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Akita in Winter: A Blend of Snow Sports, Culture and Heritage

Discover all that Akita has to offer—from thrilling ski resorts and relaxing hot springs to vibrant winter festivals, there’s something for everyone.

By 5 min read

Akita Prefecture, located in the northern part of Honshu, is often overlooked by tourists heading to more famous destinations like Hokkaido. However, Akita in winter is a wonderland of natural beauty and rich culture waiting to be explored.

From the picturesque Lake Tazawa, Japan’s deepest lake, to the serene Nyuto Onsenkyo Hot Spring Village, surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests, Akita offers some of Japan’s best characteristics in one prefecture.

The region boasts a rich cultural heritage, with unique festivals like the Kamihinokinai Paper Balloon Festival and historic samurai districts in Kakunodate. Visitors can also enjoy delicious local cuisine from the local breweries.

Click here to discover Akita this winter—immerse yourself in thrilling sports, rich culture and timeless traditions—plan your trip today.

Hit The Slopes

Tazawako Ski Resort

Japan is renowned for its snow sports, with popular resorts in Hakodate, Nagano and Niseko. But for those seeking exceptional backcountry skiing, Akita should be on your radar. Known for its pristine snow. Akita offers quieter slopes, providing a more tranquil and adventurous skiing experience away from the crowds of famous resorts.

But it’s not all backcountry—you can find several top-quality resorts in the area for beginners and intermediates. Akita boasts several top-quality resorts with graded slopes, lifts and rental equipment.

Two popular resorts are Mount Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort and Tazawako Ski Resort. Both attract foreign visitors, ensuring you’ll have plenty of company on the slopes.

The Resort Life

Ani Gondola offers easy access to Access Mount Moriyoshi.

Mount Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort is situated on its namesake mountain, which stands around 1,,500 meters tall. This resort is ideal for new skiers and snowboarders, offering three beginner courses that curve through Akita’s beautiful forests.

Tazawako Ski Resort offers stunning views of Lake Tazawa as you glide down its slopes. It features eight courses for beginners and intermediates.

Both resorts provide comprehensive facilities and services, including:

  • Rental skis, snowboards, clothing, gloves and safety equipment
  • Skiing and snowboarding lessons
  • Restaurants and rest stops
  • Stores and first-aid stations

Hot Springs in Winter

Tsuru no Yu in Nyuto Onsenkyo Hot Spring Village.

Akita Prefecture has been a renowned destination for onsen (hot springs) lovers for centuries, drawing visitors from all over Japan. Nestled in the mountains north of Kakunodate and Lake Tazawa, Nyuto Onsenkyo Hot Spring Village offers a quintessential Japanese hot spring experience, with its natural springs rich in sulfur and reputed for their healing properties.

The surrounding ryokan (Japanese inns) own several small outdoor springs within the village. The oldest, Tsurunoyu Onsen, dates back to the 1600s and retains its Edo-period architecture. Staying at one of these traditional inns, or ryokans, provides access to the hot springs and offers guests a unique immersion into Japanese history and culture.

Nyuto Onsen yamanoimo nabe is a traditional mountain delicacy of Akita.

Guests can experience traditional Japanese practices such as donning yukata robes and sampling kaiseki cuisine (traditional full-course meals). Whether seeking relaxation, muscle relief after skiing, or simply a taste of traditional Japanese culture, Akita’s hot springs promise to rejuvenate the body and spirit of day visitors and overnight guests alike.

Nyuto Onsenkyo offers some of Akita’s most delicious cuisine, including Nyuto Onsen yamanoimo nabe, a traditional hot pot dish. It is distinguished by local mountain yams simmered in a savory broth with meat, vegetables, and sometimes mushrooms, creating a hearty and flavorful meal that warms both body and soul.

Akita is also famous for its sake, with over 30 breweries in the area. The region’s excellent brewing ingredients include locally grown rice and remarkably pure water from its major rivers.

Winter Festivals in Akita

Winter in Akita Kamihinokinai Paper Balloon Festival

There are many reasons to celebrate Akita beyond just winter sports.

Kamihinokinai Paper Balloon Festival

Akita Prefecture comes alive during winter with various captivating festivals that showcase the region’s rich cultural heritage and provide entertainment for locals and visitors alike. Among these, the Kamihinokinai Paper Balloon Festival is a highlight, occurring annually on February 10th. During this event, giant paper balloons adorned with delicate artwork fill the skies, creating a magical spectacle against the winter backdrop.

  • Date: February 10th
  • Where: Ochida Kamihinokinai, Nishikicho, Senboku City, Akita (Google Maps)
  • Nearest Station: Kami-Hinokinai
  • Website

Kakunodate Hiburi-Kamakura

You’ll feel the heat during Akita’s own fire festival.

Further, visitors can also experience the Hiburi-Kamakura festival in Kakunodate in February. In this unique winter tradition, snow huts (kamakura) are illuminated by flames, providing a warm and enchanting atmosphere. These winter festivals offer a wonderful opportunity to immerse oneself in Akita’s vibrant culture while enjoying the beauty of the winter season.

  • Date: February 13th and 14th
  • Where: Kakunodatemachi, Semboku City (Google Maps)
  • Nearest Station: Kakunodate
  • Website

Historical and Scenic Adventures in Akita

Autumn leaves during winter in Kakunodate.

Akita combines Japan’s cultural heritage with natural splendor.

Kakunodate Samurai District

Akita Prefecture offers historical insights and scenic adventures, perfect for a discovery trip in Japan. The Kakunodate Samurai District invites visitors to probe the rich history of Japan’s famous warriors. Kakunodate features a collection of samurai residences, some of which are open to the public as museums. The Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum and the Ishiguro Samurai House are notable examples, showcasing traditional samurai architecture, artifacts, and living conditions. Kakunodate, often called “Little Kyoto” of north Japan, was established by the Ashina clan and retains much of its historical charm.

  • Accessibility: A short walk from Kakunodate Station on the Akita Shinkansen
  • Location: Kakunodate Samurai District, Semboku, Akita (Google Maps)
  • Website: Kakunodate Bukeyashiki

Akita Nairiku Line

Akita Nairiku Winter Bridge Train

The Akita Nairiku Line offers an unforgettable train ride through the prefecture’s breathtaking landscapes for those seeking natural beauty. This scenic railway journey takes passengers through dense woods, serene rivers and majestic mountains. The line is stunning in winter when the region is blanketed in thick snow, creating a picturesque winter wonderland.

Notable stops include Takanosu Station and Kakunodate Station, each providing unique opportunities to explore local culture and natural beauty. Travelers will witness expansive farmland, rolling hills and charming rural villages along the journey. The winter scenery is breathtaking, with snow-covered fields and frosted trees enhancing the tranquil landscape. The Akita Nairiku Line offers a serene escape into the heart of Akita’s landscapes.

  • Unlimited Pass: Overseas visitors can find special savings here
  • Termini: Starts at Kakunodate and Takanosu
  • Website: Akita Nairiku Line

With so much to offer, which reason will you choose to visit Akita? Plan your visit today at Stay Akita.

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