|Kosaka in Akita|
|Population||5,898 (as of 2012-04-01)|
|Tree||Sargent's Cherry (ベニヤマザクラ)|
|Fish||Sockeye salmon (ヒメマス)|
Kosaka (小坂町; -machi, lit. Small Hill) is the most northeastern town of Akita Prefecture. Famous for its (now defunct) mines, Kosaka was one of the first areas in Japan to recieve both plumbing and electricity, and was one of the largest ore production areas in Asia during the early- to mid-1900's.
Kosaka has a current estimated population of around 6,000 and a total area of around 200km², though a significant portion of that area is uninhabited forests and mountains. Like much of Tohoku, Kosaka is suffering from emmigration and a dwindling population, particularly amongst the young.
As the extreme northeastern corner of Akita Prefecture, Kosaka is bordered by Iwate on the east and Aomori Prefecture on the north. Located in the Northeastern corner of Kosaka is Lake Towada, one of the largest lakes in Japan.
Kosaka Town proper is both fairly compact and quite isolated, located in a small valley and surrounded by uninhabitable mountains on all sides. The neighboring cities of Ōdate and Kazuno, for example, both lie upwards of 20 kilometers to the west and south, respectively, and can only be reached through isolated, winding mountain roads. There is no train station in Kosaka, though the town can be reached by (infrequent) buses from both Hanawa to the south and Ōdate to the west. Buses from Morioka and Sendai also make stops at Kosaka High School (小阪高校前). The nearest train station is Towadaminami (十和田南駅）, from which a 10 minute busride can take you to Kosaka proper.
Though Kosaka has only a limited foreign population (made up mostly of Southeast Asians), the population of Kosaka has a reputation of being quite open to foreign visitors: as Kosaka hosts the Japanese International Cooperation Agency's (JICA) yearly mining interns (a group of 10-12 foreigners from Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa), and has a very active Kosaka International Society (KIS), the people of Kosaka are regularly exposed to foreign cultures and ideas.
Pre-World War II
Kosaka Town was a major industrial center throughout most of the Meiji Period, due to its high-volume production of silver, copper, iron, and other such ores. During the early 1900's, Kosaka was the highest producer of silver in Japan, and one of the highest producing mines in all of Asia. As such, it was a major industrial and technological center throughout most of the 1900's, as well as one of the production centers for Japan during World War II.
Due to Kosaka's importance and its thriving industry, the residents of the area were some of the first of Japan to enjoy the benefits of electricity, plumbing, and running water. Furthermore, Kosaka recorded its highest population during the first half of the 20th Century, a population that has been steadily declining ever since.
Post-World War II
With the end of World War II, the raw ore needs of the Japanese waned, and international trade brought a severe recession in the Japanese mining and production industry. Without another industry to fall back on, Kosaka suffered in both income and growth. In the ensuing years, Kosaka's population would drop by over 50% (Est. 20,000 people in 1940 to est. 7,000 by the year 2000), and the population continues to both age and shrink even today.
Though the mines would continue to produce ore until almost the end of the century, by the end of the 1970's Kosaka's place in Japan and Asia had been superseded. Kosaka's last mine ceased operations in 1990, and has since been converted into a recycling and future-tech plant.
As Kosaka has more or less existed in its current location since the mid 1800's, it boasts several buildings of importance and a significant number of shrines, many of which can only be reached through hiking. The two main historical buildings of Kosaka are:
- Korakukan - The Kabuki Theater of Kosaka, built in 1910 and designated a nationally important cultural property of Japan in 2002, is the largest extant wooden theatre in the country and one of the oldest surviving wooden Kabuki theatres on Honshu. The theater itself is peculiar for its Western-style frontal facade and classical Japanese interior. Tours (by classically Trained Kuroko) and several performances are held daily, both in the afternoon and at night, from April to November. The day shows, though not considered "True Kabuki," are often light and contemporary, featuring a kabuki play, singing, dancing, and both dramatic and Rakugo style comedy. One should not fear entering unprepared, though audience participation is common. The cost for an adult ticket is 2000 yen. Also, several months throughout the year, more famous Kabuki troupes will stop at the Korakukan and deliver formal "True Kabuki" performances, much different and more serious than the day shows. The more formal, "True Kabuki" night shows are also far more expensive and, depending on the performers, typically cost upwards of 10,000 yen. The Korakukan schedule, pricing, and coming attractions can be found at its website (Japanese).
