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Akita 3-Day-Tour Itinerary

Akita is a beautiful prefecture located on northern Honshu, bordering with Aomori, Miyagi, Iwate and Yamagata.  A paradise for history lovers, Akita is known for its well preserved samurai houses, shrine festivals, and traditional onsen (hot springs).  You can enjoy this northern region all throughout the year, with sakura blossoms in spring, scenic views of the majestic Japan sea in summer, the sea of maple leaves in Tazawako in fall, and winter sports and hot springs in winter.  
Day 1-Akita Bijin Line-Kakunodate
One of the main attractions in Akita is the Akita Nairiku Line, a private line extending through the west part of the prefecture.  Nicknamed the ‘’Akita Bijin Line’’, which translates into ‘’The Railway of Beautiful Women in Akita’’, it offers a full course meal in a tatami styled train, which runs through some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery in Akita.  Each dish served comes with an explanation of its origin, with brief introductions of each stop we passed by (in Japanese of course, but the friendly train conductor was able to communicate with us in Chinese!).  The hour and a half trip including the meal was only 6900 yen, so make sure you book in advance to secure your seat! 

After our scenic train ride, we arrived at Kakunodate.  Known as ‘’Little Kyoto’’, Kakunodate is famous for its elegant village with several traditional samurai houses, six of which are open to the public and is the perfect example of samurai architecture and lifestyle back in the day.  Two of the most well preserved houses are the Ishiguro-Ke (Ishiguro Manor), and the Aoyagi-Ke (Aoyagi Manor), both located on the main street of the samurai village.  Founded in 1620, this lovely area was home to 250 samurai manors and 420 townhouses. Because there haven’t been any natural disasters for the past 390 years, every detail from the width of the streets to the weeping sakura trees, has been absolutely unchanged for centuries, giving us a rare peek into ancient times.  We chose to visit Ishiguro-Ke, the household of the most prestigious family in the Kakunodate area.  Since the family still resides in the house, only a small part of the property is open to the public, but its intricate details and meticulously designed gardens will definitely amaze you.  Ishiguro-Ke offers impromptu guides that explains the architectural details and historical background of the family, and has an exhibition room that displays old household tools, medieval weapons and more.  Lined on both sides of the wide avenue are sakura trees that blossom every spring, bathing the village in beautiful pink foliage and bringing in crowds to the annual Sakura Matsuri. 

About a five-minute drive away from the samurai village district is Shichibe, a Japanese style restaurant famous for the local cuisine- Kiritanpo and Hinai-Jidori.  Kiritanpo is a refreshing hotpot with chicken, burdock, cabbage and most importantly, soft rice mochi cooked till it literally melts in your mouth.  Hinai-Jidori is a local free-range chicken, known nation-wide for its chewy texture and strong roasted aroma, often served as yakitori (chicken on a skewer).  Shichibe has a welcoming atmosphere and Japanese style seating, where you can experience the traditional Japanese way of dining. 

Apart from Kiritanpo and Hinai-Jidori, a must-try of Akita is miso and soy sauce.  We came to Ando Jyozo Honkan for the most authentic experience, and we were not disappointed.  Founded in 1853, Ando Jyozo Honkan takes pride in its naturally brewed products and strict quality control.  This traditional building has kept most of its original designs, with tatami style rooms and thick wooden doors used in the olden days.  Here, you can try out different kinds of miso, soy sauce, rice wine and pickles before deciding which kind you want to purchase!

Day 2-Tazawako Ski Resort-Mizusawa Onsen
Being one of the most northern prefectures in Honshu, Akita is also known for its skiing and snowboarding resorts.  On our second day, we headed up north from Kakunodate to Tazawako (Tazawa Lake), where many winter sports enthusiasts gather to experience the mountainous region.  The Tazawako Ski Resort offers full ski wear rental at a very reasonable price, and we opted for the four-hour course.  Most of us didn’t know how to ski, and although the ski resort provides lessons for beginners, we decided to brave it out ourselves, starting from one of the medium slopes.  It was a fun four hours, tumbling and falling (sometimes successfully skiing) down the slopes, and many kind Japanese people helped us along the way when we couldn’t recover from our falls! 

One of the other highlights of this day was Mizusawa Onsen, located in the same area was Tazawako.  We stayed at Mizusawa Onsen Shikisaikan, a five-minute drive from the skiing resort.  For only around 15,000 yen per person, we had a family sized Japanese style room to ourselves, including an exquisite full course meal accompanied with sparkling wine and Akita-Gyu (Akita Brand Beef).  After dinner, we were able to enjoy Shikisaikan’s exquisite outdoor onsen, where we immersed ourselves in the quality Akita hot spring while snow drifted down slowly, creating the perfect winter night. 

Day 3- Eitaro Sweets Factory
We woke up pretty early on our last day to grab our last chance to soak in the relaxing onsen, and of course make it in time for a Japanese style breakfast.  Shikisaikan’s breakfast was nothing short of amazing, with the traditional miso soup and tamagoyaki, but with more of a stronger flavor that accents the special Akita taste.  After breakfast, we headed back to Akita City, which was almost a two-hour drive away due to the snow storm.   
On our itinerary today was Eitaro, a famous Japanese Sweets Factory famous in the Tohoku region for its elegant and delicious sweets, such as the delicate sakura jelly, a pink transparent hemisphere with a cherry blossom in the middle.  Founded in 1853, Eitaro offers workshops where an experienced master will teach you the ways of sweets making for only 1000 yen!  We made two types of sweets, and were amazed by the skilled movements of the master as he made shapeless mochis into dainty flowers, while we attempted but failed to copy his deftness.   

Unfortunately, we only had a few hours left on our third day to master Japanese sweet making and make our last drive around the city to take in the snow capped trees and endless white field before we headed to the airport.  However, we couldn’t leave without experiencing one of Japan’s top three Udon brands-Mugendo.  The three greatest Udon brands in Japan are Sanuki Udon in Kagawa, Kishimen of Nagoya, and Inaniwa Udon of Akita.  Mugendo is one of the biggest Udon chain restaurants in Akita, serving Udon dishes with different flavors, sauce, broth, and even westernized inventive dishes, such as the ‘’Soy Milk Tomato Udon’’ that we tried.  This was served in a deep plate and topped with a piece of refreshing lime, bringing out the distinct taste of soy milk and redefining Udon cuisine for us!  

Akita may seem far, but it's actually only an hour away from Tokyo!  Next time you’re in need of a weekend getaway, why not hop on a plane and come over to Akita for a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery?  You won’t regret it!


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