Explore the World of the Samurai in Kakunodate, an Edo Period Samurai Town in Akita | FAST JAPAN
Kakunodate
Akita

Explore the World of the Samurai in Kakunodate, an Edo Period Samurai Town in Akita

Kakunodate in Akita was and is currently a samurai town. This Edo period style town displays what houses were like during the time. Learn about the history of Kakunodate and see historic sties.

Kakunodate

In Japan’s northern Tohoku region sits a small town with a huge history. One of the major samurai residences in northern Japan and ruled over by powerful warlords, Kakunodate is famous as being the home of samurai. Still today it is possible to visit and view the homes of many prominent warriors and enjoy the historic and authentic atmosphere. Kakunodate was founded in its modern form in 1620, just 15 years after the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate, by the powerful samurai clan the Ashina family.

cherry blossoms in Kakunodate

The town has two distinct districts that separate the regular population of merchants, farmers and craftsmen, who live in the southern half of the town, with the Katana wielding warriors who made their homes in the northern district. This divide remains to this day and the preserved homes of Japan’s legendary warriors are the main attraction to this area. Although, even if this part of the town was ignored, the town is still filled with natural beauty, other historic homes and is one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in all of Japan. There are many reasons to visit Kakunodate in the Akita prefecture.
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Kakunodate Tourist Information Center

Address: 397 2 Kamisugasawa, Kakunodate-machi, Senboku City, Akita Prefecture

Access: 1 minute walk from Kakunodate Station

Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Phone: 0187-54-2700

Website: Kakunodate Tourist Information Center

 

Visit Samurai Houses

As a town with a history of being the home to many powerful samurai clans, the remains of homes from this time are spread throughout the town and offer glimpses into the life of a samurai warrior. Visiting these beautiful houses recreates the life these warriors and takes you back to experience life during feudal Japan.

 

Aoyagi House

Aoyagi House

The Aoyagi were a powerful warrior family who outlived their original masters. After the Ashina, the founders of Kakunodate, died out the Aoyagi were employed by the Satake, an influential samurai clan. The reputation and skill of the Aoyagi rewarded them with a vast ground upon which their home lies. The grounds can be explored as well as the displays within the home, showcasing some of the family’s artwork and weaponry.
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Aoyagi House

Address: 3 omotemachi-shimocho, Kakunodate-machi, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture

Access: 15 minute walk from Kakunodate Station

Admission Fee:
500 yen (Adult)
300 yen (Student)
200 (Child)

Hours:
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (April – November)
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM (December – March)

Phone: 0187-54-3257

Website: Aoyagi House

 

Ishiguro Manor

Ishiguro Manor

This manor, belonging to the Satake’s loyal retainers the Ishiguro, has many qualities of a home belonging to a high-ranking Edo period official; a thatched roof, multiple spy-holes and well-crafted gates. The Ishiguro family tended to the finances of the Satake clan and so it’s no surprise they became affluent. Despite these luxuries and expensive features, the home still maintains a subtle simplicity, reflected of many homes from this time, and is an important ideal in Japanese aesthetics to this day.
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Ishiguro Manor

Address: 1 omotemachi-shimocho, Kakunodate-machi, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture

Access: 20 minute walk from Kakunodate Station

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Admission Fee:
300 yen (Adult)
150 yen (Student)

Phone: 0187-55-1496

Website: Ishiguro Manor

 

Odano Manor

Odano Manor

The Odano family were revered for their excellence in combat and it was through this that the Odano found their home in Kakunodate. Originally loyal to Imamiya family, the Odano eventually came to serve the Satake and made Kakunodate their main residence. This home used to have a training hall next to the entrance, the remains of which can be seen now. The manor has since become known for it’s traditional gardens.
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Odano Manor

Address: 10 Higashikatsuraku-cho, Kakunodate-machi, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture

Access: 15 minute walk from Kakunodate Station

Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM (*Closed December – mid-April)

Admission Fee: Free

Phone: 0187-43-3384

Website: Odano Manor

 

Matsumoto Manor

Matsumoto Manor

Travelling the same path as the Odano, the Matsumoto also began under the banner of the Imamiya, but found themselves traveling to the north of Japan with the Satake. The complete area of this manor may be lacking in comparison with some of the other residences, but also shows the most authentic example of a samurai household, with a traditional thatched roof and brushwood fence, typical architecture at the time, this simple home is the closest you may be able to get to being a regular samurai, rather than the uncommon wealthy families also present in the town.
[map lat=”39.598250″ lng=”140.561322″][/map]

Matsumoto Manor

Address: 4 Kobito-Machi, Kakunodate-machi, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture

Access: 20 minute walk from Kakunodate Station

Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM (*Closed November – mid-April)

Admission Fee: Free

Phone: 0187-43-3384

Website: Matsumoto Manor

 

Kakunodate’s Annual Festivals

As well as historic buildings, Kakunodate attracts visitors with its unique festivals which take place throughout the year. No matter when you visit, there will some kind of interesting and special event to enjoy in Kakunodate!

 

Spring – Cherry Blossoms

Spring - Sakura

The Japanese cherry blossom has a long relationship with the samurai. The samurai were said to relate to the tragic destiny they share, both fated to be struck down at the peak of their beauty. This makes Kakunodate a special place to participate in the annual Japanese holiday of Ohanami (cherry blossom viewing) where everyone leisurely meanders around parks and riversides admiring the natural beauty of the layer of pink leaves covering the canopies.

 

Summer – Sasara Dance

Summer - Sasara dance
Photo Credit: kakunodate-kanko.jp

Sasara is the local name for the “Lion Dance” festival, stemming from the wooden instruments played before each performance. The dance has a 400 year history, being carried up from the southern prefectures of Japan by Lord Satake, a descendant of the Minamoto clan, one of the four dominant clans during the Heian period (794-1185 AD). The dance is believed to help ward off evil spirits and continues to be an important part of the Obon Festival in this area.

 

Autumn – Kakunodate Festival

Autumn - Kakunodate Festival
Photo Credit: R. Fred Williams@Flickr

Between the 7th and 9th of September, festivals are held honoring the Shinmei and Yakushido shrines. Large floats are paraded around the town and if any are unfortunate enough to cross paths with another, the two parties must charge forward and collide. This is done to see which of the two groups can proceed onward first. While this side of the festival is noisy and destructive, elegant and graceful traditional Japanese dancing can instead be observed, balancing with the intensity of the parade.

 

Winter – Hiburi (Fire and Snow) Festival

hiburi1
Photo Credit: city.akita.akita.jp

This festival is celebrated on the lunar new year in February and is a fantastic spectacle. Bales of straw are ignited and tied to ropes, which are then used to spin the flaming straw around the performer, creating an amazing sight with stark contrasts between the icy snow fallen on the ground and the streaks of flame whirling around a meter above it. It is thought that those participating are able to purify themselves as they pray for good health and a safe home for the new year.

 

Access

Reaching Kakunodate takes a little more than 3 hours from Tokyo via Shinkansen (bullet train). Domestic flights are also available to Akita Airport, but the journey from the airport to Kakunodate station takes another 2 hours. So either choice is going to take around 3 hours. Both JAL and ANA, Japan’s two biggest airlines offers four flights per day to Akita Airport.

 

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