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Fall Foliage Viewing Spots in Akita: A Walking Trail for Viewing Fall Foliage in Kakunodate, “the Little Kyoto of Tohoku”!

Kakunodate, a place of interest famed for cherry blossoms and fall foliage, which located in Akita Prefecture’s Senboku, boasts chessboard-like streets, quaint samurai houses (bukeyashiki), tightly packed temples & shrines, and unadorned workshops & warehouses, which win the small pleasant town a reputation as the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku”. Here is a trail for a walk around Kakunodate to appreciate beautiful buildings and fall foliage.

Elegant mix of reds and blacks by fall leaves and black walls
Elegant mix of reds and blacks by fall leaves and black walls

At the sight of the fall foliage in Kakunodate, we are intoxicated with the elegant mix of reds and blacks featured by fall leaves and black walls.

A Walking Tour of Kakunodate to View Fall Foliage

Here is a route through Kakunodate for viewing fall foliage: set off from the neighborhood of Kakunodate Station, walk northward along Bukeyashiki Street (Bukeyashiki-dori), walk southward along Tamachi Bukeyashiki Street (Tamachi Bukeyashiki-dori), and return to Kakunodate Station.

Route Map for Walking around Kakunodate for Viewing Fall Foliage

1. Kakunodate Tourist Association

You can set out from Kakunodate Tourist Association, one-minute walk away from JR Kakunodate Station. Here you can get free tourist brochures and information about the festivals and events, and you may also buy specialties on your return.

Kakunodate Tourist Association
Kakunodate Tourist Association

About 8-minute walk

2. Tatetsu House (Rent Kimonos)

Kakunodate has samurai houses of all sizes, which were all the residences of samurais and celebrities living between the 18th century and the 19th century. During your viewing of the fall foliage there, you are recommended to dress in kimono that will impart a special flavor to your experience.

Tourists wearing kimonos
Tourists wearing kimonos

You can dress yourself in a kimono rented from the Tatetsu House.

OPEN

Basic Information on the Tatetsu House

Address
25, Nakamachi, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Appointment
0187-63-6751
Hours
9:00-18:00
9:00-18:00
Price
4,000 yen
Time for rental
10:00-17:00
10:00-17:00
WEB
Official website (in Japanese)

By appointment only

When you walk northward along Bukeyashiki Street, you will be greeted with tightly packed beauties of black walls and fall leaves.

Bukeyashiki Street aflame with fall colors
Bukeyashiki Street aflame with fall colors

The mailboxes and the black walls on the street are a typical sight of Kakunodate and another mix of blacks and reds.

Red mailbox and black wall
Red mailbox and black wall

About 6-minute walk

3. Samurai House: Odano House

You will first visit Odano House, which is the simplest among the famous samurai houses. Although the gable board (hafu) and the fish-shaped board (gegyo) decorating the roof were no longer there after the reconstruction following the fire in Meiji 33 (1900), the fall foliage looks enchanting.

Odano House and fall foliage
Odano House and fall foliage

The scenery around the Odano House is characterized by giant maple trees, the tallest of which is up to 20 m. Besides, the House produced a master at Akita ranga: Odano Naotake.

※Akita ranga is a style of painting traditional Japanese themes with Western-style composition techniques, and is a combination of Japanese and Western elements.

Giant maple trees in the courtyard
Giant maple trees in the courtyard
OPEN

Basic Information on the Odano House

Address
10, Higashikatsurakucho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-43-3384
Dates
Mid-April to November
Hours
9:00-16:30
9:00-16:30
Closed
Winter
Admission
Free

1-minute walk

4. Samurai House: Kawarada House

The Kawarada House was the family residence of Kawarada, who was a descendant of the Ashina clan, and moved from Fukushima’s Aizu to Kakunodate with the family of Ashina. The existing building was constructed during the mid Meiji period, and the architectural style of samurai (buke) houses in the Edo period remain unchanged to this day.

Kawarada House and fall foliage
Kawarada House and fall foliage

The Kawarada house is characterized by a secluded courtyard, fresh green vegetation in summer and colorful foliage in fall. A stroll in the courtyard blanketed with fallen leaves might make you oblivious to the bustle of the outer world.

