Ani (阿仁) is a district (地区; -chiku) in Kitaakita, Akita, Japan. Before the Kitaakita City merger, the area encompassed by Ani District used to be the autonomous municipality of Ani Town (町; -machi). In March 2005, Ani merged with Takanosu Town, Moriyoshi Town, and Aikawa Town to form Kitaakita City.
Ani Town was the result of a merge between Aniai Town (阿仁町) and Ōani Village (大阿仁村) in 1955. Despite the merge into Kitaakita, Ani still maintains a local atmosphere as well as its own festivals and charms; the same can be said of both of these areas.
Aniai Town was born in 1897 as a rebranding of Ani Dōzan Village (阿仁銅山村; lit. "Ani Bronze-mine Village"). Ōani Village was born in 1937 as a rebranding of Arase Village (荒瀬村).
The area had thriving gold, silver, copper, and coal mining industries in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but in 1970 the last of these mines closed and as a result, much of the town's economy has disappeared. In 2005, the town disappeared as well in the form of an independent municipality.
Location and Population
Ani is located in the southern part of Kitaakita. Ani has an area of 371.92km². The population in 2005 was 4,026, giving the former town a population density of only 10.82 persons per km². Ani is a rapidly shrinking community as more than 40 percent of the town's residents are over 65 years of age. Between 2000 and 2005, Ani's population decreased 12.4 percent. This was the largest population decrease among all former and current municipalities in Akita prefecture.
In Kitaakita, Ani is the largest of four towns in area, yet the least populated. Ani is the 'backdoor' to Kitaakita as the only way south of Ani is a nauseating and sometimes dangerous drive on Route 105, or a lengthy and costly train ride on the Akita Nairiku Line. Ani has the most nature of any of the towns in Kitaakita, be it mountains, rivers, and wildlife! Indeed, Ani's symbol and claim to fame is the Asiatic Black Bear and the locals who hunt these bears, known as matagi. The name 'Ani,' which is used for the town and nearby river, is rooted in the name of the town's central hamlet, 'Aniai.' 'Aniai' is a word of Ainu origin which was the name used for the area for many centuries.
In southern Ani, around the Hitachinai hamlet and beyond, the Matagi tradition is alive and well even today. Adjacent to the Utto Onsen is the Matagi Museum, a small collection of tools used by the matagi and some bear skins for good measure. Within the onsen is a cafe where one can enjoy some rare, yet costly bear meat raman soup. You can also enjoy Doburoku produced from the attached Doburoku Refinery. Further south and away from civilization in southern Ani is the Bear Ranch. Animal rights activists should avoid this place at all costs as you'll find dozens of black bears stuffed together in pins of pure concrete, but do reflect on it a bit and you'll realize that's not much different than living in a apartment complex in central Tokyo. The bear ranch is in a beautiful area and closed in winter. If you're lucky and so desire, you might get the chance to hold and have your photo with a cub, given you can bear the stench and you can keep ahold of the rambunctious critter.
Ani Frozen Tree Festival (阿仁の樹氷まつり): mid-January through mid-March
- People come from all over the prefecture (particularly from Akita City) to view the snow-blown trees on the peak of Mt. Moriyoshi. With the winds and the snow build-up throughout the winter, snow is cast and stuck onto the trees, making them into snow monsters. To view the trees, on has to take the gondola at Ani Ski Resort. A roundtrip ticket is ￥1,500 for adults. However, the trees can easily be seen if you're at the resort just for skiing or snowboarding.
Ani Fireworks: August 16
- The Ani Fireworks festival is the largest festival in Ani. While the Omagari Fireworks may be the largest fireworks festival in the prefecture by volume, the sheer proximity of the fireworks along the Kasen River in Aniai is unrivaled. Just before dark, as an Obon tradition, lanterns are floated down the river in front of the audience. After the lantern floating is concluded, and the sun firmly sets, the fireworks begin. You are almost better off lying than sitting, because the fireworks explode almost directly overhead! They are launched from behind the trees across the river, and their reverberations through Ani's many mountains make this a fireworks display that's second to none.
- The Akita Nairiku Line runs extra trains on this day, so you can make it back safely and expediently to Takanosu. If you are drinking (or even if you aren't), I recommend the bear-meat stew and the minced croquette as snacks!
Akita Nairikusen Vehicles Festival (秋田内陸線のりものまつり) : Mid-May (2017 dates: May 20-21) 2017 Pamphlet
- This two-day, children's festival is sponsored by the Akita Nairiku Line, and is easily accessible by train - just disembark at Aniai Station and you're there! A wide array of vehicles are on display at this festival, including: buses, police cars, JSDF vehicles, snow groomers, cranes, fire trucks, etc. Children (and adults) can enjoy sitting in the driver's seat of their favorite ones! Also for adults: this festival incorporates much of Aniai Area's local tradition, with many historical shops and temples open to the public. Multiple music and dance performances are held in front of Ani Town Hall, too.
