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Tue, Dec. 22, 2015 Akita Autumn Feast
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Akita Prefecture is located 450 kilometers north of Tokyo. American actor Charles Glover visits the northern land in late autumn when local people are busy preparing for the long winter.

They cover garden trees and buildings in straw sheets, in a practice known as "yuki-tsuri" and "yuki-gakoi," to protect them against the heavy snow and strong winds. These elaborate landscape wrappings are entirely functional, but look like works of art.

Women make large batches of "gakko" pickles with locally harvested vegetables. People developed the pickling style hundreds of years ago to help them survive the long, harsh winters.

Late autumn to early winter is the peak season for fishing sailfin sandfish, or "hatahata" in Japanese. People in Akita love the fish, which was long a traditional source of protein during the winter. They especially enjoy it as the main ingredient in a "nabemono" hotpot that is also seasoned with a hatahata by-product, "shotsuru." Shotsuru is unique to Akita and is made from aged, fermented sailfin sandfish. The hotpot dish is called "shotsuru nabe" and "hatahata nabe."

Being one of Japan's snowiest regions and one of the top production centers of sake, Akita has developed a tradition of enjoying the long winter nights with friends in neighborhood bars and restaurants. Evenings are warmed with the camaraderie, fine sake, and cuisine that is heavy on the blessings of the sea. Fish from the waters off Akita taste the best in winter, because the colder the water is, the richer their flavor...

Our traveler Charles Glover enjoys to his heart's content the singular culture of the land of snow, Akita, which unfolds in late autumn.

JR Gono Line
JR Gono Line
This local railway line runs along the western coast of northern Japan connecting Akita and Aomori prefectures. From the train windows, passengers can enjoy the magnificent views of the Sea of Japan as well as the Shirakami Mountain Range, part of which is designated as a World Heritage site.
Senshu Park
Senshu Park
This sophisticated garden, created in 1896, is located centrally in the city. It includes the ruins of Kubota Castle, which was the seat of the Satake Family who ruled the region as lords of the Akita Clan.
Address: 1-1 Senshu Koen, Akita City, Akita Prefecture
Tel: 81 (0) 18-832-5893
Shirakami Mountain Range
Shirakami Mountain Range
The Shirakami Mountain Range is a series of 1,000-meter-class mountains that cover an expansive area, including the storied district of Hachimori. The mountains, largely untouched by human interference, are home to one of the world's largest primeval forests of Seibold's beech trees.
Contact: Happo Town Tourism Association
Address: 57-2 Aza Honkoyachi, Minehama Numata, Happo-cho, Yamamoto-gun, Akita Prefecture
Tel: 81 (0) 185-76-4100
Fax: 81 (0) 185-76-3248
Shirataki, by Yamamoto General Partnership
Shirataki, by Yamamoto General Partnership
Shirataki (white waterfalls) is a brand of sake produced by Yamamoto General Partnership—an established sake brewery in Hachimori.
Address: 269 Aza Hachimori, Hachimori, Happo-cho,Yamamoto-gun, Akita Prefecture
Tel: 81 (0) 185-77-2311
Akita Maiko, from Sen
Akita Maiko, from Sen
Sen is an agency that dispatches Akita maiko to high-end Japanese restaurants and event spaces to entertain guests. The entertainers—typical "Akita bijin" or Akita beauties-are highly trained in traditional singing, dancing, conversation and hospitality.
Tel: 81 (0) 18-827-3241
Cell: 81 (0) 70-5058-3241
Kappo Restaurant "Kamesei"
Kappo Restaurant "Kamesei"
Kamesei is a high-end Japanese "kappo" restaurant serving local cuisine. It is located in Akita City's lively Kawabata District. Unlike many high-end restaurants, reservations are not required.
Address: 4-1-16 Omachi, Akita City, Akita Prefecture
Tel: 81 (0) 18-862-2729
Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan. The popular tourist destination boasts one of the clearest waters in the country.
Tsurunoyu, Nyuto Hot Spring Resort
Tsurunoyu, Nyuto Hot Spring Resort
The Nyuto Hot Spring Resort near Lake Tazawa is difficult to access, but popular among onsen lovers. Tsurunoyu is an established inn that has been in business since the 17th century. It is located at one of seven hot spring sources that are scattered on the foot of Mt. Nyuto and that jointly create the Nyuto Hot Spring Resort.
Address: Kokuyurin 50, Sendatsu Zawa, Tazawa Ko, Senboku City, Akita Prefecture
Tel: 81 (0) 187-46-2139
From Tokyo, flights from Haneda Airport to Akita Airport take one hour. From there, it takes another 30 minutes by car to reach central Akita City.
By train, it takes four hours from Tokyo Station to Akita Station on the Shinkansen bullet train. From Akita City, local trains take you to Hachimori in about 90 minutes.
Travel Log

Traveler: Charles Glover > More Info


Occupation:Actor, narrator

Length of residence in Japan:25years.

Reason: First came after being a Peace Corps volunteer (in Micronesia) as an English teacher. Thought I would stay for a year or two...

Traveler's Archives:


> Tomonoura: The Old Folks and The Sea

> Hiroshima: The City of Hope

I love going to new places and maybe even more places I've been to and learning something new. I have been to Akita before but for this edition of Journeys I was able to see and learn and taste many new things.

Akita on the northwest side of Honshu, the largest island in Japan, is scenically beautiful, boasting both alpine and ocean vistas. The region is advanced, with a bullet train line from Tokyo, but in many ways it is among the most traditional areas of Japan. Akita is famous for having large amounts of snow. I saw people preparing for winter in many ways. Fuyu Gakoi is one way of protecting trees from heavy snow by covering them with hand made mats spread around spiraling ropes, a very traditional practice. I also was struck by how many houses had large stocks of fire wood outside, piled very neatly in tidy stacks, this is Japan after all.

I am often surprised how linguistically varied Japan is and Akita is no exception. One village is called Hachi-mori, (Hachi-mori or 8 forests), eight here is pronounced ha-chi in standard Japanese, yet in Akita, the chi sound comes out as tsu. A few times it actually had a different meaning, ha-chi to ha-tsu, went from meaning eight to meaning the first time, or departure. No missed trains but it took a bit of getting used to.

One thing that needs no interpretation is delicious food and Akita certainly has lots of that. The timing was perfect as the season for hata hata, a small type of sandfish that is tremendously important there. As winter comes heaps of them are caught in the Japan sea, full of delicious eggs and tender meat. I was also able to see some traditional pickles being made, particularly gakko, made from daikon radish. Delicious. Maybe the most delicious parts were the Akita-Bijin, beauties of Akita.The ladies there are truly sublime. I saw a great many, but was I able to talk to any of them? Watch Journeys in Japan to find out!

Inside Story

Atsushi Takase

If you have a chance to come to Japan, I strongly recommend you take the time to visit the countryside and get out to meet the people. You will discover some true beauty that is very different from what you see at high-end tourist spots. In this edition of Journeys in Japan, you will get a glimpse of ordinary life in the snow country of Akita and discover its charms with Charles Glover.

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