Secluded courtyard blanketed with fall leaves
Secluded courtyard blanketed with fall leaves
OPEN

Basic Information on the Kawarada House

Address
9, Higashikatsurakucho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-43-3384
Dates
Mid-April to November
Hours
9:00-16:30
9:00-16:30
Closed
Winter
Admission
Free

3-minute walk

5. Samurai House: Iwahashi House

The Iwahashi family also served the Ashina clan and occupied a rather wide area for being high-ranking samurais. Later, The Twilight Samurai, a Jidaigeki (literally “period drama”) movie was filmed here.

Iwahashi House and fall foliage
Iwahashi House and fall foliage

Kakunodate is dotted with so many wooden houses, so fire is especially dangerous. The huge fire that occurred in Meiji 33 (1900) destroyed such renowned residences as the above mentioned Odano House. But, the Iwahashi House survived the fire for its roofs made with shingles of shakes (thick wooden boards made of cedar) and its well in the courtyard.

Iwahashi House with a well and fall foliage
Iwahashi House with a well and fall foliage

With chestnuts, red pines, maples and oaks planted in the courtyard, the House is highly recommended among many samurai houses for viewing of fall foliage. It is said that an oak tree there is more than 250 years old, which is very rare in Akita Prefecture.

Appreciating the fall foliage outside
Appreciating the fall foliage outside
OPEN

Basic Information on the Iwahashi House

Address
3-1, Higashikatsurakucho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-43-3384
Dates
Mid-April to November
Hours
9:00-16:30
9:00-16:30
Closed
Winter
Admission
Free

3-minute walk

6. Samurai house: Aoyagi House

The Aoyagi household was once a vassal of the Satake clan, the most influential family at Kakunodate; and the Aoyagi House has become the most spacious and luxury residence among the samurai houses in Kakunodate. Later, The Hidden Blade, a Jidaigeki movie was filmed here.

Aoyagi House and fall foliage
Aoyagi House and fall foliage

The Aoyagi House covers an area of 3,000 tsubo (about 10,000 square meters). About 600 varieties of plants grow in the commodious courtyard, which afford fine views in four seasons. The whole residence adopts black-painted batten fences (sasarako-bei) and fall leaves stretching out of the wall seem to say hello to passers-by.

Black-painted batten fences and fall foliage
Black-painted batten fences and fall foliage

On entry into the commodious courtyard, you will be greeted with a well, a rice storehouse and a weapon storehouse. A front entrance and a side entrance were respectively used for different ranks of visitors; the main building was the bedroom of the house owner, and no guest was received there. The whole residence is imposing.

Aoyagi House: main building
Aoyagi House: main building
Aoyagi House: weapon warehouse
Aoyagi House: weapon warehouse
Aoyagi House: a corner of the rice storehouse and the courtyard
Aoyagi House: a corner of the rice storehouse and the courtyard

Now the residence is established with the Kaitai Shinsho (literally New Text on Anatomy) Memorial Hall, the Akita Folk Museum (Kyoto-kan), the Samurai Tool Museum (Buke Dogu-kan), the Western Style Museum (Yofu-kan), the Museum of the Photos on the Closing Days of the Tokugawa Shogunate Regime (Bakumatsu Photo Museum) and the Period Experience House, and about 30,000 precious cultural artefacts are exhibited there.

Interior of Akita Folk Museum in the Aoyagi House
Interior of Akita Folk Museum in the Aoyagi House

The Aoyagi family was related to the said Odano family by marriage, and it is little wonder that there is a stone statue of Odano Naotake, an artist from the Odano family.

Stone statue of Odano Naotake
Stone statue of Odano Naotake

On the first floor of the Western Style Museum, there is a café, which offers “Nanban-cha” (actually coffee) (500 yen) brewed with “Shinmei” water that seems to be from an endless supply since several hundred years ago and various types of dessert; beside the Museum of the Photos on the Closing Days of the Tokugawa Shogunate Regime, there is the Morinoshoku Sai-kan, where you can savor Inaniwa Udon, a traditional food of Akita. You are recommended to have lunch and rest your feet here.

