Photo: Chris Lewis

Our Lady of Akita Catholic Church

A pilgrimage to Seitai Hoshikai in Yuzawadai

Photo: Chris Lewis
By Bonson Lam    - 2 min read

Seitai Hoshikai in Japanese means the Institute of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist. It is a community of nuns living a life of dedication in a convent near Akita City, possibly one of the most peaceful cities on earth. It is located in a semi-rural area with rice fields and forests eight kilometers north east from Akita City/JR Akita Railway Station, on Highway Route 15. On the way you may pass the Akita Hot Springs, and it is before Mount Otaki.

You don’t have to be Catholic or Japanese to visit this place, and while the nuns here do not speak much English, the language of peace and contemplation is universal. There are a number of gardens and spots for prayer and meditation in the grounds, such as the Garden of the Lamb. There is a mix of Japanese and European influences in the gardens and chapels. One of the more tranquil spots is the Japanese Garden, with trees donated from various parts of Japan. Many volunteers worked on this garden which is a labor of love. Visitors should note that this is more like a convent than a church. There is mass at 0730, but that is not open to the public.

Many people come here on a pilgrimage, to see the statue of Mary, also called Our Lady of Akita. It was carved in 1963 by Mr Saburo Wakasa, a local sculptor. From 1975 to 1981, it shed tears over a hundred times, with more than two thousand witnesses. One of the nuns, Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, was cured of her deafness during a mass in 1982.

As this is a place of contemplation, there is not much in the way of eating places near Seitai Hoshikai. You can also buy some takeaway food and drink from the shops at Akita Station.

The Chapel is open from 9:00am to 11:30am, and again after lunch from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm.

Getting there

Seitai Hoshikai is accessible as a day trip or half-day trip from Akita City. From the west exit of JR Akita station, go to bus stand 12 Bus numbers 351, 352, 353, 360, 361, 362 should go to the Yuzawa stop, the nearest stop to the church. When you get on the bus, you need to take a ticket. The ticket has a number on it. When you get off the bus, look at the fare corresponding to the ticket and then pay the fare in the ticket box. They also provide change from 1000 yen notes. The bus takes 20 minutes and soon after the Akita Expressway crossing, get off at the Yuzawa bus stop. It is a ten-minute walk up the hill from the bus stop.

Please note the return bus timetable when you get off, just in case you miss the last bus and have to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Alternatively, you can catch a taxi from Akita Station, and you can ask for their business card and then call them to pick you up when you are ready to return. It is about 8 kilometers from the city and there is parking on-site. The fare is approximately 2800 yen each way.

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Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us. 

Join the discussion

MY-LINH NGUYEN 4 years ago
Can you be my tour guide in Akita for a day ? Say, Friday 24 March ?
Bonson Lam Author 4 years ago
Great to hear that you are interested in coming to Akita on 24 March. I am not there then, but if you are interested in a paid guide please check for details.
Nico Nico 5 years ago
I am planning to visit the Lady of Akita from Tokyo. As JR East is now divided into two, JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area), which pass will cover the trip to Akita?
Bonson Lam Author 5 years ago
Hi Nico, The Tohoku area pass will cover Akita from Tokyo.
Eddy Harjono 5 years ago
Hi. Can I visit Lady of Akita in Sunday? Do you mean that a Catholic can't attend Sunday mass at Lady of Akita Catholic Church? Do you know Catholic church near Akita Station and the Sunday mass schedule? (also the website if possible).
Thanks in advance.
Bonson Lam Author 5 years ago
Hi Eddy, the Lady of Akita is more like a convent than a church. There is mass at 0730, but that is not open to the public. Also most of the nuns would not speak English. I don't want to discourage you, but just bear that in mind. Of course, if you want to write to them directly in advance, especially if your priest can sign a letter of introduction, it could help? There is a Catholic Church that does have Mass on Sunday, Akita-shi Senshumeitokumachi 1-48
Tel.018-832-3254,Fax.833-7035,Mass hour*6:30/9:00/17:30,
Bonson Lam Author 5 years ago
Hi Eve, you may also wish to visit the Tsuchizaki Gloria Chapel. It is relatively new on the scene, being consecrated late last century. On the other hand, as early as 1888 American missionaries were in the area, with the Akita Methodist Church established in the same year following in the footsteps of the Catholics and the Russian Orthodox Church. These days, it is the Gloria Chapel that is arguably the most dynamic place on Sundays. (They may also have an English translator).
Eve Hale 5 years ago
We hope to be in Akita for Easter Sunday, March 27th 2016. Can you tell me if there is a Holy
Mass on that day in Akita and what time is it and where? Thank you God Bless you
Bonson Lam Author 5 years ago
Hi Eve, the Lady of Akita is more like a convent than a church. There is mass at 0730, but that is not open to the public. You may be able to call them to see if they have mass for Easter Sunday. I hope you will have a great trip. There is a Catholic Church that does have Mass for Easter: 010-0875,Akita-shi Senshumeitokumachi 1-48
Tel.018-832-3254,Fax.833-7035,Mass hour*6:30/9:00/17:30,