Nature and hot springs in Iwate and Akita (3 days / 2 nights)

Area Map 青森県 岩手県 宮城県 秋田県 山形県 福島県 新潟県

Nature and hot springs in Iwate and Akita (3 days / 2 nights)

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Koiwai Farm

Recharge your batteries in this massive farmland backed by stunning views of Mount Iwate!

Koiwai Farm
With a history stretching back over 120 years, Koiwai Farm is an important local landmark with part of its vast 3,000-hectare grounds, known as “Makiba-en”, open to the public. Visitors can enjoy the gorgeous natural surroundings, learn about the production of a range of dairy products and visit some of the 21 buildings on the farm designated Important Cultural Properties.

The precious buildings include the farm’s original head office referenced in the work of the acclaimed poet Kenji Miyazawa, along with a number of cattle barns and silos. Most of the functioning buildings were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A number of guided tours are available, those that take a look inside these buildings not generally open to the public are particularly popular. The forest rejuvenation tour is another favourite with visitors. The tour travels around the farm’s private forest area on a special tractor-pulled carriage and includes a guided walk in the woodlands.

A wide range of activities is available including horseback riding, butter churning, trampolining and shepherding performances.

Visitors can enjoy sampling a number of dishes and sweets made with fresh farm produce. Their ice cream made with fresh milk produced on the farm in particular is a must-try!

On winter evenings the farm transforms into a magical wonderland of colourful illuminated displays, one of the most popular winter attractions in Tohoku, fascinating its many visitors.

The farm’s famous lone cherry blossom tree, standing alone in a field with Mount Iwate in the background, is simply beautiful when in full bloom.
 

Tsunagi Onsen

A popular hot spring on the outskirts of Morioka, discovered by the famous warrior Minamoto no Yoshiie

Tsunagi Onsen
Tsunagi Onsen is located near Lake Gosho, a popular scenic location with views of Mount Iwaki and the impressive Tsunagi Bridge spanning the breadth of the lake.

With a history stretching back 900 years, Tsunagi Onsen is a popular hot spring on the outskirts of Morioka. The Onsen was named “Tsunagi” (tether) from when the famous samurai warrior Minamoto no Yoshiie took a bath while his horse was tied to a stone. The stone came to be known as Tsunagi Stone and can now be seen at the Tsunagi Onsen Shrine. The alkaline hot spring water is rich in metasilicic acid, a natural moisturiser, and is known to promote beautiful skin by removing waste products from the body and making the skin smooth.

Tsunagi Onsen is a 30-minute drive from Morioka station. Along with the nearby Koiwai Farm and Morioka Tezukuri Mura arts and crafts centre, the Onsen offers easy access to local attractions including Lake Towada, Mount Hachimantai, Kakunodate, Jodogahama Beach and Hiraizumi. The Onsen offers a wide range of hot spring inns suitable for all visitors and is the perfect location to stay while travelling around Northern Tohoku.

Visitors can enjoy the seasonal scenery of Lake Gosho with springtime cherry blossoms, verdant summer greens, vibrant autumn leaves and snowy winter scenes. The fireworks display over the lake during the summer festival is particularly spectacular.
 
 
 

Samurai District

Travel back in time to the Edo period in the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku”!

Samurai District
Kakunodate is a former castle town which flourished during the Edo period. Known as the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku”, the town is home to a district two-kilometres in radius consisting of samurai residences and traditional architecture popular with both domestic and international tourists. The samurai residences lining the town’s most famous street are nationally protected Traditional Buildings.

Though some of them are still functioning homes, the residences are open to the public so visitors can get a feel for the traditional samurai life. Tourists can travel back in time to the Edo period by strolling around the traditional streets in an antique Kimono from one of the rental stores in town! A rickshaw ride from the Kakunodate Denshokan Museum will enhance the experience.

The town is charming throughout the year with springtime cherry blossoms, verdant summer greens, colourful autumn leaves and snowy winter scenes. Springtime is particularly popular with people coming for cherry blossom viewing from late April to early May. The traditional district features a row of weeping cherry blossom trees whose pink flowers bloom in beautiful contrast with the black walls of samurai residences, 162 of the 400 weeping cherry trees are designated natural treasures.

