Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Akita Prefecture, nestled in the Tohoku Region of Japan’s Honshu Island, offers a tapestry of natural beauty and a deep cultural tapestry waiting to captivate visitors. The area boasts a diverse range of attractions from the serene to the historic, catering to the interests of nature lovers, history enthusiasts, and culinary adventurers alike. A jewel in Akita’s crown is Lake Tazawa, famed as Japan’s deepest lake, which presents a scenic retreat with its mountainous backdrop and opportunities for leisurely activities including boat rides and hot spring baths.

Further adding to Akita’s allure is the Kakunodate Samurai District, a historical treasure that transports visitors to the Edo period’s bygone days. This district allows an immersive experience into the past, with well-maintained samurai residences and informative museums enriching understanding of the area’s heritage. Throughout the prefecture, from the vibrant city life of Akita City to the smaller municipalities of Odate and Senboku City, travelers can expect a blend of cultural encounters, outdoor pursuits, and the chance to partake in local festivities that are unique to this enchanting part of Japan.

Travel Options to Akita

Air Travel via ANA

Flights operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA) connect key cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka with Akita Airport. From Tokyo, the flight duration is approximately 80 minutes. Upon landing, travelers have the option of bus or taxi services to proceed to their destinations within the prefecture.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Komachi Shinkansen Services

For those favoring rail travel, the Komachi Shinkansen offers a swift passage to Akita. Departing from Tokyo Station, this bullet train traverses through important stations like Sendai and Morioka, completing its journey at JR Akita Station in around four hours. Here, you’re greeted by convenient bus or taxi links to various locales.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Road Trips

Exploring by car is particularly scenic, with car rentals available at airports and stations in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. The drive from Tokyo to Akita spans approximately seven hours. From Kyoto or Osaka, it’s a nine-hour journey. Remember, for driving in Japan, an International Driving Permit is necessary.

Transportation ModeDeparture PointDurationDestination
ANA FlightTokyo/Kyoto/Osaka1h 20m – 1h 50mAkita Airport
ShinkansenTokyo Station~4hJR Akita Station
Car RentalTokyo/Kyoto/Osaka7h – 9hAkita Prefecture
  • Important: International Driving Permit required for car rentals.
  • Tip: For convenience, consider using bus or taxi services from Akita Airport or JR Akita Station.

Discover Akita City’s Highlights

Architectural Heritage

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Akita City boasts a treasure trove of architectural wonders reflecting its storied past. Imagine the grandeur of Kubota Castle’s ruins, an ancestral fortress dating back to the 16th century, still standing as a silent testament to history’s unfoldment. Stroll through Senshu Park, a scenic expanse that not only offers verdant beauty but also hosts the Akita Prefectural Museum of Art. This museum, set within an architecture reminiscent of an early 20th-century bank, displays local and international art collections. Schedule your visit to coincide with the cherry blossom season for an unforgettable experience.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

The Bustling Harbor

For a sensory-rich experience, head to Akita Port where the aroma of fresh seafood and the sounds of harbor life create an immersive atmosphere. Here, dining opportunities abound with an array of eateries serving the catch of the day. Don’t miss the Akita Port Tower Selion, a beacon of modern architecture since 1970, where visitors can ascend to the observation deck for panoramic vistas that capture the sprawling urban landscape against the backdrop of nature’s expanse.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Retail Excursions

Those in search of tangible memories will find Akita City’s shopping scene to be both diverse and rich in offerings. From traditional crafts to contemporary fashion, there is something for everyone. Explore Akita Furusato Village for authentic crafts and delectable local fare. For those who prefer a more contemporary shopping environment, the expansive AEON Mall Akita serves as a one-stop destination, housing a multitude of stores catering to all your needs, from the latest fashion trends to cutting-edge electronics.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Experiencing Akita’s Heritage

Historical Samurai Residences of Kakunodate

In the heart of Kakunodate, visitors can traverse time to the era of the samurai. This area, often referred to as the Samurai District, is notably recognized for its impeccably preserved samurai abodes. As they wander through Masudamachi, tourists are afforded an intimate perspective of samurai lifestyles during Japan’s Edo period. Not far from these historical homes, displays of traditional armor and weaponry await in a museum dedicated to samurai martial heritage.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights
  • Visit: Kakunodate Samurai District
  • Highlight: Original samurai houses
  • Cultural insight: Exhibition of samurai daily life

Legacy of Namahage Tradition

The Namahage ritual, deeply woven into Akita’s cultural tapestry, comes to life in an enthralling exhibition at the Namahage Museum. The annual event, striking in its otherworldliness, involves local men donning demon-like masks and straw attire, embodying the Namahage demons to impart lessons of obedience to youngsters. The museum not only showcases the elaborate costumes but also delves into the festival’s rich historical context, offering a compelling narrative to culture enthusiasts.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights
  • Explore: Namahage Museum
  • Feature: Festival costumes and masks
  • Understand: Significance of Namahage in local folklore

Both these cultural landmarks offer a narrative of Akita’s past, allowing history buffs and culture-seeking travelers a genuine insight into the region’s cultural heritage.

