秋田県――日本の素朴な原風景に出あえる

[From July Issue 2013]

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Facing the Sea of Japan, Akita Prefecture is located in the Tohoku region of Honshu Island. Because daylight hours are shorter there than in other prefectures, there are many beautiful women with fair skin; the expression, “Akita bijin,” refers to attractive women from Akita. In Yuzawa City, a legend persists about the incredible beauty of ninth century poet, ONO no Komachi.

Hachiko (Sir Hachi), the loyal dog who continued to wait at the train station for his dead master to return, is from Akita. Although the bronze statue of Hachi in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo is famous, Odate City also has numerous monuments and plaques honoring Hachi. Recently, Akita was featured in the popular Korean drama series “Iris,” and an increasing number of tourists come to visit locations used for the show.

In Akita you can enjoy the changing seasons. In spring, you might want to visit Bukeyashiki-dori in Kakunodate, Semboku City. The avenue is lined with shidarezakura; these weeping cherry trees are often seen in tourism posters. It is said that these trees grew from three seedlings that were part of the trousseau of a Kyoto noblewoman 350 years ago; now 153 trees line the avenue. In Kakunodate you can also find cherry trees growing for about two kilometers alongside the Hinokinai-gawa River.

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Cherry trees at the Bukeyashiki-dori in Kakunodate
Cherry trees at the Hinokinai-gawa

 

A forest of beech trees formed about 8,000 years ago, ranging from the north of Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture, covers the Shirakami Mountains. The mountains were designated as a World Natural Heritage site in 1993. The symbol of this area is a 400-year-old beech tree. Normally beech trees live for about 300 years, but this one has survived much longer than that. To better appreciate the scenery, a guided tour is recommended. There are some guides who speak English and Korean.

Besides Shirakami Mountains, there are numerous other mountains and waterfalls where it’s possible to go trekking. Shishigahana wetlands are a 40 minute walk along a trail from Nikaho City. Large patches of “choukai marimo” moss are worth a look. You can also see “mototaki fukuryuusui,” which is the sharp contrast between the rich green moss and white spray on the river bed, as well as “Agariko-daiou,” a deformed beech that is the thickest tree in Japan.

Yasuno-taki (Yasu Falls), located in Kita-Akita City, was designated as “one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.” There are many other small and large falls in this area. The Kazuno Forest Therapy Road in Kazuno City is paved with woodchips, making it easy to walk on. It’s come to be recognized as a therapeutic forest.

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Mototakifukuryuusui / Yasuno-taki

 

Akita has two large lakes. Straddling the border between Akita and Aomori prefectures, Lake Towada is known for its picturesque fresh green leaves and autumn foliage. At 423.4 meters, Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan, and its iconic landmark is a statue of Princess Tatsuko, who is believed to have been transformed into a lake goddess, as a result of her search for eternal youth and beauty.

Summer in Akita is short, but to make up for this, numerous festivals are held and people get quite fired up. Drawing over one million visitors each year, the Kanto Festival, held annually from August 3 to 6 in Akita City, is one of the three great festivals of the Tohoku region. Kanto poles, each with 46 lanterns hanging from them, are lifted up in the night sky by performers called “sashite.” The sight of more than 250 poles rising up all at once is spectacular.

Other festivals attracting huge crowds are Noshiro-yaku-tanabata, held in Noshiro City in early August and Hanawabayashi in Kazuno City on August 19 and 20. At either festival you can hear flutes and drums and see beautiful street stalls and lanterns lining the streets. The All Japan Fireworks Competition takes place on the fourth Sunday of every August. First-class pyro technicians from around the country compete to be the best in Japan.

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Hanawabayashi / The All Japan Fireworks Competition

 

In Akita, where it snows a lot, festivals and events are held to celebrate this fact. More than 100 kamakura (small snow houses) are constructed in Yokote City. This event has a 400 year history and is dedicated to the God of water. Inside the kamakura, it’s warm, and amazake (sweet sake) and rice cakes are served. Lamps are lit in numerous other small kamakura, illuminating the town.

Namahage is another winter event; it’s said that Namahage descends from the mountain once a year to get rid of evil and disease, bringing good fortune and a rich harvest. This god wears a demon mask and goes from house to house, yelling: “Are there any naughty kids? Are there any crybabies?”

Known for promoting beautiful skin, Akita has many hot spring resorts, but the most popular is Nyuutou Onsenkyou in Semboku City – a hot spring with its characteristic milky-white water. You can buy a yumeguri-chou (a card that allows you to use designated hot springs at a discounted price) and visit seven hot springs, enjoying the waters at each place. Kawarage Ooyutaki in Yuzawa City is a unique hot spring. The spring cascades down from a height of 20 meters into a pool that functions as a bathtub.

With a supply of clean water, Akita is particularly known for its delicious rice and sake. The Akitakomachi rice brand is sold across the country. Local dishes include: kiritanpo, which are pieces of pounded rice on skewers grilled over charcoal; inaniwa udon noodles; hatahata (sandfish); and shottsuru seasoning made from hatahata. Butter rice cakes and yokote yakisoba stir-fried noodles, which won a B-1 Grand Prix (local cuisine tournament), are also popular.

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Namahage / Akita ginsen-zaiku

 

“Magewappa,” or bent wood, that uses the wood grain of Akita cedars to best effect, is a well-known local product. Other traditional crafts include: bouzaiku, crafted from the skin of cherry trees; and handmade Akita ginsen-zaiku accessories made from fine 0.2 millimeter thick silver threads. Kawatsura lacquer ware has an 800 year history, and there are about 200 lacquer ware stores lining the streets of Kawatsura-cho, Yuzawa City.