- Kosaka Mining Office - The Kosaka Mining Office, built in 1905 and designated a nationally important cultural property of Japan in 2002, was used as the head offices of Kosaka Smelting and Refining Co. Ltd. until their dissolution in 1990. When it was to be destroyed to make way for a new smelter in 1997, it was purchased by the town and rebuilt (using over 90% of its original materials) inside the town proper. It now houses a museum, a wedding chapel, and the offices of the local Tourism Bureau, as well as the office of the local JET Coordinator for International Relations.
As a significant area of the Kosaka region is uninhabited wildlife, Kosaka is home to much natural beauty.
Lake Towada, located approximately 20 kilometers to the northeast of the town, is a famous and popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the Tohoku Region, particularly during the fall leaf viewing season. Furthermore, thanks to the extensive Towada-Hachimantai National Park, of which most of the Kosaka region is a part, the area around the lake is full of safe, well-mapped mountain hiking trails and paths.
- Southern Towada Hiking Trail - When heading towards Lake Towada along the Jukai Line, there are several stop-offs and small parking areas on the left side of the road for the Southern Towada Hiking Trail. It is made up of several smaller trails, and from the starting station one can follow the well-mapped and maintained mountain trails all the way to the shores of the lake itself. The longest possible path has a length of around 14km, though shorter paths to the lake are available. Note: Though uncommon, as bears are known to reside in the area it is highly recommended to prepare accordingly. Wise hikers will carry some sort of noise-making device and will not carry pungent food that is likely to attract such animals.
- Shimetei Towada Observatory - Also along the Jukai Line, the Lake Towada Viewing Platform is another small parking area on the left side of the road that offers a breathtaking scene of the lake from a high altitude. It is a popular rest stop for tours and other visitors. Two platforms exist: one shortly before turning off of the Jukai Line onto the 103, and another shortly after turning left onto the 103.
- Nanataki Waterfall - Closer to Kosaka but also along the Jukai Line towards Towada is the Nanataki Waterfall, a natural 60m waterfall viewable from the road, a small pavilion near the bottom of the waterfall, and a gift shop/restaurant located across the street from the waterfall. The gift shop itself is known for its delicious ice cream, ranging in flavors from green tea, to mountain grape (山葡萄 "yamabudou") and soba flavored, depending on the season. A great place to take a rest on the way to Towada, as the next rest stop after Nanataki is not for a significant period of time.
Kosaka has several festivals throughout the year, both located in the town as well as located on the southwestern shores of Lake Towada. The Tanabata Festival and Acacia Festival in particular are popular destinations for those looking to see a local celebration.
- Acacia Festival (Actual date varies yearly - sometime between late May and mid-June; lasts about a week) - The Kosaka Acacia Festival takes place down the main historic street of Kosaka, the Meiji Hyakunen Doori. The festival was started in the mid 1900's when a significant amount of acacia trees (amongst others) were planted to restore the local flora and fauna that was destroyed by the exhaust from the then-active refinery. Included in the festival are taiko performances, classical Tohoku folk music concert performances, and even a town cricket tournament.
- Tanabata Festival (Early August; lasts 2 days) - The Tanabata festival of Kosaka is an old, classical tradition of Kosaka, as well as the other towns and cities surrounding Lake Towada. Elaborate floats constructed by crews representing each neighborhood are pulled through town and put on display to be judged at the end of the festival. Tanabata is a popular festival at which to consume copious amounts of alcohol. Professionals recommend that everyone give this one a try.
- Winter Festival (Early February; lasts about three weeks) - The Fuyu Monogatari Festival (冬物語祭り、lit. "Winter's Tale Festival"), located on the shores of Lake Towada, is a popular place for winter travelers to attend, despite the stinging cold. Japanese igloos, snow-made lanterns, fireworks, outdoor onsen, local wines, and Tsugaru Jamisen concerts are all available to experience.
The Kosaka region has many onsen and rotenburo, many of which can be enjoyed for a fraction of the cost of other areas, or for no cost at all. Many of the onsen in the area have water piped down from the mountains, and much of the water used is known for its high calcium content and extraordinarily hot water, sometimes reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius.
- Hachikurō Onsen (八九郎温泉)
- Okuhachikurō Onsen (奥八九郎温泉) Info and map
- Okuokuhachikurō Onsen (奥々八九郎温泉)
- Koshūtei (湖秀亭) Homepage
- Towadako Lake View Hotel (十和田湖レークビューホテル) Homepage
- Ryokusui Kaku (緑水閣) Homepage
- Towadako Park Hotel (十和田湖パークホテル)
- Minshuku Nagomi (湖畔の宿 民宿和み) Homepage
- Towadako Yūgetsu (とわだこ遊月) Homepage
- Hotel Shinzantei (ホテル賑山亭) Homepage
- Towada Prince Hotel (十和田プリンスホテル) - Another open air spa located on the shores of Lake Towada inside of the Towada Prince Hotel. The entry fee is 1000 yen, though a significant discount to 300 yen is available for local teachers. Towels and bathing supplies are supplied by the hotel. Directions: Follow the Jukai Line from Kosaka east, towards Towada. Follow the road for approximately 20km, taking a left at both stop-lighted t-intersections onto the 103 and then onto the 454. Once you reach the small base camp on the shores of Towada, The Towada Prince hotel will be on your right side. Note: Located close to the Towada Prince Hotel is a hotel called, more simply, The Towada Hotel, which can cause confusion. The Towada Hotel has an onsen that is only available to staying guests.