Foreigner House Festival (異人館フェスティバル): August 16
- This oddly named festival is indeed, an odd festival. The festival isn't celebrating the house of the ALT. Rather, they celebrate the house of German engineers who lived in Aniai during the 19th century. The festival includes German flag decorations around Aniai, German lager beer, children sending lanterns along the Ani River, and fireworks. It brings in a lot of people to an otherwise sleepy hamlet.
Foreigner's House (異人館; Ijin-kan):
Official Homepage (Japanese)
- The relics of the mining era can be seen in an old house where German mining engineer Adolph Mezger and his staff lived in the early Meiji Era. It is connected to the Ani Folklore Museum (伝承館; Denshōkan) by an underground, replica tunnel shaft. The Folklore Museum contains several old maps, diagrams, and pieces of ore. The Foreigner's House has some of Mezger's original manuscripts preserved. The museum is open 10:00-18:00 (until 17:00 from December to February), and is closed on Mondays (unless the Monday falls on a bank holiday, then it's closed the following Tuesday instead). The entry fee is ￥400 for adults.
Ani Ski Resort (阿仁スキー場; Ani Sukī-jō):
- Located on the south side of Mt. Moriyoshi is Ani Ski Resort, one of the best and most easily accessible ski resorts in Akita. Currently, Ani Ski Resort is the only operating Ski Resort on Mt. Moriyoshi, although there used to be Moriyoshi Ski Resort on the opposite side of the mountain. The resort has two lifts and one long, slow gondola. Using the resort's gondola, one can climb to the top of Mt. Moriyoshi in an hour or two. From Ani Ski Resort's gondola, one can also take the Frozen Tree Tour in the winter months, an activity popular among the locals. A one day pass at Ani is ￥3,300 and a four hour pass is ￥2,500 for adults. If you want to take the gondola for mountain climbing or viewing the frozen trees, it is ￥1,500 roundtrip for adults. The resort includes a ski rental shop and cafe.
- Your Ani lift tickets are good for a ￥100 discount at Utto Onsen. This is a great way to avoid those sore muscles in the morning!
Yasu Falls (安の滝; Yasu-no-taki):
See: Yasu-no-Taki Falls
- Located past Utto Onsen, this waterfall is located on a hiking course deep in the mountains of Ani. It is one of three famous waterfalls in Kitaakita City, along with Sankai Falls and Toudou Falls. Of these three, Yasu Falls alone was selected as one of the top 100 waterfalls in all Japan. It is one of the must-see nature spots in Kitaakita City. The colors in autumn are splendid, but be careful, because the hiking path to the falls closes in winter!
Kumakuma-en Bear Zoo (くまくまえん; Kumakuma-en):
- Located next door to Utto Onsen, this zoo houses many Asian black bears and brown bears. Come see them frolicking in the park (and feed them) in the warmer months. The facility is open from late April to early November, 9:00-16:00. Entrance fees are ￥700 for adults, ￥200 for elementary and junior high school students, and free for toddlers and under.
Tsuyukuma Gorge (露熊山峡; Tsuyukuma Sankyō):
- Accessible through Arase, near the Arase station. This gorge is part of an area that was formerly a small hamlet of 13 houses and an elementary school which has since been abandoned and buildings razed. "Nabeiwa" (ナベ岩) is the main attraction, but there are other sites to explore as well, such as "Frog rock," and some old coal mining paths. This is an area off the beaten path that is best explored in a group and during late spring-early fall months. There is currently a volunteer group seeking to restore the area to be more accessible and visible for tourists. Visit the Tsuyukuma Project website for more information.
- Uttō Onsen (打当温泉)
Open 9:00-22:00, cost ¥400 (¥300 with same-day Ani Ski Resort lift ticket)
Affectionately known as the マタギの湯 ("Bear-hunting Onsen"), this onsen offers two indoor hot pools, with bubble jets in the floor. Additionally, there is a sauna and a cold water bath. The outdoor bath overlooks a nice valley of trees with a river running through the valley bed. Water flows from the mouths of stone bear heads. Soap and shampoo are provided. Strawberry milk is sold at this onsen. You can't drink the strawberry milk inside the actual onsen.
There are also two small private baths. These are reservable for ￥1000 for the first hour, and ￥500 for each additional half-hour.
Uttō offers reasonably priced accommodations for anyone who chooses to spend the night. There is also a restaurant that offers breakfast for guests and noodles, tempura and curry for non-guests.
To get to Uttō Onsen by car, follow Route 105 South from Takanosu about an hour and 10 minutes (if driving the speed limit) to the hamlet of Hitachinai or north from Kakunodate for about an hour. On the southern limits of the town of Hitachinai just south of the Eneos, there is a T-intersection. turn here and follow this road for 7 kilometers. Matagi no Yu will be on your right. If going by Nairikusen, get off at Ani Matagi Station - it's an unmanned station. If you call ahead of time, they will pick you up from the station for free (or you could walk for a while... good luck with that).
