Akita Prefecture

Beauty and the Namahage Beast

 By Bonson Lam   Nov 30, 2011

Akita Prefecture is located on the northwest coast of Honshu Island, just an hour's flight from Tokyo and two hours from Seoul. It is renowned for its natural beauty, the beautiful bijin women, hot springs and the ancient town of Kakunodate, where you can go back in time to when samurai ruled the land. Speaking of samurai, do you know that Isamu Kurosawa, the father of Akira Kurosawa, the director of Seven Samurai and many other great films, was a member of a former samurai family from the Akita Prefecture?

Akita, kissed by the coastal breezes from the wilderness of Eastern Russia, is famed for its rice and sake production. Our delicious sake goes well with the fresh seafood and wild vegetables, so you can try all sorts of different food depending on the season. Why not meet our fishermen and come to our organic farms and have a chat with our farmers? Both our rice and sake are exported around the world. You can try Akita Sake at many leading hotels of the world, including the Observatory Hotel in Sydney, Australia.

Our famous festival, the Kanto Matsuri, celebrates the abundance of our rice harvests. The newly harvested rice is showcased in Kiritanpo, eaten with miso paste or in a hot pot (nabe), depending on the season. We are also known for Shottsuru Kayaki which is made from the local specialty, the Hata hata fish.

Akita is a delight to visit in every season. In summer, you can try hiking or boating at Lake Towada in the Towada Hachimantai National Park, straddling between Akita and Aomori prefectures. Be still as you become one with nature. The spectacular mountains, shrouded in mist in the morning and snow in winter, are as unspoilt as the Swiss Alps, the Canadian Rockies, or the mountains around Queenstown in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

In winter, come skiing at Mt Taihei, just 30 minutes’ drive from Akita city or Airport. Imagine from office to snow in time for dinner! And after a great day of skiing or snowboarding, take a deep soak in the rejuvenating outdoor hot springs, just a short stroll away.

And for New Year, come to Oga for the Namahage Festival, where the Namahage men in demon masks re-enact traditional folklore and march around the village threatening spoiled children. Families can appease these demons by offering sake, and the Namahage, mesmerized, shower blessings of good health and harvest in the New Year.

In February, be entranced by the traditional candle lit kamakura snowhouses in Yokote City, where more than hundreds of kamakura can be seen. The candle lights of these snow white kamakura produce a quiet, beautiful peace in the black winter sky. This 400 year old festival has its origins in the traditional event of returning New Year decorations to the gods by burning them. You will be greeted by children to come inside the kamakura and drink some traditional sweet amazake rice wine. Let’s enjoy the festivities while eating rice cakes, the traditional way of celebrating life in kamakura. Welcome to Akita!

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Written by Bonson Lam
Japan Travel Partner

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Malcome Larcens a year ago
Do you know the legend of why Akita is known for beautiful women? When Date Masamune was ruling over Sendai and Miyagi, he ordered all pretty women to be sent to Akita to keep his samurai from becoming lazy. That was a long time ago, I have been to both Akita and Miyagi and I can't tell the difference, there are pretty women in both places. However the myth still hold true today, many local people think it's still accurate today. One of Date Masamune's practices that is still very evident today is that in Sendai they don't cut trees annually as they do in most of the country and the result is all the beautiful tree lined streets, cool in summer and bright in winter. Looks like Europe or North America. He ordered people not to cut trees in case the city was surrounded, they would still have wood for cooking and build things like weapons.
Justin Velgus a year ago
Wow!! I never heard that story. Thanks!!!