Akita's Kawabata Dori

The changing face of Tohoku's eat street

By Sandro Bernardinello   Jul 25, 2018 - 2 min read

Akita cuisine is unique and widely popular in Japan. It is said that water here is of very high quality, a reason why people come from near and far to sample its rice, sake and stock. There are several famous dishes whose origins belong to this prefecture, such as Inaniwa Udon or Kiritanpo. With all this delicious food to try, if you are in Akita city, the best place where to go is undoubtedly Kawabata Dori. The word Kawabata refers to its location opposite the river, while Dori is the Japanese word for street. Much like Pontocho in Kyoto, it is a rabbit warren of bars and restaurants, some of which taking advantage of the water views.

During the day, while all the restaurants and bars are closed, this street looks old and forgotten. The small side alleys are deserted and the more you go south, the more desolate it looks, with buildings that feel abandoned and decayed with the passing of time. At night, everything changes. This area magically comes back to life: lights and neon signs lit the front of every place, crowds of people stuffed in tiny izakaya bars cheer loudly and busy waiters run from one table to the other. While walking along the street, waves of delicious smells coming from the kitchens make your mouth water and a light smoky air wafts over the street.

It is said that here you can find more than one thousand restaurants, with almost every kind of food available. On the other side it is also true that this area is packed of night clubs and hostess bars. Along food, this city is well known for its beautiful women. The term Akita-bijin has been coined and it’s recognized as a synonym of beauty.

I don't exactly know how badly this area changed in the last years. Especially in the south end, the feeling was more the one of a red-light district than the one of what people call "The Kitchen of Akita". However, changing or not, Kawabata Dori will still fulfil your culinary desires and it will still remain the beating heart of this city.

Getting there

Kawabata Dori is a level 15 minutes walk from Akita train station.

Japan Travel Member

Join the discussion

Sandro Bernardinello Author 2 months ago
It was an interesting exploration, I'm glad you like it :)
Bonson Lam 2 months ago
Thank you for this almost documentary like study of the changing face of Kawabata Street. While many old timers may weep at the changes, your spotlight on this hidden part of Japan will also give it hope for renewal in the future.
Kim B 2 months ago
Love the retro looking movie posters and the metal signs!
Kim B 2 months ago
That makes sense - I love that they've still held on to the character and retro charm!