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Exploring Akita

Akita is our second stop in the Exploring Japan series.

Akita Prefecture is in the Tohoku region on the main island Honshu.  It’s in the northwestern part of Japan.  It has a population of 1,106,050, so it’s not densely populated.  The capital city is Akita.  The five largest cities are:

  1. Akita (323,310)
  2. Yokote (96,955)
  3. Daisen (87,497)
  4. Yurihonjo (84,046)
  5. Odate (77,703)

Akita has a very low number of children, so the population is declining.  Many younger people are moving away, so the population is quite old.  The Akita breed of dog is also from Akita.

Castles

Kubota Castle – This is a replica of the original castle, which actually has no main tower. It’s in Akita City.

Yokote Castle – This is a small reconstructed castle in the city of Yokote.

Things to see and do

A popular place to go is Lake Tazawa, which has beautiful mountain scenery and the famous Nyuto Onsen (hot springs) are nearby.  It’s a very deep volcanic crater lake.

In Akita city, I’m particularly interested in Senshu Park (with Kubota Castle) and the Akita Prefectural Museum, which has science and history exhibits.

Kakunodate is an old samurai town with very well preserved samurai houses.  Very historic.

Odate is the hometown of Hachiko, the famous dog whose statue is outside of Shibuya station in Tokyo.  Nearby is Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge, places where you can see the natural countryside.

Oga seems like an interesting place to go.  It has Goshado, a set of 5 shrines with a view of the coastline.  Also there is the Namahage Museum, which is dedicated to demons that scare children at New Year’s.  And finally is Akita’s only aquarium, Oga Aquarium GAO.  But this town seems good for walking and hiking.

Semboku is a place you want to go for hot springs.  It’s also near Lake Tazawa.

In Yokote, apart from the castle, there’s a festival called the Kamakura Festival.  Kamakura are like a small igloo.  Some of them are big enough to enter, and some of those even become tiny little places to eat.

There’s plenty to see and do in Yurihonjo.  Apart from several hot springs and ski areas, there’s also a lot of hiking at Mt. Chokai and Mt. Hinoto.  You can also see the Akata Giant Buddha a large Buddha statue.  Hottai waterfall is a pretty big waterfall.  Iwaki Local History Museum is a reproduction of a village, something I would love to see.

Yuzawa has several hot springs, but also the Akinomiya Museum, which has a lot of old relics, including toys, records, pachinko machines and more.  Sounds interesting.

Food

Akita is very well known for its rice, and several of its local foods are made of rice.  One is kiritanpo, a tube of rice that is often roasted, but is also eaten in kiritanpo nabe.  Nabe is a hot pot dish with many ingredients, including vegetables, meat, and fish.  This variety contains kiritanpo.  Also, Akita is well known for its sake, which is made from the local rice.  Hard to choose, but I really do like sake.

So, have you been to Akita?  If so, do you have any recommendations?

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Exploring Aichi

This is the first prefecture I’m talking about in my new Exploring Japan series.

Aichi Prefecture is situated in the middle of the largest island Honshu.  It has a population of 7,408,640 people.  The capital city is Nagoya, which is one of Japan’s largest cities.  The five largest cities of Aichi are:

  1. Nagoya (2,266,249)
  2. Toyota (423,343)
  3. Ichinomiya (more than 380,000)
  4. Toyohashi (383,691)
  5. Okazaki (373,339)

Sports

Aichi is home to two major sports teams, the Chunichi Dragons baseball team in Nagoya and the Nagoya Grampus soccer team.

Castles

Aichi has five castles to standing.  Briefly, they are as follows:

Nagoya Castle – This is a reconstruction, although the exterior is very faithful to the original design.  It appears to be quite impressive in photographs.

Inuyama Castle – This is one of Japan’s few remaining original castles.  It’s in Inuyama city.  I’m very interested in seeing this.

Okazaki Castle – A reconstruction in Okazaki city, this is the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Yoshida Castle – Only a replica of the turret stands.  There is no central tower.  It’s in Toyohashi City.

Kiyosu Castle – This is a reconstruction.  Oda Nobunaga lived here at one time.

Things to see and do

In addition to the castles, there are plenty of places I’d like to see.  Here’s a list of those places.  Although not complete, these are the biggest things I’d like to visit and do.

In Nagoya, I’d like to visit the Port of Nagoya Aquarium, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, the Toyota Automobile Museum, Nagoya City Science Museum, and numerous shrines and temples.

In Ichinomiya, I’d like to visit Masumida Shrine and attend the Tanabata Festival there.  It’s one of the three biggest Tanabata festivals in Japan.

In Inuyama, I’d like to visit the Meiji Mura Museum, which is an outdoor museum featuring Meiji era architecture.

In Nagakute, I would have visited the 2005 World Expo, but I never did go.  The site is now a large parkland area.

In Okazaki, I’d like to visit the Takisan Temple and the Takisan Toshogu Shrine, which is one of the top three Toshogu shrines in Japan.

In Tahara, I want to see the Tahara Castle Ruins.

In Toyota, I’d like to take a tour of a car factory.  This city was named after the company, interestingly.

Food

There are a lot of local foods in Japan, and Aichi is no exception.  If I had to choose one food from Aichi I’d like to try, it would be tebasaki.  This is chicken wings.  They’re grilled with a sweet, spicy glaze and sesame seeds.  Sounds delicious!

Now it’s your turn.  If you’ve been to Aichi or want to go there, what do you suggest?

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