Explore the ’Little Kyoto of Tohoku’ for Untouched Samurai History and Beautiful Scenery

  • Kakunodate is a quiet town in Akita Prefecture which used to be a stronghold for samurais and is famous for its refined and elegant atmosphere. It is not only popular for samurai traditions but also for its abundant weeping cherry trees (shidarezakura).

    Let’s take a closer look at the castle town’s historical aspects in terms of its districts, cherry blossom trees, and festivals.

    The Districts

    It is quite rare to find a castle town in Japan which is remarkably unchanged and Kakunodate is one of those rare, beautiful places. It was founded in 1620 under the authority of Ashina Yoshikatsu (a local lord) and was divided into two distinct places: samurai district and merchant district.

    The samurai district consisted of large streets and courtyards which housed 80 families. The architecture of these samurai houses is considered as one of the best types of housing architectures in Japan. There are also some samurai residences in their original untouched state that are accessible to the public for viewing. On the other hand, the merchant district consists of impressive well-preserved buildings such as the Ando Jozo Miso brick storehouse and shop, which sells miso and soya sauce that have been made using traditional methods that are over 150 years old.

    Hinokinai River

    Cherry blossom trees are planted along the riverside spanning over two kilometers and is considered a ‘Place of Scenic Beauty’ in Japan. These trees were originally brought from Kyoto and planted for the emperor’s birthday in 1934 and expanded over time where there are now approximately 400 that bloom beautifully in spring. The riverside is a very popular hot spot for walking among locals and tourists all year round with cherry blossoms in spring, lush greenery in summer, as well as the changing of the leaves in autumn.

    The Festivals

    There are several fun festivals in Kakunodate with some of the most popular ones being:

    • Sakura Matsuri – the festival of the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring
    • Sasara-mai Dance – a traditional lion dance festival that is celebrated in summer
    • Yama-buttsuke Matsuri – celebrated in early autumn which features large samurai-themed floats
    • Hiburi-kamakura – celebrated in winter and features a bundle of rice straw being set on fire and is believed to ward off evil spirits

    Kakunodate and its historical features, elegant atmosphere, and well-preserved structures give every visitor a feeling of peace and happiness when exploring this beautiful town. On top of that, the fun festival events that are celebrated throughout the year add to the many reasons why this special place in Akita is a must-visit for all travelers to Japan!

    For more information on festival events please check out the Akita Website.


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