Aoyagi House with Shinmei water that seems to be from an endless supply since several hundred years ago
Aoyagi House with Shinmei water that seems to be from an endless supply since several hundred years ago

Video on the Fall Foliage around the Aoyagi House

OPEN

Basic Information on the Aoyagi House

Address
3, Omotemachi-shimo-cho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-43-3257
Hours
9:00-17:00 (9:00-16:30 between December and March)
Closed
No
Admission
Adults: 500 yen; junior high-school and high-school students, 300 yen; elementary school students: 200 yen
WEB
Official website (traditional Chinese)

1-minute walk

7. Samurai house: Ishiguro House

Among the existing samurai houses in Kakunodate, the Ishiguro House at the northernmost tip of Samurai House Street is most ancient. The fir and the weeping cherry in its courtyard are over 250 years old.

Ishiguro House and fall foliage
Ishiguro House and fall foliage

Compared with the luxurious Aoyagi House, the Ishiguro House is simpler and quainter. With the main building, doors, walls and earthen storehouses representative of the Edo period, the House built in the architectural style of the period between the 18th century and the 19th century is well preserved.

Unadorned and quaint Ishiguro House
Unadorned and quaint Ishiguro House

Among the samurai houses in Kakunodate, the Ishiguro House had the most distinguished pedigree. The courtyard now only has ancient trees and ancient buildings, and moss even spreads on some paved path. The plainness and quaintness of a samurai house are shown up completely and so captivating.

Plain and quaint courtyard in the Ishiguro House
Plain and quaint courtyard in the Ishiguro House
OPEN

Basic Information on the Ishiguro House

Address
1, Omotemachi-shimo-cho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-55-1496
Hours
9:00-17:00
9:00-17:00
Admission
Adults: 300 yen; junior high-school and high-school students, and elementary school students: 150 yen
Closed
NO
WEB
Official website (in Japanese)

3-minute walk

8. Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan

The Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan was built to exhibit the renowned birch craft of Akita Prefecture. Any festival held at Kakunodate is surely accompanied with some events or exhibitions in the museum.

Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan
Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan

Birch craft is to glue barks of mountain cherry trees and make such fine articles as tea canisters and writing implements by experienced craftsmen. You can watch the making by the craftsmen skilled in birch craft in the museum or even try to make an article by yourself.

※ If you gather together 4 people, you can participate in this activity, and 2,000 yen will be charged per person.

Tea canister made with birch craft
Tea canister made with birch craft

By the way, Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan is a famous hanami spot in Kakunodate. If you visit here in spring, you can appreciate the beauty of the weeping cherry blossoms decorating the gate and the cherry blossoms in the courtyard.

Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan in the flowering season of cherry
Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan in the flowering season of cherry
OPEN

Basic Information on Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan

Address
10-1, Omotemachi-shimo-cho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-54-1700
Hours
9:00-17:00 (April to November) / 9:00-16:30 (December to March)
Closed
December 28 to January 4
Admission
High school students and older: 300 yen; middle school and elementary school students: 150 yen; 6 years old and younger: free

1-minute walk

9. Samurai House: Matsumoto House

The Matsumoto House differs greatly with the said samurai houses in architectural style. Matsumoto came from a scholar family, so the Matsumoto House was one for lower-ranking samurais, and was simple and crude. Like the Iwahashi House, the Matsumoto House was also a location for The Twilight Samurai, a Jidaigeki.

Matsumoto House and fall foliage
Matsumoto House and fall foliage

Featuring the thatched roof and the fence made of cedar barks, it is the sole residence adopting such architectural elements among the residences in Akita Prefecture, thus has been designated as a cultural property by Akita Prefecture.

Fence wall and fall foliage
Fence wall and fall foliage
OPEN

Basic Information on the Matsumoto House

Address
4, Kobitomachi, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-43-3384
Dates
Mid-April to November
Hours
9:00-16:30
Closed
Admission
Free

About 10-minute walk

10.Samurai House: Nishinomiya House

The Nishinomiya family was the largest family of wealthy merchant and landlord in Kakunodate. From the Meiji period to the Taisho period, a library and a rice storehouse were built in the broad courtyard; now they, in together with the main building, have been reconstructed into a famous spot representing Tamachi Bukeyashiki Street.

Nishinomiya House and fall foliage
Nishinomiya House and fall foliage

Now many historical literatures and cultural artefacts are exhibited in the library; Japanese-style commodities are sold in the rice storehouse; the front storehouse is transform into a conference room; the northern storehouse is a café; the gakko storehouse sells local tsukemono (literally “pickled things”) and specialties, while the main building is a dining room for tourists and high-grade matcha is also sold there.

