|Akita Prefecture in Japan|
|Population||1,066,627 (as of 4/1/2012)|
|Tree||Akita Cedar (秋田杉)|
|Flower||Giant Butterbur (フキノトウ)|
|Bird||Copper pheasant (ヤマドリ)|
|Governor||Norihisa Satake (佐竹敬久)|
|Address|| (〒010-8570 秋田県|
- "Akita" redirects here. For other uses see Akita (disambiguation).
Akita Prefecture (秋田県; -ken) is a prefecture in the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan, and home to the Akita JET program.
Akita is the 6th most extensive and the 37th most populous prefecture in Japan. Roughly 30% of her 1,066,627 residents reside in her capital and largest city, Akita City, which is the center of the prefecture's transportation, business, industry and education.
Although some part of the region has been known as Akita since the 700s, the origin of the name is unclear. Two current theories posit that Akita (秋田 lit; autumn rice field) either derived from the old name Akuta (悪田; lit- bad rice field) because of how the land was originally thought to be unsuited for rice farming, or Agita (顎田; lit- chin rice field) because of how the area supposedly bore a resemblance to a human chin.
Akita Prefecture is surrounded by Aomori to the north, Iwate to the east, Miyagi to the southeast, and Yamagata to the south. Akita is located on the 40th parallel north and shares this latitude with Spain, Greece, Beijing, and Illinois in the U.S.. Akita is the sixth largest prefecture in Japan based on area.
With large swaths of undeveloped land compared to the rest of Japan, the prefecture is rich in natural resources which it uses to attract tourists. The roughly rectangular prefecture's features are largely dominated by Mount Chokai, the second largest mountain in Tohoku, in the south and the Ou Mountain range that runs along the center of the prefecture. Also of note are Lake Tazawa in Semboku, the deepest lake in Japan, and Lake Towada in Kosaka.
Visitors are especially abundant around the fall season when people from all over the country make the trek north to see the prefecture's famous displays of Autumn leaves. Some of the more popular spots for leaf viewing are Dakigaeri Gorge, Yuze Gorge, and Akita's many mountains. Akita is home to the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, Chokai, Kurikoma, and Oga Quasi-National Parks, and eight prefectural parks.
Resting on the Sea of Japan side of the country, Akita's climate is similar to other prefecture in the region. Along with Yamagata and Niigata prefecture, Akita is affected by the warm and cold air of the Tsushima current which results in snow and hail during the winter. Over 90% of the prefecture is classified by the Japanese government as "snow country" regions (areas characterized by heavy, long-lasting snowfalls). During the winter, Akita has the least amount of daylight hours of any of Japan's prefectures. The cold air depression from Akita Bay also results in frequent snowstorms and blizzards.
Summers in Akita are hot and humid, and have a prolonged rainy season. The cool summer winds that blow around the rest of the
Tohoku's mountains are sometimes obstructed by the Ou mountain range resulting in hot days and very humid nights. Because of these natural phenomenon Akita enjoys four very clearly delineated seasons throughout the year.
|Temperature °C (°F)||-0.1|
|Precipitation mm (inches)||114.4|
The culture of Akita is largely similar to the other areas in Tohoku. Particular to Akita is Akita-ben, the region's notoriously difficult to understand dialect. It is often joked that people from Akita are hard to understand because they aren't accustomed to opening their mouths due to the harsh cold winters. Akita is by and large considered to be more laid-back and less stressful of a place compared to large urban areas such as Tokyo or Osaka. For most Japanese citizens, the image of Akita is a decidedly rural one.
Besides the dialect and rural image, Akita is also known throughout the country for her hot springs, known as onsen, which are thought to have healing properties. Particularly famous examples are Tamagawa Onsen and Tsuru-no-Yu in Semboku. Akita is also home to the Omagari Fireworks, an annual competition where pyrotechnicians from around the country gather to show off the best fireworks that they have developed over the year.
Akita's prefectural song is the Akita kenminka.
Akita, true to its name, is one of the largest producers of rice in Japan and uses it to make two of her most famous dishes, Kiritanpo and Sake. Kiritanpo is made by crushing steamed rice until it is soft and then wrapping it around a cedar stick before grilling it over a fire. Kiritanpo is most often served in a hot pot with broth made from Hinai Chicken, a National Natural Monument. Akita's sake is also well known throughout the country and most years the prefecture is number one in the country by amount of Sake consumed per capita. The Hatahata, a local fish, is well known as an Akitan delicacy and is served raw as sushi, or is fermented to create shotsuru, a kind of fish sauce. Inaniwa Udon, one of Japan's 3 famous Udons, and Iburigakko, pickled vegetables, are two more example of traditional cuisine.
Less traditionally, Yakisoba from Yokote won the B-class Gourmet Grand Prix in 2010 and has been growing in popularity since. Visitors to Akita during the summer will also be able to enjoy Babahera, strawberry and banana flavored ice cream sold out of street-side stands by old ladies.
- For a full list of Akita Festivals, see the Festivals page.
