With COVID-19, we’ve been confined to our homes for so long but travel restrictions within Japan are slowly loosening up in different areas. For those in Akita and Tohoku this is the time to explore the more hidden areas of Japan that are close to home.
If you have some free time this autumn, come calm your heart and mind with a wholesome experience in northern Akita’s Shirakami area.
Noshiro city is situated right along National Route 7 and the Akita Expressway, making it easily accessible from various points such as Akita city, Odate city, and Oga city. Start your trip at Kaneyu, located in the center of Noshiro city. Designated as a Cultural Tangible Property, Kaneyu used to be a high-class restaurant for business dealings back in the heyday of Noshiro’s lumber industry. The Japanese architecture and the red momiji (Japanese maple) make it a perfect setting for photos, which will be taken to the next level with their rental kimonos (only 500 yen)! Both men and women’s kimonos are available in a few different colors.
The guided English tour will give you a better understanding of the building itself, Noshiro’s history, and Japanese culture. And if you have time, reserve (in advance through their website) a Japanese lunch featuring Akita specialties! Or, have a cup of tea and local yokan in their cafe space.
After Kaneyu, continue on route 7 towards Fujisato town. In Fujisato, the NPO Genkijuku runs several farm stay guesthouses (reserve through the link). Enjoy exploring their small neighborhood on foot and maybe you’ll come across their blackberry garden or pumpkin patch! For dinner, you can request (in advance) to make kiritanpo (pounded rice stick) hot pot with the local obachans and warm up.
Wake up early and head out to the perimeters of UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakami Sanchi. In the autumn, the beech forests turn a golden yellow, and the drive to various trailheads will reward you with colorful, breathtaking views of the Dairakyo Valley.
For a short and easy trek, do a loop in Dakedai Forest. The paved and flat trail makes it easily accessible for everyone! If you’re interested in a longer and more intensive hike, head to Mt. Fujisato-Komagatake and start the loop from the Tanashiro Marshland.
We recommend stopping by the World Heritage Site Conservation Center Fujisato-kan before your hike! Here, you can get all of the information you need for your hike and learn more about the ecosystem of the Shirakami Mountains. (Tip: Borrow some bear spray from the Fujisato Tourist Desk inside Morinoeki, located next door!)
After your hike, stop back at Morinoeki and fill up with some horse meat ramen. Considered to be a delicacy in this area, horse meat is tender, not gamey, and tastes great in a miso broth!
*Only available during their lunch hours: 11AM-2PM.
Last two photos were taken by local photographer, Tri Phan. See more of his work here.