Exploring the Great Outdoors in Akita

Trekking the Shirakami Sanchi

The Shirakami Sanchi range, recognized as a World Natural Heritage site, beckons to those seeking the tranquility and beauty of unspoiled forests. Here, one can encounter a wide spectrum of plant and animal life, including the endemic Japanese serow and the prestigious Akita dog breed. Walking routes are abundant, catering to varying levels of hiking proficiency, offering breathtaking vistas. Essential preparations include appropriate footwear, and ample hydration and snacks.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Points to Remember:

  • Check weather conditions before your trip
  • Wear comfortable hiking boots
  • Hydrate well and carry energy-rich foods

Winter Sports on Mount Moriyoshi

As the snow blankets the slopes of Mount Moriyoshi, winter sports enthusiasts find their paradise with an array of trails suitable for all experience levels. The resort’s facilities are top-notch, providing gear rentals and ski lifts. For beginners wanting to learn, ski instructors are available. Prime visiting time spans from December to March, when the snow is at its finest.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Facility Highlights:

  • Ski and snowboard rentals
  • Trails for various skill levels
  • Experienced instructors available

Evening Glow by the Japan Sea

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

The Japan Sea coastline presents a serene location to witness the day’s end as the sun sets beyond the horizon. Godzilla Rock offers an exceptional vantage point to observe the radiant evening hues reflecting off the water. It is a must-visit destination for capturing memorable photographs of the vibrant sky.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Tips for Visitors:

  • Arrive early to secure the best viewing spot
  • Bring a camera to capture the sunset
  • Dress warmly as the evenings can be cool

Celebratory Traditions in Akita

Lantern Parade of the Kanto Festival

The streets of Akita City come alive each summer with a spectacle of lantern-lit bamboo poles during the Kanto Festival. Taking place annually from August 3 to 6, participants showcase their dexterity by balancing poles adorned with lanterns on various parts of their bodies. These poles, reaching remarkable lengths, sometimes weigh as much as 50 kilograms. The exhibition is accompanied by a medley of local culinary booths, musical performances, and a vibrant parade, offering a complete sensory experience.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights
  • Dates: August 3-6
  • Main attractions:
    • Lantern balancing: Performers carry lantern-laden bamboo poles.
    • Cultural celebration: Street festivities with food and music.

Yokote’s Snow Hut Wonderland

When February’s chill sets in, Yokote City’s Kamakura Festival transforms the landscape into a wintry fairyland. Local inhabitants shape snow into igloo-like structures, known as kamakura, and gently illuminate them with candles. Visitors are welcomed inside these structures to partake in sweet sake and traditional snacks, creating a warm atmosphere amid the cold. The festival also includes a procession and various stalls that offer regional fare.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights
  • Month: February
  • Highlights:
    • Snow dwellings: Candle-lit kamakura with offerings of drinks and snacks.
    • Community revelry: Processions and food booths enrich the festival.

Both events stand as proud cultural emblems within Akita, drawing visitors into the heart of regional tradition through the Akita Kanto and Yokote City festivities. The Kamakura Festival offers a more serene ambiance, while the Kanto Festival provides an energetic environment with its impressive displays of skill involving bamboo poles. These gatherings are not just fun; they’re immersive cultural events that epitomize the community spirit of Akita.

Culinary Delights of Akita

Regional Delicacies

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Within Akita’s culinary scene, Kiritanpo stands out, a regional specialty comprising charcoal-grilled mashed rice, typically savored with a hearty miso soup and tangy pickles. Meanwhile, Inaniwa Udon represents the art of noodle craft, offering slim, supple strands steeped in a delicate broth.

Exploring Akita’s Sake Tradition

In the realm of beverages, Akita takes pride in its sake production, utilizing pristine local water and homegrown rice. Sake connoisseurs or those new to the world of Japanese rice wine can partake in tastings at renowned locales like Dewazakura and Akita Seishu, delving into the rich heritage and nuanced tastes of the region’s premier brews.

  • Key Local Foods: Kiritanpo, Inaniwa Udon
  • Foodie Experiences: Sake tasting, soy sauce pairing
  • Sake Highlights: Dewazakura Brewery, Akita Seishu Brewery

Lodging in Akita

Thermal Spring Retreats

For a therapeutic escape, Akita boasts renowned hot spring retreats offering restorative baths in a serene setting. Visitors can soak in the soothing waters at Tazawako Onsen, set amidst the picturesque environs of Lake Tazawa. Rooms reflecting traditional Japanese decor invite guests to unwind in comfort.