It takes approximately four hours to get to JR Akita Station from JR Tokyo Station on the Akita Shinkansen. From Haneda Airport in Tokyo, you can fly to Akita Airport in about one hour. 

Akita Prefectural Tourist Federation

[2013年7月号掲載記事]

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秋田県は本州の東北地方に位置し、日本海に面しています。日照時間が他の県と比べて短いため肌が白くきれいな人が多く、秋田のきれいな女性を指す「秋田美人」という言葉があります。湯沢市には9世紀の歌人でとても美しかったといわれている小野小町の伝説が残っています。

飼い主が亡くなった後も駅で帰りを待ち続けた忠犬ハチ公は秋田犬です。東京の渋谷駅前にある銅像が有名ですが、大館市にもハチのモニュメントや看板がたくさんあります。最近では韓国の人気ドラマ「アイリス」シリーズのロケ地としても知られ、ロケ地めぐりのために訪れる観光客が増えています。

秋田は四季の変化が楽しめます。春に訪れたいのは仙北市角館の武家屋敷通りで、通りを彩るしだれ桜はよく観光ポスターなどに使われます。350年前、京都から迎えられたお姫様の嫁入り道具のなかにあった3本の苗木が始まりだったといわれていますが、今では153本が並んでいます。同じ角館市内にある桧木内川沿いにも約2キロにわたる桜並木があります。

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角館武家屋敷の桜/桧内川の桜並木

 

県北から青森県にかけて広がる白神山地は、約8千年前につくりあげられたブナ林です。1993年に世界自然遺産に登録されました。シンボルともいえるのは「400年ブナ」です。通常ブナの寿命は約300年といわれていますが、これはそれよりはるかに長く生きています。

白神山地の他にも、トレッキングできる山や滝がたくさんあります。にかほ市にある獅子ヶ鼻湿原は遊歩道を40分ほど歩いたところにあります。「鳥海マリモ」と呼ばれる大きなこけは見ごたえがあります。また、こけの緑と水しぶきの白があざやかな「元滝状流水」や、奇形ブナのなかでは日本一の太さの木「あがりこ大王」が見られます。

また、北秋田市にある「安の滝」は日本の滝百選に選ばれていますが、この周辺には他にも大小さまざまなたくさんの滝があります。鹿角市にあるかづの森林セラピーロードはウッドチップがしかれているため歩きやすくなっています。癒しの森としても注目を集めています。

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元滝伏流水/安の滝

 

秋田には大きな湖が二つあります。十和田湖は秋田県と青森県にまたがり、新緑や紅葉がきれいなところとして知られています。田沢湖は日本一深い湖(423.4メートル)で、永遠の若さと美を求めて湖の神になったと伝えられているたつこ姫の像がシンボルです。

秋田の夏は短いですが、そのぶんたくさんのお祭りが開催され、盛り上がります。秋田市で毎年8月3~6日に開催される竿燈祭りは東北三大祭りの一つで、毎年100万人以上の観客でにぎわいます。46個のちょうちんをつるした竿燈が「差し手」と呼ばれる人たちによって夜空に浮かびあがります。250本以上の竿燈が一度に立ち上がる様子は迫力があります。

8月上旬に能代市で行われる能代役七夕や19~20日に鹿角市で行われる花輪ばやしも多くの人でにぎわうお祭りです。どちらも笛や太鼓の音にあわせ、美しい屋台や灯籠が立ち並びます。毎年8月第4土曜日に行われるのは全国花火競技大会。全国から一流の花火師たちが日本一の座をかけて技を競います。

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花輪ばやし/全国花火競技大会

 

雪がたくさん降る秋田にはそれを楽しむお祭りや行事があります。横手市では100をこえるかまくら(雪でつくられた小さな家)がつくられます。これは水神をまつる行事で、400年の歴史があります。かまくらの中は暖かく、甘酒やおもちがふるまわれます。他にも小さなたくさんのかまくらの中に灯りがともされ、町を彩ります。

年に一度、山から下りて悪や疫病をはらい、吉事や豊作をもたらすといわれているなまはげも冬の行事として知られています。鬼のお面をつけた神、なまはげは「悪い子はいねが(いないか)、泣く子はいねが」と叫びながら家々を歩き回ります。

秋田には美肌の湯として知られるたくさんの温泉地がありますが、一番の人気は仙北市の乳頭温泉郷です。乳白色の湯が特徴で、「湯めぐり帖」(決められた温泉を割引料金で利用できるカード)を買い、7つの温泉を巡ってそれぞれのお湯を楽しむこともできます。変わった温泉としては、湯沢市の川原毛大湯滝があります。20メートルの高さから温泉が流れ落ち、滝つぼが湯ぶねになります。

秋田の水はきれいなので、特に米や酒がおいしいことはよく知られています。米のブランド、あきたこまちは全国で販売されています。棒に巻き付けたごはんを炭火で焼き、食べやすく切ったきりたんぽ、稲庭うどん、ハタハタとこの魚からつくる調味料しょっつるも名物です。バター餅や、B-1グランプリになった横手やきそばも人気です。

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なまはげ/秋田銀線細工

 

特産物でよく知られているのは秋田杉の木目を活かした曲げわっぱです。桜の木の皮を使った棒細工、0.2ミリほどの細い銀の線を手作業で加工してアクセサリーにする秋田銀線細工も伝統工芸品です。川連漆器は800年の歴史があり、湯沢市川連町には約200の漆器の製造業者の店が並びます。

JR東京駅から秋田駅までは秋田新幹線で約4時間。羽田空港(東京)から秋田空港までは約1時間です。

秋田県観光連盟

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