The year abroad adventures of a Scottish otaku in the North of Japan

Tag Archives: Lake Tazawa

By the time I post this, the cherry blossom will be gone. However last week, the cherry blossoms hit Akita in full force! Last year, they were apparently a bit rubbish (knocked off by rain, few flowers, etc.) but my experience of them was pretty good!

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Yes, those are daffodils you see by the side of the road – a nice reminder of home! It always makes me think of the thousands of daffodils that line the main road out of my hometown Aberdeen.

Now, in Akita the best (and probably most famous) spot to see the cherry blossoms is Kakunodate (an old Samurai village – also where the float matsuri took place in October). I went TWICE.

The first visit was with some friends over the weekend – we had aimed to walk to the station and get there nice and early. Things did not quite go to plan…we had to change trains and Omagari where we were forced to wait for 3 hours until the next train. This turned out to be more fun than expected – we found a tiny ramen restaurant to eat lunch in AND got Rick-rolled at a market. Seriously – the last song I would expect to hear in Japan was ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. We didn’t end up in Kakunodate until around 4pm, but there were still plenty of people and, best of all: Festival Food Stands.

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Naturally, we also had to eat cherry blossom ice cream:

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(even as I write this, I’m eating cherry blossom flavoured jelly beans…)

The second time I visited was on the aforementioned Bus Trip. We set off (in 5 buses, seriously there were loads of people) ridiculously early and ended up in Kakunodate by mid-morning. The weather was perfect. It must have been about 17 degrees (ending up at 20 degrees by the afternoon) with clear blue skies, crowds of cherry blossoms viewers and us, the obligatory foreigners.

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After a few hours wandering around Kakunodate, visiting some of the old samurai houses and watching some of the shows of traditional songs/dances.

We then moved on to Lake Tazawa. I had visited it before (on the same trip that took us to the float festival), however it had been a miserable day. So I was looking forward to seeing it in the brilliant sunshine! There were a few people who had planned to go swimming, but were a little more intelligent – it was April, after several months of snow, at the deepest lake in Japan, so the water was going to be freezing. We weren’t disappointed. We did go in for a paddle, but the was quite enough and we had a good laugh at the screams of the swimmers!

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The lake itself was as beautiful as I had hoped – deep, clear blue water, surrounded by snow covered hills.

We also visited the other side of the lake, the drive round it also beautiful. When we got there, it was time for ice cream: round 2! The local hotel had a beautiful rose garden in the summer so, fittingly, it sold rose flavoured ice cream.

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Sadly, now the cherry blossom is slowly becoming just a carpet of petals lining the roads and covering cars, soon to be gone for another year. It’s a little sad, but I guess that’s nature for you!

One thing I’ve realised is just how fast this year has gone – it’s already May! Not long until I go home…a sad thought, but one I’ll have to deal with soon.

On a final note for this post, I’m making a little shout-out to Bonson Lam, one of my blog readers (yes, they’re out there somewhere), whom I met on Sunday at church. It was lovely to meet you and I’m so glad you got to experience Tsuchizaki Gloria Chapel!

As for the rest of you, that’s it for another post. So until next time, またね!


As promised (if a little late), here is my update on my trip to Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate 🙂

This was the first of our big ‘school trips’ – I was well excited, I haven’t gone on a school trip in years! I think there ended up being about 200 of us – crammed onto 4 buses (think not quite sardines). At first, things on the bus were a bit tense – one of the American girls was singing rather loudly, in my opinion, and was getting a bit annoying. I held my tongue and just enjoyed the scenery instead! We passed loads of farms, little villages and with mountains framing the picture. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, this drive was marred a bit by paranoia (and bad singing). The other day, I saw a Chinook helicopter land at Akita airport. That day we passed a couple of military convoys (full of guys in uniform and including a gun mount vehicle) that must have numbered at least 30 vehicles. There was some suggestion that the countryside around here would be the perfect place to practice, but it still felt like the beginning of a horror/apocalypse movie (think ‘The Mist’).

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We took a quick stop off at a place famous for producing Soy Sauce and Miso – home of the infamous soy sauce ice cream (don’t try this at home folks), before we were on our way again. Although this was not without hitches. One of the buses had broken down, so we had to squeeze the people onto the other buses – they had fold down seats for the aisle. At this point the singing had begun again and I would have snapped, had it not been for our Asia Pacific theme coming on – basically every time we had an Asia Pacific lecture in first year, me and my friend Eve (along with others) always ended up singing “I’ll make a man out of you”. When this song started, my British stiff upper lip broke and I joined in. This led to a bus-wide sing-along of “Call me maybe”, “Blue” (the song, not the band), “Don’t stop believing”, the “Sailor Moon Theme” and, the pies’de resistance (yeah, don’t judge my spelling) the “Pokemon Theme”. Yeah, now get that out of your head! It was my childhood (^^)

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Our next stop was Lake Tazawa (Tazawako), which is the deepest lake in Japan. It must have been the clearest as well since you could see all the fish swimming in it – it was absolutely beautiful! It was so beautiful, in fact, that three of our party (all guys) decided it would be a great idea to go swimming in their pants – and then get back on the bus…..There was also a little shrine where you could get a  fortune – the ones that gave bad luck could be tied to the ropes around the shrine to ditch said bad luck:

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After this, we had lost quite a lot of time (the term ‘be back at the bus by THIS TIME’ doesn’t seem to mean a lot to some people), so we had to miss out one of the stops on our trip – the wildflower garden. However, by this point it was bucketing it down, so we weren’t that disappointed! Instead, we headed straight to Kakunodate. I was presuming we were just going to look at the old Samurai houses (we had a ticket 2 of the old mansions), but when we got there, it turned out there was a big festival on! Most of the small town had turned out in traditional costumes and were moving giant floats which depicted legendary figures.

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We were also able to try one of the local foods, called Kiritanpo. This is basically rice that has been pounded into a paste, wrapped around a stick and then cooked over an open fire – these ones had pork wrapped around them and a bit of BBQ sauce. They were absolutely delicious, and we also managed to cement the image of  Akita people being really friendly. We had a lovely conversation with the stall owner (in broken Japanese) and she was the smiliest person I’ve met so far!

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After a lot of wandering about, waiting and then finding out we were in the wrong place, we eventually found out the floats were in another street. I think we ran as calmly as we could to go find them! Eventually we found one of the old streets that had a bunch of the floats being pulled down it. Two floats were being pushed against each other to see which one would win, traditional matsuri (festival) stalls lined the pavement selling yakitori and takoyaki (delicious). All the floats had now lit their lanterns, so they lit up the streets in a way that felt like we had stepped back in time. I guess we really had.

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These guys were hilariously drunk and just posed in front of us….

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Unfortunately, we had to get back to the bus by 7.30 (even the matsuri was just getting into full swing)  so we, like the good students we were,  headed back in the hope that we wouldn’t be the only ones. Luckily it turns out we weren’t, however one of the students (should I name and shame on here?) decided to make us wait an extra 40 minutes before coming back to the bus….we were ALL ready to high-five his face by the time he came back.

Well, hopefully that gives you an idea of what the trip was like – we’ve got another one to Oga at the beginning of October, so look forward to that one soon! However, next up will be a little weekend summary (including typhoons, church and a huge second-hand manga store). Until then, またね!



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