Eating and drinking
Though a smaller town, Kosaka is host to a variety of Japanese style restaurants, yakiniku joints, and a even a few snack bars.
- Daishoen(大昌園） - A typical family-style Japanese restaurant, and arguably the most popular restaurant in Kosaka. Has a typical menu selection ranging from curry to assorted rice and beef bowls. Beer is available. Traditional tatami seating also available. The stone bowl kimchi bimbibab comes highly recommended, as does the horumon. Average cost for a set (not including drinks) is between 500-1300 yen. Not recommended for vegetarians.
- Koraku - Cheaper tatami-styled hotplate yakiniku restaurant. Expect to be treated in a very friendly manner by the owner. Has a large assortment of tofu choices, which can be a boon for traveling vegetarians. Beer and liquor available for relatively cheap. Located on the same street as the post office, look for the white walls. Typical cost for a dinner (not including drinks) is around 700 yen.
- Seidoukan（青銅館） - Kosaka's high-end restaurant. Beer and liquor available. Has a wide selection of curry and other rice-based dishes. The squid-ink curry is a local delicacy, and worth trying. A common place to bring a date. Typical cost for a set (not including drinks) is closer to 1000 yen.
- Snack Bar Friend (スナックフレンド） - Friend is a light snack bar owned and operated by a local woman and her daughter, both of whom rent apartments and have regular interactions with foreigners. Regular price is expensive, though a little smooth-talking and entertainment might be able to net you a significant discount to 500 yen a drink. Though far more of a karaoke bar than a hostess club, it could lead to confusion and embarrassment should one enter while not prepared. Very common meeting place for some of the older men of the town. Free karaoke and bar food. Safe for women, but not recommended for women traveling alone.
- Weed (ウィード) - An izakaya, and one of the only in Kosaka. The frontal facade can be intimidating, but the restaurant itself is friendly yet cozy. Cheap and easy, recommended for small groups traveling together, though the restaurant may be too small for either single travelers to sit comfortably or large groups to be seated. Drinks and dinner will typically cost about 1500 yen.
- Snack Bar Bloom (スナックブルーム) Unmistakable, thanks to its bright neon sign (the only one of its kind in Kosaka). More of a 'normal' snack bar than Friend, and will certainly cost you more. Seating fee applicable. Women will most likely want to stay away. When paying for drinks, conversation with a hostess comes standard, which would be factored into the high cost of beverages. Though certainly inappropriate for conversation at the bar itself, the adventurous tale-seeker can ask around the town for the history of Bloom, which involves intrigue, suicide, and possibly even a haunting. Definitely not for women traveling alone.
The only chains you will find in Kosaka are those that go on car tires in the winter. The nearest food of that sort is located in Ōdate, 20 km to the west, where one can find a McDonalds, Yoshinoya, Mosburger, and Sukiya, amongst others. Kosaka does have a convenience store, Sunkus, as well as a grocery store, Max Value, both of which sell (and will heat) boxed lunches and other small foods.
Though Kosaka has a grocery store, it lacks many necessities for life in the area. In the neighboring Ōdate, however, there are both Aeon and Itoku supermarkets where one can find most goods, grocery or otherwise.
Kosaka is home to a winery, and due to its close proximity to Hirosaki, has a wide range of apples and other fruits. Towada Wine and Kosaka Apple Wine are both considered affordable souvenirs from the area, and can be purchased at any store that sells alcoholic beverages.
Kosaka is also home to a small farmers' market in the spring, summer, and fall seasons, though its days of operation change month-by-month. Catching it on a day it is open, however, can net one fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables for significantly cheaper than the supermarket variety.
Finally, there are a number of Acacia-related products available in Kosaka, including oils, perfumes, and an Acacia-infused honey. Most can be purchased at the gift shop across from Nanataki Waterfalls, which also has excellent mountain grape（山葡萄 - やまぶどう）ice cream in the spring and summer. There is a store on Route 282 in Kosaka proper that specializes in Acacia-infused honey.
|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|