Akita is quite isolated from the more popular parts of Japan, it’s still a great place to visit with many hidden gems. If you’re looking for a nice getaway away from the hustle and bustle, the Tohoku and Akita region might be just what you’re looking for. We hope you found some things you want to do on our list of the top 10 things to do in Akita!
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