|Location||Senshu, Akita City. (map)|
Senshu Park (千秋公園, Senshū kōen) is a park in Akita City, created on the site of the former Kubota Castle. Afterwards, Senshu Park was established by the Akita City government, and currently occupies most of the Senshu district in Akita City. Currently, Senshu Park is a popular destination to view cherry blossoms in the spring season.
Senshu Park is considered one of the top 100 parks in Japan, while Kubota Castle was designated one of the top 100 castles in Japan by the Japan Castle Foundation (日本城郭協会, Nihon Jōkaku Kyōkai) in 2006.
During the Edo Period, a castle was first established on the site in 1604 when Tokugawa Ieyasu assigned Satake Yoshinobu to govern the region. Under the governance of the Satake clan, the castle and surrounding settlement grew steadily over the following decades, until the original castle burned down in a fire on September 21, 1633. The castle was restored in 1635, and shortly thereafter acquired the name "Kubota Castle" (久保田城 Kubota-jō). Other names for the castle include "Yadome-jō" (矢留城) or "Kuzune-jō" (葛根城). During the Tokugawa shogunate, the castle was also called "Akita-jō" (秋田城), though this name is now more commonly used to refer to the Nara period fortified settlement of Akita Castle which sat nearby.
Much of the castle and the surrounding town were again destroyed in a fire on April 2, 1776, and the main bailey burned down two years later from a lightning strike on July 10, 1778. Repairs to Kubota Castle were complete in 1797, though some structures were again destroyed by a fire on May 10, 1797.
During the Boshin War in the early years of the Meiji Restoration, the Satake clan had allied itself with the military forces loyal to the recently-displaced Tokugawa Shogunate before opting to support the new Meiji government instead. As a result, Kubota Castle and the surrounding town were seiged by the angered forces of the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei, an alliance of Tokugawa loyalists. Following the end of the Boshin War and full consolidation of Imperial power under Emperor Meiji, the Satake clan surrendered Kubota Castle to the new government on June 17, 1869.
When Akita Prefecture was established in 1871, Kubota Castle temporarily served as the new prefectural office. Following the relocation of the prefectural office in 1872, the castle was abandoned. On July 21, 1880, when a fire broke out in the abandoned bailey, Kubota castle burned down for the final time. The barren land was returned to the Satake clan in 1890, who in turn donated it to Akita City to be used as a park.
The Akita City government began development on the land in 1892, but returned it to the Akita Prefectural government in 1896. From then on, the area was officially named Senshu Park (千秋公園, Senshū kōen), and noted garden designer Nagaoka Yasuhei was tasked with laying out a new garden. A Hachiman shrine was constructed on the grounds, along with the Iyataka Jinja, a shrine dedicated to local scholar Hirata Atsutane.
Senshu Park currently hosts a number civic buildings, including the Akita City Library, Akita Civic Center, and Akita Museum of Art. In 1984, the Satake clan donated the rest of the former castle site to Akita City. One corner turret of Kubota Castle was reconstructed in 1989 to boost tourism and showcase its history. In 2001, the two-story front gate of the castle was reconstructed as well.
The park, which is 14.4 hectares in area with a circumference of 1.76 km, features a distinctly traditional Japanese style in aesthetics and gardening style. A traditional Japanese tea house can be found within the park, along with several museums and monuments dedicated to the history of the area.
The park is a favourite spot to observe cherry blossom trees in spring, with over 1,000 cherry trees planted by the Akita City government since 1892. There are also a number of Satsuki azalea plants throughout the park, along with a dedicated azalea garden, to showcase the official city flower. To the south of the park, visitors can also admire the vibrant lotus garden that occupies much of the former castle moat.
Senshu Park is located a short distance away from the eastern exit of Akita Station, and is also easily accessible when coming over the bridge from Tegata. The remnants of the old castle moat surround the southern and eastern edges of the park, but there are several entrances accessible on foot. Vehicle access is also possible through the entrance on the southern side, but there is very limited parking available.
There is an underground tunnel that cuts through the northern edge of the park, providing quick access between the Asahi river and Tegata.
As a place of cultural importance for Akita City, Senshu Park is a regular destination for a variety of events and seasonal festivals. On many national and regional holidays, it is common to find performances of taiko drumming and other music by local groups, as well as many stalls selling food associated with Japanese festivals.
Cherry Blossom Viewing
Because of the abundance of cherry trees and other flora that blossom in spring, Senshu Park is a popular destination for those looking to enjoy the Japanese tradition of hanami (花見, "flower viewing"). While the blossom forecast (桜前線, sakura-zensen) changes yearly based on the weather, the normal time for hanami in Akita City is mid to late April.
During mid September, Akita City hosts a fireworks and music show based out of Senshu Park. While most of the park is closed to visitors during the performance, they can be easily seen from many parts around the city. Enjoy the display and listen to the music and stories that are broadcast from the park.