Tohoku: Places to Explore

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Akita

In the scenic, faraway realm of Akita, the peaks of the Dewa Sanchi (Dewa Range), marked by Mt. Taihei, march off to the east, and the Sea of Japan lies at the edge of the fertile plains that extend to the west. The region's history began in the year 733, during the turbulent Nara period, with the establishment of Dewa-no-saku, a fortress built on a hill in Takashimizu by the powerful Yamato clan. The area, set up to guard trade routes, soon gained strategic importance, and during the Heian era, soldiers and their families began spreading outward. The Ando and Satake families each built major bastions in the Yuwa and Kawabe districts after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. These municipalities, now merged, are considered to be the foundations of modern Akita City. Today the prefectural capital (population 324,000) is a lively, likable city full of delicious food from the mountains, plain, rivers, and sea.

The countryside is devoted to producing what locals feel is the best rice in Japan, and they certainly do make good sake with it. Additionally, the fruits and vegetables grown here are unbelievably cheap and flavorful. The combination of climate, pure water, and healthful food are said to make the women of Akita the fairest in the land—a matter of prefectural, even national, pride. In the Japanese media, "scientific" studies have been trotted out since the 19th century as proof of the Akita bijin (Akita beauty) phenomenon.

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