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!
As with all countries, Japanese have notions and ideas of the characteristics of people in different areas of the country. Of all the areas of Japan (the 都道府県, the 47 subnational jurisdictions made up of one metropolis, one circuit, two prefectural cities and 43 prefectures), no area gets away with getting attributed with a few bad manners or cultural handicaps. The interesting thing about this nationwide system of good natured making fun of your neighbors, only one prefecture come away with nothing but a positive image, and that is the north western Akita prefecture. As soon as you mention the name Akita, the associated saying of “Akita beauty”, Akita bijin (秋田美人) jumps into people’s minds. It is said that the most beautiful women of Japan are to be found in Akita prefecture! I have never been to Akita so I can’t verify the truth behind this saying but I am happy for the people of Akita to be regarded so universally positively by their fellow countrymen.
Naturally the tourism and commerce board of Akita prefecture make the most of “Akita Beauty” and use it fully in marketing and export, as these two gorgeous ladies dressed in the wonderful traditional dress of the “Komachi Musume”, the legendary village of beauties whose annual festival is famous across the country. I have seen this dress thousands of times on TV and in photos, but this was the first time I saw it in real life, and as an added bonus I got a packet of delicious Akita rice from them. I have to visit Akita soon!