Like all of Japan's northern prefectures, Akita's festivals focus on agriculture and the harsh winters. Akita's most famous festivals are the Kanto Festival in Akita City, and Oga's Namahage Festival. The Kanto festival is a harvest celebration where great stacks of lanterns on bamboo poles weighing up to 50 kilograms are lifted and balanced on the participants hands, waists, shoulders, and foreheads. The large arrays of lanterns are supposed to represent sheaves of rice in the autumn wind. The Namahage Festival in Oga is a new years celebration where men dressed up in Namahage costumes descend from the local mountain and travel around town, barging into houses to scare children into obeying their parents. Other famous festivals include the Kamakura Festival in Yokote and the Takeuchi Festival in Misato.
Akita has been striving in recent years to enhance its reputation as a prefecture known for sports. There are currently four prefectural sports teams: The Akita Northern Happinets (Basketball), The Akita Northern Bullets (Rugby), The TDK Baseball Club (Baseball), and Blaublitz Akita (Soccer). Although none of the prefecture's teams have been able to win a championship, the Northern Happinets in particular have been plagued by a variety of problems. After their first season in 2010 they fired their head coach Robert Pierce after the Happinets put in a disappointing 18-32 record. Many American players went home following the March 11th Earthquake, further compounding problems. Most recently, in January 2012 a foreign player was arrested by police for stealing three cans of chu-hai from a local convenience store.
Ruins from the paleolithic period have been found in the Akita region signalling that humans have lived in the area for around 20,000 years.
Akita is divided into 23 municipalities: 13 cities, 9 towns, and 3 villages. The administrative layout is the result of many year of mergers in an effort to improve efficiency and lower governmental costs. The local municipalities are in charge of the majority of the administrative tasks in their area and are allowed a free hand when designing rules, resulting in ordinances that vary widely across the prefecture (such as how to dipose of trash)
The prefectural government sits at the kencho complex of buildings in Akita City. The head of the Akita government is the governor who is nominally in charge of all projects that the ken undertakes. From this office the government handles all matters that are not under control of the local municipalities and is also home to the International Affairs Division - the office that manages Akita's JET Program.
Akita remains a prefecture heavily dependent on agriculture and forestry, specifically rice production. The Akita Komachi and Yume Obako cultivars are two strains of rice that are grown almost exclusively in the prefecture and are exported around the country. Informally the Akita Komachi strain is thought to be the second tastiest rice in Japan after Niigata's Koshihikari. A type of cyprus tree specific to the area known as "Akita Cedar" (秋田杉) is also widely harvested and sold
around the country for it's strength and the beauty of it's grain.
The northern areas in Akita were formerly known as some of the most prodigious mining areas in Asia, although this ended with the collapse of the mining industry in Japan after the unpegging of the yen to the dollar in the 1980s. The old mining facilities have been turned into tourist facilities (such as in the case of Osarizawa Mineland in Kazuno) or have been refurbished to satisfy different needs. One mining company in Kosaka has changed focus from extracting the metals found in ores to extracting precious metals found in electronic waste scraps, creating a new field called "Urban Mining".
The prefecture's main port, Akita Port in Akita City, saw its use skyrocket after many of Northern Japan's Pacific ports were damaged after the 3/11 earthquake. Akita is Japan's fifth largest producer of sake by volume after Hyogo, Kyoto, Niigata, and Aichi. Akita also leads the country in domestic production of capacitors.
Well connected to the rest of the country, Akita can be reached through a variety of modes of travel. The undisputed center of transportation in the prefecture is Akita City.
There are two Airports in the prefecture- the Akita Airport in Akita City, and the Odate-Noshiro Airport in Kitaakita. Both airports have several daily flights to Tokyo, and Akita Airport also has weekly international flights direct to Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea. Most JETs first arrive in Akita through one of these two air hubs.
Akita is most easily accessed from Tokyo by using the Shinkansen which has a terminus in Akita City. The Akita Shinkansen, named the Komachi, is a sub-branch of the much larger Tohoku Shinkansen that is built on a smaller gauge track which forces the Komachi to run at slightly slower speed than the larger bullet trains running between Tokyo and Osaka. Aside from the bullet train, a wide network of local rail is also spread out across the prefecture, allowing convenient travel to most cities. There are also two much smaller quasi-public railways that serve the more rural areas of the prefecture as well-The Akita Nairiku Line, and the Yuri Kogen Line.
For a majority of the people living in the prefecture, roads are the primary avenue of travel. Compared with larger urban areas, the rail system in Akita has less accessibility and fewer trains throughout the day. Although having a car is not an absolute necessity for life in certain areas of Akita such as Akita City, there are many places in the prefecture that can simply not be reached without a vehicle. Major roads in Akita include the Akita Expressway and the Route 7.
Night buses also regularly run between Tokyo and various cities in Akita which provides a cheaper, although slightly more uncomfortable, alternative to travelling on the shinkansen.
In addition to several vocational schools, Akita is home to 5 institutions of high learning:
- Akita University (秋田大学)
- Akita International University (国際教養大学)
- Akita Prefectural University (秋田県立大学)
- North Asia University (ノースアジア大学)
- Akita University of Nursing and Welfare (秋田看護福祉大学)
The following are old maps of Akita from The University of Texas
|Northern Akita||Fujisato • Happō • Kamikoani • Kazuno • Kitaakita • Kosaka • Mitane • Noshiro • Ōdate|
|Central Akita||Akita City • Gojōme • Hachirōgata • Ikawa • Katagami • Oga • Ōgata • Semboku|
|Southern Akita||Daisen • Higashinaruse • Misato • Nikaho • Ugo • Yokote • Yurihonjō • Yuzawa|