Akita Prefecture has a great number of Important Intangible Cultural Assets in Japan such as one of the three major festivals in Tohoku “Akita Kanto Matsuri”, together with a variety of sake and many local dishes. Also, there are Japan folk rituals “Namahage”, registered as UNESCO intangible heritage in the category “Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes”.
Besides many festivals and dishes, women living in Akita are said to be the most beautiful in Japan, people here referring to it as “Akita Beauty”. It is also the hometown of the famous Akita dog.
In this article, I will introduce my trip to Akita. If you are planning to travel to Japan by cruise ship, and this same ship arrives in Akita port, please take this article as reference.
Akita Prefecture, situated in the northeastern region of Japan, has three ports: the Akita Port, Funakawa Port, and Noshiro Port, where various cruise ships leave the ports from April up to November.
Once the cruise ship arrives, Akita’s famous “Namahage” and drum performance will warmly welcome you. There is a souvenir corner in the port, so you can feel the hospitality of Akita. This time during my trip, more than 90% of the cruise ship tourists were European, they were fascinated by the customs and performance unique of northern Japan, and they all looked very happy.
Akita Port is a little bit far from the center of Akita City, but to travel around Akita, let’s get on the “Akita Port Cruise Shuttle Train” from Akita Port to the urban area of Akita!
There is a JR help desk in Akita Port and the staff will friendly assist you on how to get on the “Akita Port Cruise Shuttle Train”, as well as providing information on sightseeing in Akita City.
The “Akita Port Cruise Shuttle Train” is only for cruise ship passengers. The train will run on a special freight line route from Akita Port station to Akita station. It is a special experience that you could not find in other places in Japan.
Getting to Akita station can be quite easy as you can find train guides in the Akita Port Station. Just take a small ticket from the machine by paying 200 yen. You can now smoothly go to Akita station.
The seats are very comfortable with large windows. While looking at the railway and the view of Akita, you will arrive at Akita station in a matter of seconds.
“Akita Port Cruise Shuttle Train” will become an unforgettable experience for cruise ship passengers and will allow you to discover Akita’s charm and to sightsee its surroundings.
※ The operation time of the train depends on the schedule of the cruise ship, so please refer here for the latest information.
Once at Akita station, you can use the Shinkansen to access the major tourist areas of Akita, for example places such as Kakunodate or Tazawa Lake.
Also, you could meet the adorable Akita dog at the station! Indeed, an Akita dog is brought to the station twice a day on every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. Although you cannot touch her, you are of course allowed to take photos which will probably make you melt. Before leaving the station, please visit her!
Even if you decide to walk from the station, there are so many things to discover such as the Senshu Park, an astonishing oasis in the middle of the city. You can have a walk to enjoy the beautiful sakura or azalea flowers. Eventually, you could visit the Shrine and the Kubota Castle, place where during the Edo Period the lord who ruled Akita once lived.
You can also admire the city from the hillside and get immersed in the garden’s beautiful scenery that changes seasonally.
Gazing at the beautiful scenery while strolling around, I would recommend you to stop by an amazing place on your way. There is a café called Matsushita Saryo and a Japanese sake bar, Matsushita Shubou, where you can sit and enjoy a few original beverages and Akita’s famous sake while immersing yourself in the relaxing scent of cedar.
One the second floor, there is also a Maiko dance performance in the Akita Dance Theater where you will have the opportunity to meet some of those Akita beauties and see their incredible performance (booking needed). The performance is basically held on every Saturday, but when a Cruise Ship arrives at Akita, a special performance will be held for the tourists. Since the performances are explained in English, even foreigners can enjoy Maiko’s performance without worry.
I took some photos of Maiko and played games with them, it was a great time to experience the Japanese traditional culture.
In this theater, you can choose from several plans such as a tea ceremony, an ozashiki-asobi with the Maiko (apprentice geishas) or a meal with Akita’s foods, beers and Akita’s sake. Nevertheless, please let them know in advance because you might need a reservation depending on the plan you choose.
Akitamaiko Theater Official Website *Japanese Only
Akita Museum of Art
Now that we had time to rest, let’s stretch a little!
On the other side of the Senshu Park, you will find Akita Museum of Art where you can get an insight of the city’s culture and folk traditions. In addition, get an opportunity to experience one of Tohoku’s major festivals held during summer in Akita and the Neburi Nagashi Kan while trying out the different delicious dishes available in the area.
You can enjoy the art exhibition of Japanese artist Foujita Tsuguharu, or the artworks made by Akita’s residents in the gallery. You can as well relax in the café with its view on the water garden and Senshu Park.
Souvernir hunting in Akita Station
On your way back to Akita station, pass by Topico, a building directly connected to the station that has a great variety of souvenirs, local dishes or sake; basically, everything from Akita can be found there. You can find delicious Wagashi (Japanese sweets) and food using Akita’s special rice. Please buy souvenirs of Akita and bring them back to your family and friends!
There is also a restaurant on the 3rd floor which has reopened in March and where you can try some of the Akita’s unique delights such as Inaniwa Udon and Hinaidori Chicken rice. The restaurant floor is opened until 10 p.m., and it is definitely a good place to enjoy your lunch and / or dinner.
If you wish to know more about Akita, get off at Akita station and take this opportunity to visit its surrounding.
Some of the places you can travel to are Shirakami- Sanchi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that runs along the Gono Line on the seacoast.
An interesting event you can also participate in or simply go and observe is the Namahage Festival, a ritual of the Oga Peninsula that is worth watching.
In the Tazawa Lake, the deepest one in Japan, you can try out skiing, or discover the charming district around Tsuru no Yu, located in Towada, where several traditional samurai residences are set in a beautiful seren area.
There are many places from where you can enjoy Akita’s special and unique culture, and I hope I made you discover an amazing prefecture, just waiting to reveal its beauty. Please take a ride with “Akita Port Cruise Shuttle Train” and discover Akita!
※ The article was made in cooperation with JR East Japan