Fall colors of the courtyard of the Nishinomiya House
Fall colors of the courtyard of the Nishinomiya House
OPEN

Basic Information on the Nishinomiya House

Address
11-1, Tamachi-kamicho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-52-2438
Hours
10:00-17:00
Closed
No
Admission
Free

2-minute walk

11. Shinchosha Memorial Museum of Literature

Visitors to Kakunodate will definitely take photos at the Shinchosha Memorial Museum of Literature! Its wall is inscribed with the opening passage of Snow Country (Yukiguni) by Yasunari Kawabata, the first Japanese author to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Exterior of Shinchosha Memorial Museum of Literature
Exterior of Shinchosha Memorial Museum of Literature

“The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky. The train pulled up at a signal stop.” It is a paragraph that almost every Japanese can recite. Readers do not know who is the character, and will feel if they also enter into the snow country.

Those who have read this novel might ask why this article on Kakunodate mentions the novel that was set in Niigata Prefecture. It is because that Shincho Bunko and the author of the Snow Country became known to every family after the publication of the novel in the front page of Shincho Bunko. And Sato Giryo, the founder of Shinchosha, the publisher of Shincho Bunko, came from Kakunodate.

OPEN

Basic Information on the Shinchosha Memorial Museum of Literature

Address
23, Tamachi-kamicho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-43-3333
Hours
9:00-17:00 (April to November) / 9:00~16:30 (December to March)
Admission
High school students and older: 300 yen; middle school and elementary school students: 150 yen; 6 years old and younger: free
Closed
Mondays, December 28 to April 4

6-minute walk

12. Ando Workshop

Founded in 1853, Audo Workshop is a workshop mainly making miso and shoyu, and its red-brick warehouse adopt fire protection design.

Ando Workshop
Ando Workshop

The store sells superb miso and shoyu made with the trade handed down in the family and various types of vegetables pickled in shoyu; and visitors can try the laudable traditional miso of Akita Prefecture for free. ♪

Savoring the laudable traditional miso of Akita Prefecture for free ♪
Savoring the laudable traditional miso of Akita Prefecture for free ♪
OPEN

Basic Information on Ando Workshop

Address
27, Shimo-shinmachi, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture[MAP]
Phone
0187-53-2008
Hours
8:30-18:00
Closed
No
Admission
Free

Illumination of Fall Foliage at Night

The best time to see the fall foliage at Kakunodate is between late October and mid-November, when Bukeyashiki Street will be lit up between 16:30 and 22:00 every day.

Illumination of the fall foliage on Bukeyashiki Street
Illumination of the fall foliage on Bukeyashiki Street

As far as the route in this article is concerned, the walking route between 3) Odano House and 9) Matsumoto House, romantic scene of fall foliage illuminated can be appreciated everywhere. ♡

Illumination of the fall foliage in the Ishiguro House
Illumination of the fall foliage in the Ishiguro House
OPEN

Basic Information on the Illumination of Fall Foliage at Night

Dates
Late October to mid-November
Hours
16:30-22:00
Place
Bukeyashiki Street
WEB
Official website (in Japanese)

Viewing Fall Foliage on a Rickshaw

You can follow the said walking route or view the fall foliage at Kakunodate on a rickshaw. You can take a rickshaw at 8) Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan; there are three routes: 15-minute trip, 30-minute trip and 60-minute trip. One rickshaw can take up to 2 persons.

Viewing fall foliage on a rickshaw ♪
Viewing fall foliage on a rickshaw ♪
OPEN

Basic Information on Kakunodate Rickshaw Company

Phone
090-2970-2324
Hours
9:00-17:00
Place to take a rickshaw
Opposite to Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan (10-1, Omotemachi-shimo-cho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture)
Closed
No
Price
15-minute: 3,000 yen; 30-minute, 5,000 yen; 60-minute, 9,000 yen

Appointment is required and the price covers two persons.

OPEN

Basic Information on Sakurakazetei

Phone
090-2994-2722
Hours
9:00-16:30
Place to take a rickshaw
Opposite to Kakunodate Birch Craft Densho-kan (10-1, Omotemachi-shimo-cho, Kakunodate, Senboku, Akita Prefecture)
Closed
December to March
Price
15-minute: 3,000 yen; 30-minute, 5,000 yen; 60-minute, 9,000 yen

Appointment is required and the price covers two persons.