Culture & History
A samurai village blanketed in snow
Founded in 1620, the town of Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture has kept both its original buildings and its traditional Edo charm. From mid-January to mid-March, snow blankets the roofs of the 17th-century samurai homes and covers the wide central street. Strolling through this peaceful town in winter truly gives you the feeling of walking back in time.
Eighty samurai families lived in Kakunodate when it was an Edo-period castle town, and the well-preserved streets feel like a living museum. The Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum welcomes visitors to walk through its many buildings, enjoying museum collections, restaurants and gift shops. At the Ishiguro Manor, visitors can see displays of samurai armor and clothing and a well-preserved storage room. Four other manors are also open to visitors, and the Denshokan museum has displays of traditional crafts, including Kakunodate’s famous kabazaiku cherry-bark art.
Every year on February 13 and 14, Kakunodate residents celebrate the Hiburi Kamakura festival. In a purification ritual, daring volunteers stand in an open field and swing a flaming bag of charcoal on a length of rope in circles around themselves, creating a dramatic ring of fire against the pristine white snow.
How to get there
Kakunodate Station is three hours from Tokyo on the Akita Shinkansen. It is also accessible from Akita Airport or by night bus from Tokyo or Yokohama.