Here are some photos of this year’s cherry blossom viewing in picturesque little Kakunodate in Japan’s north western Akita prefecture. I went up there to catch these on behalf of Special.T, and the photos were used in marketing their sakura flavored tea. You can find more photos from me and other photographers on their Pinterest board. Kakunodate is one of the most famous spots for cherry blossom viewing in northern Japan, not only for the fantastic trees, but also for the well preserved and historic samurai houses left intact in the center of the town. If you are foreigner visiting Japan and have plenty of time I recommend getting the rail pass which gives you unlimited access to the shinkansen and local trains all over the country. As a “local” I can’t do this, but I am always envious of the great deal offered to foreign tourists! It might look very far on the map, but Hakunodate is feasible even as a day trip: first or second train out of Tokyo and one of the last three back. Perfect!
While taking a break from photographing the flowers I met this handsome dog, Mitchell was his name and like a good Japanese dog he totally ignored me even when I called him by name, focusing completely on his master across the street!
Kakunodate, a small town in northern Akita prefecture is famous for two things – their cherry tree lined river bank and their well preserved samurai houses, bukeyashiki. There’s quite a few surviving samurai houses spread around the country but nowhere is there so many as here in Kakunodate. Most of them are still privately owned by the old samurai families but several have been opened to the public or serve as cafes, restaurants or shops. It’s a great chance to see how the warriors of Japan lived in private. It’s easy to get to the city since it’s a stop on the Akita shinkansen line, right between Morioka in Iwate Prefecture and Akita City.
Some more photos from the Akita Kanto Festival team visiting the big Furusato Matsuri at Tokyo Dome last year. Accompanying the team was of course musicians, including taiko drummers. These are photos from the parade as the poles and lanterns are carried around the arena. At the Furusato Matsuri (meaning the “home town festival”) famous festivals from all over Japan take turn entertaining the audience, when I was at the festival it was this team from Akita prefecture, and also Awaodori dancers from Tokushima prefecture and dancers from Okinawa in the south. It is held every year in January, over several days in the huge Tokyo Dome arena. Recommended!
Every year in August up in Japan’s northern Akita prefecture there is the traditional Aktia Kanto Festival, a harvest festival that uses long bamboo poles with painted lanterns in amazing balancing acts! The poles and lanterns (that are lit at night) weigh about 50kg each, but of course there are even heavier, I have heard of some that weigh about 80kg! These are held in one arm, or balanced on any part of your body that you can think of, and carried in parades. As part of their tourism drive, a team of festival performers travel to Tokyo a few times a year, so although I have never been to Akita I have seen performances of this festival a few times. I took these photos at last year’s Furusato Matsuri at Tokyo Dome, a huge baseball stadium between Korakuen and Suidobashi stations. If you have free time in Tokyo today I recommend visiting the event where you can sample food and drinks and festivals from all over Japan in one handy spot! The daytime tickets are probably nearly sold out now, but the night time tickets are even cheaper, so even on a budget it shouldn’t be too expensive. I’ll post more photos of this amazing festival later on, but please excuse the poor photos, I was using a 50-500mm “Bigma” Sigma, the original widow maker and back breaker tele zoom lens. Absolutely not suitable for indoor photography!