In a tranquil mountain recess, Nyuto Onsen beckons with its range of mineral-rich baths, ensuring a peaceful hideaway complemented by hospitality in a classic ryokan setting. For those who wish to remain close to urban conveniences, Oyu Onsen presents modern accommodations within Akita city, complete with a variety of thermal baths to relax and rejuvenate.

Central City Lodgings

For travelers seeking proximity to urban activities and transport hubs, Akita City’s central hotels are an ideal choice. At the forefront is Hotel Metropolitan Akita, offering a welcoming stay with its well-appointed rooms and comprehensive facilities, including dining and relaxation spots.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

A short stroll from Akita Station, Dormy Inn Akita provides a haven of comfort with its cozy rooms, in-house natural hot spring, and a unique complimentary ramen noodle bar, perfect for a late-night snack. Whatever the preference, visitors will find a range of accommodations awaiting them to ensure a pleasant stay throughout their time in Akita.

Distinctive Keepsakes from Akita

Artisanal Woodcrafts

In Akita, the tradition of wood crafting produces stunning pieces, ideal as keepsakes. Items range from quaint tokens to elaborate furniture, catering to all tastes. Among these, you might find:

  • Sake cups made of wood
  • Sets of chopsticks
  • Bowls with lacquer finish
  • Wooden statuettes
  • Magewappa crafts

Magewappa stands out as a remarkable local artisan technique, shaping thin cedar strips into functional items like bento boxes.

Gourmet Hinai Chicken Products

Prized for its flavor, Hinai chicken originates from the region’s free-range farms. This delicacy is fashioned into various souvenir-friendly products:

  • Canned chicken for a taste of Akita on the go
  • Dried chicken jerky as a savory snack
  • Flavored chicken sausages

For food enthusiasts, entire chickens or selected cuts are also purchasable, although travel restrictions may apply.

Distinctive Destinations

The Depths of Tazawa-ko

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Tazawa-ko boasts the title of Japan’s deepest body of water with its depth reaching an impressive 423 meters. Nestled in Akita’s eastern region, this lake is cradled by mountains and blanketed by forests, serving as a haven for those drawn to the outdoors. Its waters take on an enchanting deep blue hue, thanks to the sulfur content. Around Tazawa-ko, various vantage points offer breathtaking vistas. For the adventure seekers, options range from boat tours that glide across the lake to trails that ascend the adjacent heights. After a day spent exploring, visitors can indulge in the nearby hot springs, immersing themselves in tranquility.

Activities and highlights:

  • Boat tours
  • Nature trails
  • Hot spring baths
  • Scenic viewpoints

The Monolith of Oga

In the city of Oga stands a natural curiosity known as the Godzilla Rock, resembling the iconic cinematic creature. The coastal location provides multiple spots to admire this geological wonder. More than just a quirky formation, Oga is home to an exclusive exhibition celebrating the Godzilla legacy. The collection includes a treasure trove of film memorabilia and delves into the history of this colossal pop culture icon.

Local attractions:

  • Godzilla-themed museum
  • Coastal viewpoints

Nearby places of interest:

  • Gozanoishi Shrine, honoring the spirit of the region with shrine visits enveloped by the unique backdrop of Tazawa-ko and Godzilla Rock.

The Akita Dog

The Akita Dog embodies Japan’s national pride with a lineage extending over four centuries. These canines are renowned for their size, strength, and unyielding loyalty, making them both admirable companions and steadfast guardians.

Things to Do in Akita: Top Attractions and Cultural Highlights

Characteristics and Temperament:

  • Size: Large and robust physique
  • Coat: Dense double fur in shades like white, red, brindle, and sesame
  • Tail: Signature curled appearance
  • Head: Wide with sharp, triangular ears
  • Personality: Intelligent, brave, and loyal yet independently minded

Training an Akita Dog demands patience due to their strong-willed nature. While intelligent and responsive, their independent streak can pose challenges for novice owners. The breed is also known for its protective instincts, often reserved around strangers and potentially aggressive toward other animals without proper socialization.

Educational Attractions:

  • Akita Dog Museum: Located in Odate City, this facility chronicles the Akita’s storied past through various exhibits and historical displays.
  • Akita Dog Village: Adventure to Odate City’s dedicated canine community for hands-on experiences. It houses a breeding center, training grounds, and an expansive park, offering visitors a chance to witness these majestic animals at their best.

Whether you are an enthusiast or simply curious, the Akita Dog’s combination of might and fidelity coupled with cultural significance makes them a fascinating subject for exploration.

Essential Advice for Travelers

Akita Prefecture, nestled in nature, is an idyllic destination for those seeking serenity and outdoor adventures.

  • Hot Springs & Culture: Immerse in tranquil onsens coupled with the region’s cultural richness.
  • Unique Experience: Relish the tranquility away from tourist crowds, experiencing a lesser-known Japan.

This region provides a breath of fresh air for outdoor enthusiasts and cultural explorers alike.


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