The samurai district is a 15 to 20-minute walk from JR Kakunodate station. Be sure to pick up the handy map and brochures available at the tourist information centre, located in a building resembling a traditional storehouse in front of the station!

Lunch at around Kakunodate

Lunch at  around Kakunodate
 
 
 

Lake Tazawa

Get spiritual at Japan’s deepest lake with mysterious cobalt blue water!

Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa has been selected as one of the 100 best landscapes of Japan. The cobalt blue lake water is so transparent that fish can clearly be seen swimming below the water surface.

The lake has a maximum depth of 423.4m making it the deepest in Japan. The water changes colour from sky blue to turquoise and indigo as the water gets deeper. Visitors can view this amazing spectacle for themselves via a range of available boating options including pleasure boats, pedal boats, canoes, kayaks and “SUP” (Stand Up Paddle boards). Cycling, trekking or driving around the circumference of the lake is recommended as the colour of the water also changes depending on the angle of view.

A golden statue of Tatsuko stands against the majestic water and is a popular symbol of Lake Tazawa. Legend has it that Tatsuko was a girl who wished for eternal beauty but instead turned into a dragon and threw herself into the lake. The legend goes on to say that Tatsuko and Hachiro-Taro, another dragon from Lake Hachirogata became lovers and lived together in Lake Tazawa. Locals say that the presence of these dragons prevent Lake Tazawa from freezing over in winter and that the lake becomes deeper because of their love while Lake Hachirogata became shallower over the years following the departure of its guardian.

Other statues related to the legend of Tatsuko include Tatsuko Kannon on the eastern shore of the lake, Princess Kannon on the north shore of the lake and the statue of Princess Tatsuko in Gozanoishi Shrine. Ukiki Shrine standing next to the golden statue of Tatsuko is a sacred location for matchmaking. Gozanoishi Shrine enshrining Takko Hime-no-Kami (dragon goddess of the lake) is known for its blessing of beauty and the shrine’s red gateway is a popular photography location.

Stay one night in Nyuto Onsenkyo

These seven hidden hot springs nestled in the mountains are a must visit!

Stay one night in Nyuto Onsenkyo
Nyuto Onsenkyo is a popular hidden hot spring area home to seven hot spring inns each with its own source of spring water. Onsen hopping is highly recommended in order to experience the different charms of the various inns and their spring water properties.

Tsuru-no-Yu features opaque water, with thatched-roof terraced houses in a secluded atmosphere.

Tae-no-Yu features a modern Japanese interior and open-air baths along the mountain stream.

Kuroyu Onsen features waterfall showers and classic gazebo-style open-air baths with log pillars.

Ganiba Onsen features seasonal views from its open-air bath surrounded by primeval forests.

Magoroku Onsen is popular for the therapeutic benefits of its four different sources of spring waters.

Ookama Onsen features the nostalgic wooden architecture of a reconstructed school building.

Kyukamura features modern facilities and an open-air bath surrounded by beech forest.

Onsen hopping at Nyuto Onsenkyo is said to be beneficial for all kinds of ailments. For Onsen hopping a shuttle bus service is available between the inns with a one-day “Yumeguri-map” pass available for 600yen while the Yumeguri Pass (1,800yen) includes a one-day bus pass and admission to the seven Onsens and is recommended for overnight guests. Both can be purchased at the reception of each inn.
 
