Lake Tazawa, Kakunodate, and Nyuto Onsen
Akita is not on the top of the list for destinations within Japan for the average foreign tourist, which is in part due to its remote location. However, for nature-lovers and those interested in history, it is certainly worth the trek up north! There are three areas that most (local) tourists have on the top of their list if they come to Akita.
Lake Tazawa, a crater lake that lies almost in the center of the eastern part of Akita Prefecture, is the deepest lake in Japan at 423.4 meters. The circle-shaped lake is filled with mysterious-looking sapphire-blue water. The color of the lake changes between bright green and deep blue depending on the season and how the light falls upon the water. No matter during which season you come, the lake is always beautiful.
A great way to enjoy the area is to take a scenic bus trip around the lake and enjoy views of the lake from different angles. You can also get out on the lake itself, with several options for cruises, row-boats, and pedal-boats for those who would like to do sightseeing at their own tempo. There are also plenty of options for water sports like swimming, jet skiing, and windsurfing. There is even a beach for sunbathing in the summertime.
If you plan to spend the night here you can either opt for one of the many hotels and pensions on the lakeside, or The lakeside is dotted with hotels and rest houses. If you are more into camping, there is a camping site near the lake as well. During wintertime, you can ski in the area.
The town’s history dates back to the early 17th century when the younger brother of the region’s lord decided to build a castle here. Because of the town’s location surrounded by mountains and a river it was the perfect spot for a new castle town as it was easy to defend. It is still very easy to see where the noble samurai family lived and where the regular people lived, as there is an earthen firewall that separates the different parts of town.
The town has an exquisite, cultured feel to it and it is not a coincidence that it is often referred to as the ‘Kyoto of the region’. In Japan, beautiful historical towns are often compared to Kyoto which was (and still is) the pinnacle of elegance and style when it comes to cityscapes. You can tour several of the mansions and get an idea of how well-to-do families used to live here in the Edo period.
The spring is not the only time of year Kakunodate has a special event going on; in the summer you can experience the Sasara-mai dance festival during which people dance with bamboo whisks, the Oyama-matsuri in the fall will give you the opportunity to see how they let festival floats collide with one another, and in the winter you can see the impressive Hiburi Kamakura festival during which they swing around straw bags on fire to pray for good health.
Nyuto Onsen deep in the mountainous area of eastern Akita is a group of ryokan with onsen that is rarely visited by foreign tourists because of its remote location. The place is famous for the traditonal, rustic hot spring baths that the ryokan house and for its interesting name. ‘nyuto’ literally means ‘nipple’, and the area got this suggestive nickname because of the shape of the nearby mountain.
With a history of over 300 years, Tsurunoyu is Nyuto Onsen’s oldest and most famous inn. There are no hot springs outside of the 8 inns of the area, but if you are making a day trip you can use the ryokans’ onsen if you pay an admission fee. You can find unisex as well as segregated hot springs in most ryokan.
The best part of bathing and staying here is the fact that it is so remotely located, so you can truly take a break from your usual life. Another reason to stay here is the delicious local food that is served in all ryokan.