The town of Kakunodate hasn’t changed too much in the last few hundred years, with the same beautiful merchant houses and samurai villas flanking the wide streets. Some of these now contain museums, or are private residences, but others remain exactly how they were then the families of samurai lived there, and can be visited for an up-close look for yourself. On the outskirts of town are the ruins of Kakunodate Castle, enjoying beautiful views of the town and river below. In the spring the place bursts into life and colour, as late-opening ‘weeping cherry trees’, lining the streets and riverbank, attract visitors from all over the country.
Akita is famous throughout Japan, and indeed the world, for the dog that shares it’s name – and for canine-lovers, the opportunity should not be missed to learn more about this adorable and loyal breed. It is even possible to take a walking tour in Kakunodate, and other parts of the region, with one of these former bear-hunting dogs (though these days, the bears are pretty safe).
In the summer months, cycling trips out of Kakunodate to Lake Tazawa – a stunning caldera lake, surrounded by unspoilt countryside – is a highly recommended way to appreciate the abundance of nature and rural surroundings.
If you can time your visit just right, the iconic Kanto festival takes place in the prefectural capital of Akita City in early August. Teams of locals will skilfully balance bamboo poles, loaded with paper lanterns, forty feet into the air, creating one of the most impressive spectacles you are likely to witness.