 
 

Senshu Park

Japanese gardens rich in history and seasonal beauty

Senshu Park
Built on the site of the town’s former castle ruins, Senshu Park is now home to beautiful Japanese gardens in the centre of Akita city. The park fascinates visitors with scenic seasonal images throughout the year. From mid to late April each year 730 cherry blossom trees are in bloom and the park has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 best cherry-blossom viewing locations. Other enchanting spectacles offered by the gardens include blooming azalea shrubs framing Kogetsu Pond from mid to late May, lotus flowers floating on the water of Otemon moat in late July, scarlet autumn leaves and snowy winter scenes.
The park is of historic significance as the site of Kubota Castle which was the residence of the Satake clan for 267 years from 1602. Visitors can still view the guardhouse built in the 1700s along with reconstructed buildings such as a watchtower and the front gate of the castle. The Satake Historical Museum at the southern end of the park contains displays of valuable historical documents as well as antique arms and armour.
Other historic locations in the park include Yojiro Inari Shrine with a series of photogenic vermillion gateways and Hachiman Akita Shrine whose dove-shaped fortune papers are popular with visitors. A 10-minute walk from Akita station takes visitors to this oasis in the city centre. Come for your chance of meeting Akita dogs and enjoying the rose-shaped ice cream unique to Akita!

Lunch in Akita city

Inaniwa Udon Noodles

Lunch in Akita city
Inaniwa-cho in the city of Yuzawa in Akita prefecture is the hometown of Inaniwa Udon noodles. The smooth, chewy noodles are hand-made using the traditional processes of kneading, pounding and stretching. Praised nationally as one of Japan’s three best noodles, Inaniwa Udon was used as a traditional offering to landlords and as gifts between feudal lords travelling to and from Edo (Tokyo) during the Edo period. In addition to the city of Yuzawa, there are a number of restaurants throughout Akita offering popular Inaniwa Udon.
 
 

Ogashinzan Folklore Museum

Experience a vigorous performance of the traditional Namahage folk ritual!

Ogashinzan Folklore Museum
“Namahage” is a folk ritual performed throughout the Oga Peninsula and surrounding areas. Each New Year’s Eve fierce demons known as Namahage visit each house to frighten misbehaved children. Despite their scary appearance, the Namahage are gods bringing the local people warnings against laziness as well as blessings for the wellbeing of their families and rich harvests from the mountains and the sea for the coming year.

The Ogashinzan Folklore Museum gives visitors the chance to learn about and experience the Namahage folklore tradition. The museum is in a traditional thatched-roof farmhouse known as Magariya (“bent house”) connected in an L-shape with a horse stable. Visitors seat themselves in the tatami-floored room beside a traditional “Irori” fireplace while listening to an explanation of the Namahage and viewing a live performance.

The fierce Namahage, stomping around the room and crying out for badly behaved children, are vigorous and frightening. Be sure to collect some of the fallen straw from the Namahage’s costumes which is said to be a charm against evil spirits. Please don’t pull at the costumes too forcefully though!

The nearby Namahage Museum offers a variety of displays on the Namahage and offers visitors the chance to dress-up in a Namahage costume. Enjoy discovering the folk culture of Namahage, officially recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage!
 

Namahage Museum

The collection of 150 hand-carved Namahage masks is a must see! Enjoy dressing up in a real Namahage costume!

Namahage Museum
“Namahage” is a folk ritual performed throughout the Oga Peninsula and surrounding areas. Each New Year’s Eve fierce demons known as Namahage visit each house to frighten misbehaved children. Despite their scary appearance, the Namahage are gods bringing the local people warnings against laziness as well as blessings for the wellbeing of their families and rich harvests from the mountains and the sea for the coming year.

The Namahage Museum introduces visitors to both the traditional and natural history of the region. The exhibition includes a wide variety of 150 masks actually used in the rituals of each town and village along with a video presentation of Oga’s New Year’s Eve Namahage ritual.

Visitors can have their photo taken in a real Namahage costume. The gift shop offers unique gifts related to Namahage along with demonstrations from wood carvers making the Namahage masks. Live performances take place sporadically each week, so visitors might be lucky enough to get a scare themselves!

The nearby Ogashinzan Folklore Museum offers performances of Namahage every day. Both museums are worth a visit to enjoy the unique folk culture of Namahage, officially recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage!
 
 
GOAL
  • Koiwai Farm
  • Tsunagi Onsen
  • Samurai District
  • Lake Tazawa
  • Stay one night in Nyuto Onsenkyo
  • Senshu Park
  • Ogashinzan Folklore Museum
  • Namahage Museum

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