Akita has an abundance of nature and is known for its amazing snow festivals as well as hot springs. This itinerary is specifically for summer so we will skip the snow spots and hot springs. If you’re planning to visit Tohoku in August, then the Kanto Matsuri in Akita and Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori must be on your to-do list. Since the best part of the Kanto Matsuri only begins in the evening, how about you spend a day discovering this unexplored part of Japan.
The Tohoku region is easily accessible by bullet train and we have prepared this schedule assuming you are visiting from Tokyo and are using public transport.
Kakunodate is one of Japan’s most well-preserved samurai towns with beautiful old buildings called bukeyashiki, houses where samurai and merchants lived, that offer a glimpse into the social structure of Japanese life in the olden days. Built around 300 years ago, these structures are a treat for anyone interested in architecture.
Six of the houses are open to the public and you can see how the samurai lived. You can also see clothing and armor on display. It takes about 2-3 hours and its best to grab lunch while you are here.
Easy access from the JR Kakunodate Station by bullet train.
Official Website: http://kakunodate-kanko.jp/
Akita Museum of Art
Hop on the train and head to Akita Station. About a ten-minute walk from Akita Station, enjoy this chic, clean structure designed by Tadao Ando. Other than the art exhibits, you can relax and enjoy the view across the water feature from the cafe on the second floor.
Official Website: http://www.akita-museum-of-art.jp/index.htm
Spend the evening at the Kanto Matsuri
One of the top three festivals in the Tohoku region along with the Nebuta Matsuri and Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, you don’t want to miss this amazing spectacle.
Hundreds of kanto, a bamboo pole with 46 lanterns, are raised into the sky to pray for a good harvest! Find out about the origin and more about the Kanto Matsuri. You will probably be tired after joining in the festivities, so it’s best to stay in Akita for the night.
Held annually from August 3 – 6
Official Website: http://www.kantou.gr.jp/index.htm
The following day, you can either visit Hiraizumi, a Sake Brewery, or head to Shirakami Sanchi, a UNESCO world heritage.
Hiraizumi Shuzo: for sake lovers (飛良泉酒造)
If you love nihonshu, more commonly known as sake, you must visit Hiraizumi Brewery, the third oldest in Japan in production since 1487. You can get a free tour of the brewery; for English, please make sure to reserve in advance. Of the many sake tours I’ve participated in, this one seemed the most comprehensive.
At the end of the tour, you get to taste all the varieties of sake available. Since the tour is free, visitors often buy a few bottles out of good will. The starting price is around 1300 yen.
Official Website: http://www.hiraizumi.co.jp/
Access: 4-min walk from Nikaho station
Shirakami Sanchi: for nature lovers
This site stretches across Akita and Aomori. The Gono train line runs along the coast with the Sea of Japan for company. Here, you can soak in the green of a world-class beech forest which has had very little human influence. Scholastically precious animals and plants such as black woodpecker and golden eagle which are designated as national natural monuments can be found here.
In a pristine condition, you can also hike through various walking trails, so if you’re up for it how about getting lost in the beauty of nature.
Access: Take the JR line from Akita station up to Higashi Noshiro and change to the JR Gono line; get off at Shirakamidake-Tozanguchi Station
How about spending some time in the beautiful Tohoku region of Japan?