More photos from my visit to the beautiful little town of Kakunodate in the northern Akita prefecture. Many of the houses are preserved originals from the time when samurai families were posted to this town in order to serve in the castle garrison, but there are also a good collection of merchant’s and craftsmen’s houses that appeared in the neighborhood after the end of feudalism in the late 1860′s, early 1870′s. Some of these buildings are even made out of brick, a small testament to the relatively few earthquakes in this area of Japan. Akita prefecture was hit by magnitude seven earthquake in 1694, and with the continuing aftershocks slightly less than 500 people were killed. The fewest earthquakes in any prefecture? Saga Prefecture, on the coast of Kyushu Island.
When I visited Kakunodate, it was mainly to see the cherry blossoms for which this town is so famous, even inside the town itself there were quite a few beautiful trees in full bloom!
Kakunodate town in southern Akita prefecture which is itself in northern Japan is lovely little town famous not only for its many cherry trees but also for its well preserved historic house district consisting of the old samurai quarters from when the town was a castle town. Being built of wood, these old style feudal houses are almost completely gone in the rest of Japan, making this town all the more important. There are few other towns in Japan that have even a handful of original samurai class residences left intact. The town has also managed to save quite a few old merchant’s houses and factories and most developments seems to have dropped off after the 1960s.
For me the most interesting photo in this post is the last one, which shows a humble town home where the owners haven’t removed the winter season’s protection! This is a common way of insulating homes in snow rich areas of the world, not only Japan. It creates an air pocket between the walls and the snow outside while also protecting the wall themselves from the damp. The outer layer is sacrificial and can easily be replaced when necessary. This far into spring all houses except this had already removed the winter boards. Maybe the owner hand’t been home for quite some time?
Kakunodate is extremely easy to reach and even possible as a (very) expensive day trip from Tokyo. First shinkansen in the morning, all day to explore and then back again in time for supper. If you are touristing in Japan and are lucky enough to have bought a JR rail pass you basically have no excuse no to visit Kakunodate even if you are based in Tokyo!
If you plan on following the the sakura season (the cherry blossoms) as it progresses northwards you are probably thinking about visiting Kakunodate in Akita prefecture, one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in the north of Japan. Kakunodate is famous for its hanami, or cherry blossom viewing along their beautiful river, but they are also famous for their cheap and delicious sakura ice cream ladies, skillfully creating sweets in the shape of flowers in front of the customer. I don’t remember the price but it was very cheap. Kakunodate is easily reached by the shinkansen train, and very popular with both foreign and Japanese tourists. Enjoy!
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!