On June 2014 I returned to Japan and had the opportunity of once more traveling in the Tohoku region, this time to Kakunodate.
Kakunodate is a small town in Akita prefecture established in the sixteen hundreds as a castle town. Although there is no longer a castle on the top of the hill, the town is still visited for its samurai district.
Rice fields decorate everywhere, but even more in Akita prefecture
After arriving at the Kakunodate train station, it was still necessary to walk the streets towards the center of the town. I remember having lunch as soon as I arrived, a delicious sushi don while sitting on a tatami floor facing the chef behind a sushi counter. However, I’ve tried looking for this place on the Web and I can’t seem to find it anywhere.
This was a two-day trip and I was staying at an Onsen hotel in the heart of town that served delicious traditional breakfasts on an adjacent restaurant.
The Hotel/Onsen I was staying at かくのだて温泉
On that first day, I tried unsuccessfullyto find the path by the river famous for sakura viewing. Although it was not the right time for hanami, a nice relaxing walk by the river would have been pleasant.
Beautiful river view
Eventually I got to the area of the samurai residences. A couple of wide streets, lined with darken wood fences and bright lush green trees that created the most charming atmosphere.
The streets with the samurai villas
If you get inside, you will be able to get a preview of what the lives of these families were like. The wooden structures and the tatami floors are exquisite examples of Japanese tradition.
Interior of one of the villas, I love the perfect tatami
I honestly cannot tell which houses I visited. At that time, all the signs were in Japanese and there was no English information anywhere. So, I just walked around and enjoyed the beautiful houses and their green gardens.
The outside of one of the houses
Eventually stopped for a coffee in the afternoon, at I place I did find on Google maps. It was the nicest and most gorgeous hipsterish coffee shop called sakuramaru coffee.
picture of the coffee shop from google maps
From there, visited some museums with preserved samurai relics, such as armours and accessories for day to day life in Akita prefecture.
To finish of a very nice day, exploring the history of Japan, a perfect hour at the onsen to relax the body and soul was (is and will always be) essential.
Well, Kakunodate can be reached by bus or by train. By train, you can take the Komachi shinkansen coming from Tokyo towards Akita city, taking around 3 hours and costing around 160 dollars. In case you’re starting from Sendai, a trip with the same Komachi train will take 2 hours and cost around 44 dollars.
In my case, I am 99% sure I took a local train from Sendai, and although I don’t remember the logistics, I am looking it up now and it seems you can go Sendai – Morioka with the Tohoku line and then Morioka – Kakunodate with the JR Tazawako Line. But this trip will cost you the same and take unbelievably longer, making it rather useless.
So I guess that the Komatchi shinkansen is your best option and even more convenient if you decide to buy the JR pass.
Anyway, once there, Kakunodate is a lovely town, built with a separation between the Samurai and Merchant classes. Although I did not emphasize this before, it is also recommended that you visit some old houses that still remain from the merchant district. As for the Samurai district, I will mark on the map the samurai houses as well as which family they belonged to.
Apart from the districts, Kakunodate will be most pleasant during Spring since it hosts one of the most beautiful Hanami of the Tohoku region. I was not able to walk the path but it seems that the river side is lined with Sakura trees and indeed they must be an incredible sight during Spring.
Another famous activity is the hike of Furushiro san. Although nothing remains of the old castle, you can still hike the mount where the castle used to be and see a lovely view of the town and river.
What would I do differently ?
I regret that I missed the hike for the old castle grounds. But still, it’s nice that I was able to appreciate the day by slowly walking the town, stopping for a coffe, see some cool samurai armours and do onsen at the end of the day, I guess I enjoyed it in a different way.
Kakunodate is a definetly must visit in Japan, just be sure to know some Japanese to work your way around.
Next time I have my first post about a city in Portugal. In that same month of June me and a friend grabbed her grandparents and went to explore a castle in a city called Leiria, a little bit away from Lisbon.
I guess there will be less Japan in my blog from now on, but I still have many interesting trips in Japan to come in the future ; )
Hope everyone is doing well, thank you for reading and I also hope to keep you interested.