Akita and Kakunodate
Less than an hour away from Tokyo is the traditional, seaside town of Kamakura, old capital of Japan and a popular tourist destination.
Kamakura is one of the best places in and around Tokyo to experience medieval Japan’s architecture and atmosphere. It is most famous for its daibutsu, or giant Buddha statue, and you certainly shouldn’t miss that if it’s your first time in the town. It’s a great photo spot and you can even go inside the statue, though there isn’t much there.
I personally like just walking around some of the quieter areas in the town and visiting a few temples along the way, preferably stopping at one of the those that serve green tea and Japanese sweets. A short nap on the tatami after a long walk is the cherry on top. There are too many temples to talk about here, and probably too many for a single visit, so choose the ones that look most interesting to you.
This January I got a free domestic return flight, courtesy a JAL campaign. This campaign lets you fly within Japan using only a few JAL miles, the caveat being that you’re not allowed to choose the destination. You refresh the page and it will give you four random places each time. Once you are satisfied with the four options, you accept and you’ll be notified of which of the four you got within a few days. The place I got was Akita, and so today I will talk about my trip to Akita in January.
Although I much rather travel by train, domestic flights are pretty hassle-free in Japan, with no ID required, no lines, and very rapid security checks, so getting there was pretty easy.
While it wasn’t much colder than in Tokyo at the time (a couple of degrees Celsius), it had been snowing for several days, and so the snow had settled to about one meter high. Fun for those of us who don’t see much snow, not so much for those living there. We stayed at the town of Kakunodate, famous for its samurai houses, and stayed at a ryokan with a public hot spring. In this ryokan we had “kiritanpo”, a local dish consisting of a cylinder of mashed rice that is a bit chewy. We had both a kiritanpo hot pot and grilled kiritanpo with miso paste, both really good.
Kakunodate has quite a few samurai houses to see, so the one we chose to see was that of the richest samurai in town. It was actually much more interesting than I thought it would be. Apparently this particular samurai was really into realistic, Western-style art, and he even drew medical sketches of human organs and muscles. There was also a samurai museum of sorts, displaying pictures of samurais that were sent as envoys to other countries. It was a bit surreal to see a group of samurais in front of the Sphinx in Egypt.
After Kakunodate we went to Akita City and spent the day there. As there was a lot of snow, we couldn’t really do much. We were thinking of going to the zoo and see cold-climate animals, but it was already closed by two in the afternoon. We had some maccha tea and Japanese sweets and walked around Senshu Park. The park has a few hills and a small castle, and from the top of the park you can see all of Akita City. It was so cold that the moat was frozen, though not enough for us to chance walking on it.
Akita was a good time for a snowy, relaxing holiday, and whether you go there with JAL miles or not, it’s a good weekend trip.
Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” email@example.com “, by all means contact me about anything!
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