A Trip To Akita 秋田
A one-day trip in mid-May to Akita city was an introduction to the beauty of the Tohoku Region in late spring. Clear, cool, and blue skies facilitated strolling with no plans; I found myself mesmerized by a colorful cacophony of blooming azalea bushes, unusually-designed historic art, and the tantalizing tastes of local dishes.
Our short trip started off with a warm reception at the Dormy Inn, a hotel we had chosen because it has a hot spring. It is centrally located and is close to art museums and parks. When we checked in, we were offered coffee and corn silk tea.
The Dormy Inn in central Akita, ドーミーイン秋田, was reasonably priced. For about seventy US dollars we had a double room with wide views of a flower-surrounded pond with a blossoming water fountain. The clerk informed us that we had been upgraded to a more expensive room with its own high-tech massage chair - a much kneaded gift.
The top floor is where an impressive hot spring waits for guests. The clean bathing facilities include an indoor hot bath, an indoor cold bath, a large dry sauna, and an outdoor bath. Natural wood and stone rim the baths and sauna. The natural mineral elements contained in the indoor bath's water make the skin feel slippery. The hotel drilled 1,200 meters beneath the surface of the earth and constantly pumps the mineral-laden water upward. The outdoor bath, however, is filled with heated tap water.
In the evening while standing next to the outdoor bath, I saw an illuminated display of the lights of Akita. Steam swirled about me, and a breeze cooled me before I sat in the bath again.
After our first evening baths, we strolled through the town along the side of river edged with large boulders. Using the Internet, my wife had found a highly-recommended Spanish restaurant named Yabu.
Yabu turned out to be a superlative culinary experience. Seating is available for about sixteen diners. Luckily, there were two seats available at the stylish counter when we walked in. During our meal, at least half a dozen people entered the restaurant only to be turned away.
The chef and one waitress were the only employees. Each worked efficiently so food came fairly quickly, and our dishes: pasta with crab, Parmesan risotto with mushrooms, onion and paprika soup, mushrooms fried with garlic in olive oil, were fantastic. The bill was surprisingly reasonable. For less than thirty American dollars, we ate some of the best European-style dishes we've ever had in Japan.
The next morning we ate so much delicious local Japanese food and Western food in the breakfast buffet that there was no need to purchase lunch. Kiritanpo, cooked rice which is kneaded and toasted on a skewer, is a delicacy of Akita that we tried, but we found that we liked inaniwa udon, the local thick wheat noodle dish, much more.
After breakfast, we strolled through an open square in front of Senshu Park and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and more tastes at the ながいちトラック市, or the Nagai Ichi Truck Market. From the back of the parked trucks, friendly locals were selling dried apples, bamboo shoots, locally-made yoghurt, and salmon with vegetables, as well as leather crafts, paintings, used clothing, and house plants. Sellers generously doled out samples of their food products.
Pleasantly sated, we strolled toward Senshu Park, but stopped to look at a manga-like concrete statue of a grinning fox that someone had clad in a red t-shirt of the local basketball team, called the Harrinets. The story behind the fox statue is a sad one. The story goes that Lord Satake Yoshinobu, who built Akita Castle, constructed it on land that was the home of foxes. Yojiro, a three-hundred-year-old fox, approached the lord and asked that some land be left for the foxes. The lord agreed. In gratitude, Yojiro offered to serve as a messenger. He carried messages across the country much faster than any of the lord's human messengers, who later killed the fox out of jealousy.
It is said that the body of Yojiro is enshrined in the Yojiro-Inari-Jinja Shrine, which was later built on the castle grounds. This small shrine is one of the most attractive fox-related shrines in Japan. Inari is one of Shinto's eight million gods, and Inari sometimes took the form of a fox. Pairs of male and female fox statues line the walkway to the shrine. Visitors will walk beneath red Japanese gates while passing under the stares of the foxes who make sure that they behave respectfully. Unique to this particular shrine, some of the vixen statues come with kits, or baby foxes. The shrine is within Senshu Park.
Senshu Park used to belong to the Satake Clan of Akita Prefecture. One of their descendants donated the property to the city. The park was a visual cacophony of colorful flowers. The park slopes upward and from the top the city is visible through tree branches. Many people were having picnics and enjoying the views.
A statue, approximately six meters high, of the last lord of the land, Satake, Yoshitaka, stands at the highest point of the park grounds. He stares down on all the modern guests, old, young, Japanese, foreign, clothed dogs, and loud children, with equanimity. Other statues are scattered throughout the greenery of the park, giving visitors the feeling that one is walking through an outdoor history and art museum.
Visitors can hang out in the park all day, exploring the various ponds, meadows, shrines, and ruins of the ancient castle. We would have loved to have stayed longer and seen more of Akita, but we had to leave. As we departed, though, we were already discussing when we might return for more tastes of Akita.
Access - Getting to Akita
Akita Airport has daily ANA and JAL flights from Haneda Airport in Tokyo (60 minutes), Shin-Chitose Airport in Sapporo (55 min), Centrair in Nagoya (85 minutes), KIX (80 minutes) and Itami Airport in Osaka (80 mins), as well as a seasonal flight from Komaki Airport in Nagoya (70 mins). There are flights three times a week flights to Incheon Airport near Seoul (2 hours, 50 mins) operated by Korean Airlines. There are buses from Akita Airport to Akita Station (35 mins; 900 yen), and a taxi service to Kakunodate, Tozawa-ko and Nyuto Onsen.
Trains To Akita
From Tokyo Station or Ueno Station JR Akita Shinkansen Komachi trains via Ueno, Omiya, Sendai and Morioka to Akita. Journey time is 4 hours from Tokyo Station to Akita and the current fare is around 16,470 yen. All seats are reserved. To Hakodate and Sapporo in Hokkaido take the Ou Main Line to Aomori then Super Hakucho Express. The journey time Akita-Sapporo is around 10 hours, 30 minutes. From Akita Station there are local and Shinkansen trains to Kakunodate and Tozawa-ko.
Bus To Akita
Ferries To Akita
There are ferries from Akita Port to Tomakomai (12 hours, 15 minutes), Niigata (6 hours, 20 Minutes and Tsuruga (19 hours, 50 minutes). Shin Nihonkai Ferry (Tel: 018 880 2600) are the operators.
Getting Around Akita
Akita city center is small enough to get around on foot, local bus, taxi or rental cycle. Buses in Akita radiate out from both exits of Akita Station and buses connect to Akita Airport and North Asia University.
Akita car and bike rental
There are a number of places to rent both cars and bicycles throughout Akita. Bicycles can be hired from the Tourist Information Office opposite the entrance to the Shinkansen and Cycle Shop Takahashi (Tel: 018 862 6261)
For car rental near Akita Station try Toyota (Tel: 018 833 0100), Nissan (Tel: 018 824 4123) and Station Rent-A-Car (Tel: 018 833 9308).
Tourist Information Centers
The main tourist information center in Akita is the Akita City Tourist Board Information Center (Tel: 018 832 7941) inside Akita Station with information in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
Maps of Aomori & Akita
Book Hotel Accommodation in Akita
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