Located in the Tohoku region of Japan, Akita prefecture is a place of natural beauty with rich Japanese culture and history, far away from the bustle of big cities. Despite being a rather off the beaten path destination, it appeals to visitors with breathtaking scenery, rustic onsen, and fascinating cultural events.
In case you think Akita is too far a place to visit from Tokyo, it is not! With Shinkansen, a short visit to this prefecture in Japan’s deep north is totally doable. In this article, we show you an itinerary sample of Tokyo and Akita in 2 days.
Kick start your journey with a Shinkansen train trip. From Ueno Station, take the Akita Shinkansen to Kakunodate Station. The ride takes about 3 hours. You can also board the train at Tokyo Station.
For such trips, I will definitely recommend using the JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) which costs only 20,000 yen and allows unlimited rides on all JR East train lines, including the Shinkansen, for 5 days! But note that all seats on Akita Shinkansen are reserved seating, so make sure to book your seat at the ticket office in advance.
JR East Pass: https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass_t/
We’ve arrived in our first destination, Kakunodate! It is known for its charming historic district full of well-preserved samurai houses. In spring, it is one of the best hanami spots in the Tohoku region. The town is about 20 minutes’ walk from the station, so stash your luggage in one of the coin lockers at the station and begin your exploration!
The main attraction here is Bukeyashiki Dori (Samurai House District), stroll along the tree-lined streets, enjoy the ambience and check out the exhibits inside the samurai houses. Drop by one of the souvenir stores, confectionery shops, or eateries whenever you feel like it.
For lunch, Sakura no Sato is a very popular local restaurant specialising in Akita specialities – Inaniwa udon noodles and Oyakodon rice bowl using local free range eggs and chicken.
Continue to explore other points of interests, like walking along the Hinokinai River, enjoying a panoramic view of the town from the Castle Ruins, or visiting the Denshokan Museum to learn about Kakunodate’s unique cherry bark woodworking (kabazaiku) and other traditional crafts.
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Walk back to Kakunodate Station, take your belongings, and ride for one stop to Tazawako Station. At Tazawako Station’s bus stand, take a bus to Tazawako Kohan stop (12 min ride). You can obtain the latest bus timetables as well as other info for your trip at the tourist information centre in Tazawako Station.
Akita’s iconic Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan. There are a few highlights around it, like the golden statue of a woman named Tatsuko, who according to legend prayed for eternal beauty but was turned into a dragon instead; Goza-no-Ishi Shrine with a bright red torii gate contrasting beautifully with the azure lake; and Kansagu Shrine which is just next to Tatsuko’s statue.
To travel around the lake and get to these spots, you can catch one of the circle route buses or sightseeing boat tours that take visitors around the lake with stops in between. Cycling is another popular way to get around. Relax and enjoy the scenery before heading back to Tazawako Station.
At Tazawako Station, take a bus for Nyuto Onsen, where your accommodation for the day is located. The ride takes about 45 minutes.
Nyuto Onsen is a hot spring town consisting of seven ryokans. Considered by many as a must-have experience in Akita, Nyuto Onsen is well-loved for its secluded setting, gorgeous seasonal views, and the quality of the hot springs.
Image: Fumiaki Yoshimatsu on Flickr.
Each of the lodges here is unique in their own way, just look for the one that suits your style. The hot springs offered by the ryokan also differ in terms of their sources and properties. You can enjoy them all with a “Yumeguri-cho” pass that is available for purchase at the lodges (1,800 yen). Enjoy soothing onsen baths and scrumptious Japanese meals after a day of travelling!
Nyuto Onsen: http://ryokan.glocal-promotion.com/#nyutou
After checking out, catch a bus heading back to Tazawako Station. We’ll depart for Akita City, the prefecture’s capital. Take Akita Shinkansen to Akita Station, the journey is about 1 hour.
Spend your afternoon visiting some popular attractions in the city, such as Senshu Park, City Folk Performing Arts Heritage Center, Akarenga Folk Museum, and Akita Museum of Arts, all of which are 10-15 minutes’ walk from the station.
For lunch, Akita Hinai Jidoriya on the third floor of Akita Station building is a restaurant specialising in dishes made with local Hinai chicken. Here you can have kiritanpo (grilled rice stick), a traditional regional dish of Akita that is cooked in a nabe hot pot with other ingredients to make a hearty meal.
Senshu Park is an oasis in the city centre with seasonal flowers, beautiful Japanese gardens, and a few small shrines. There are also several sights related to the Kubota Castle which once stood on the site, such as the front gate, moat, and guard station. Go up the turret and enjoy a 360-degree view of the city, inside there are also exhibits about the history of Akita.
Akarenga Folk Museum is worth a visit just for the architecture alone. Set in a former bank headquarters built in the Meiji era, it displays traditional Akita crafts and works of some local artists which include silverwork/metalwork, woodblock prints, and pottery. The remnants of the bank also offer visitors a glimpse of its glory days.
One of the famous events in Akita is the Kanto Festival which features participants balancing long lantern poles on their hands, shoulders, heads, and even hips. Learn about the festival at the City Folk Performing Arts Heritage Center (Neburi Nagashi-kan), which is dedicated to preserving and promoting Akita’s folk culture and traditional events. Besides trying your hand at doing it, you might even stumble across a Kanto pole performance during your visit!
Finally, Akita Museum of Art is a modern art museum dedicated to the works by painter Leonard Foujita, including his masterpiece “Events of Akita” – a huge mural which depicts the festivals and daily life in Akita. Designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando, the museum building is also quite cool itself. The freestanding staircase certainly looks Instagram-worthy!
We will be at Akita Station ready to travel back to Tokyo! The journey between Akita and Tokyo/ Ueno Station will take about 4 hours, so sit back and take a good rest before then!
If you feel like staying longer and exploring Akita further, you can check out also other popular attractions in the region like Oyasukyo Gorge, Oga Peninsula’s Godzilla Rock, and Shirakami Sanchi – the largest remaining virgin beech forest with a UNESCO World Heritage status.
Well, what do you think about this itinerary? I hope you find this article useful in providing some understanding of the northern Japan prefecture of Akita!