Traveling farther north from Niigata to Akita via Murakami is where the most interesting views of the west coast of Japan could be seen. Akita Prefecture is located in the northwestern Tohoku region and has lots to offer from old samurai towns, mountains, beautiful lakes, as well as traditional hot springs. It is a little off the beaten path but the experience is absolutely rewarding.
What I learned from this trip
- Empty trains still run on schedule. An early morning train ride in this part of the country means being welcomed by empty seats.
2. This is how the inside of a train looks like since they pass through many unmanned stations. Similar to how a bus operates, the machine in the front car allows you to tap your card as you enter and the fare will be automatically deducted from your balance. You can also drop bills or coins and the machine will give you a ticket and change if necessary.
3. There’s a lot of unmanned stations in this part of the country. This is how an unmanned station looks like. There are no barriers and turnstiles and nobody to check your ticket. The small building is a waiting room whose purpose is to protect people waiting for the next train from the harsh winter weather.
4. Riding a local train that stops at all stations for more than five hours isn’t boring if what you see along the way are rice fields and farmhouses, snow-capped mountains, small coastal towns, and spectacular views of the sea. Much of the trip was right along the coast of the Sea of Japan and once we entered Murakami, I couldn’t get my eyes off the vast ocean.
5. The Akita Shinkansen uses the same tracks of the Tazawako and Ou main lines. I was able to see how it works but unfortunately wasn’t able to capture the one that passed by because it was really fast.
6. Senshu Park, established in 1896, is where the site of the Kubota castle ruins can be found. Kubota Castle is a hirayama-style castle (flatland mountain), built on a 40-meter hill near the river. It made very little use of stone walls and never had a main keep. The castle town and the daimyo palace was burnt down by several fires from 1776 – 1797.
A Hachiman shrine was built in the former castle grounds as well as the Iyataka Jinja, a shrine dedicated to Hirata Atsutane.
It is a 5-minute walk from JR Akita Station. Admission is free but there is a minimal ¥100 fee to visit the “Osumi-yagura” turret, a reconstructed tower which also contains a small history museum.7. The deepest lake in Japan can be found here. Lake Tazawa is a crater lake in the city of Semboku, Akita Prefecture. It is 423 meters deep and is an almost perfect circle in shape. The lake exudes a mysterious atmosphere with color changes depending on the season. It is so deep that even if the region gets an enormous amount of snow, its bottom never freezes. It is also connected with the beautiful legend of Tatsuko, whose statue stands near the shore.
8. This is the best thing I learned and experienced during my short stay at Akita. You can have the train, the bus, and an onsen all by yourself.