The latest pickup from Ani Matagi is 17:42.
The latest drop-off back at Ani Matagi is 18:33 for customers bound for Takanosu, and 18:01 for customers bound for Kakunodate.
The locals are friendly and many of them are named Suzuki.
Kogumatei (こぐま亭; Koguma-tei)
- This restaurant is located in the Aniai Station building. They pride themselves in their rice bowls topped with horse meat and their soy-sauce-flavored ramen. Other menu items include omelette rice, horse meat stew, etc. (note: the chef at Koguma-tei moved operations to the restaurant at Hokuonomori Park. Koguma-tei still operates with a new head chef but now with a completely revamped menu; to experience the horse meat dishes listed in this review, please visit Hokuonomori).
- Address: 秋田県北秋田市阿仁銀山字下新町119 (inside the Nairikusen station)
- Hours: 8:00~16:00
- TEL: 0186-82-3666
Takada Shokudo (高田食堂; Takada Shokudō)
- This is a local Showa-style Kissaten (Cafe) which offers your standard fare. You can get ramen, udon, tonkatsu, katsudon, curry, etc.
- Address: 秋田県北秋田市阿仁銀山字上新町66-1
- Hours: 11:30~18:00 (closed Sundays)
- TEL: 0186-82-2108
Takaya Ramen Shop
- A short walk south of the station along the main street.
Banrai Sushi (万来寿し; Banrai Zushi)
- A sushi restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere, tucked away in a corner of downtown Aniai, that has been in operation for over 50 years. They take pride in their exclusive use of Akita Komachi brand rice. While billed as a sushi restaurant, they also offer horse meat stew, fried chicken, and other izakaya-style menu items. Try the tuna! They also offer take-out sushi platters.
- Address: 秋田県北秋田市阿仁銀山字上新町78
- Hours: 17:00~23:30 (closed Mondays)
- (11:00~14:00 lunch hours on Wednesdays and Fridays)
- TEL: 0186-82-3129
Heihachi (平八; Heihachi)
- This is an izakaya in front of Aniai Station on the Nairikusen (the Nairikusen HQ). The owners are friendly and will gladly serve you drinks. They offer a selection of mushrooms and mountain vegetables as snacks, although you may have to call ahead of time if you want them to prepare a full meal. They brew their own doburoku, which they may bring out if the night is progressing smoothly.
- Address: 秋田県北秋田市阿仁銀山字下新町119
- Hours: 17:00~23:00
- TEL: 0186-82-3600
Yayoe (やよえ; Yayoe)
- The lone karaoke in Ani (or at least in Aniai)! Ani Junior High School often holds parties at this izakaya. They have alcohol but, as with Heihachi, if you don't book ahead of time they may have trouble serving you more than snacks.
- Address: 北秋田市阿仁銀山字上新町６８
Be advised that there are no convenience stores in Ani. The nearest convenience store is Family Mart in Maeda, Moriyoshi.
Ani does have local supermarkets, such as the friendly Minasama no Marui in Aniai, however prices at these local supermarkets are considerably higher than convenience stores and chain supermarkets. Moreover, selection and operating hours are limited.
The closest chain grocery store is the Nicot in Maeda, Moriyoshi, just across the street from the Family Mart.
In Hitachinai, there is the Ani Roadside Station. This is a Roadside Station or Michi no Eki, along the Route 105. It makes for an excellent stop if passing through on a long road trip. The Roadside Station has a cafe, local exhibits, and local products for sale (including bear meat).
Ani area has one junior high school and two elementary schools.
Ani area was also home to the following former schools.
Junior High Schools
- Ōani Junior High School (merged to create Ani Daini Junior High School in 1962)
- Nakamura Junior High School (same as above)
- Aniai Junior High School (name changed to Ani Daiichi Junior High School in 1974)
- Ani Daiichi Junior High School (merged to create Ani Junior High School in 1991)
- Ani Daini Junior High School (same as above)
- Sanmai Elementary School (merged into Aniai Elementary School in 1978)
- Arase Elementary School (same as above)
- Fushikage Elementary School (same as above)
- Nekko Elementary School (merged into Aniai Elementary School in 1998)
- Nakamura Elementary School (merged into Ōani Elementary School in 1995)
|Top Page||Kitaakita City|
|Former Municipalities||Takanosu • Moriyoshi • Ani • Aikawa|
|Sightseeing||Yasu-no-Taki Falls • Mt. Moriyoshi • Moriyoshi Tire Man • Hokuōnomori Park|
|Skiing/Snowboarding||Ani Ski Resort • Yakushizan Ski Area • Moriyoshi Ski Resort|
|Food and Drink||Doburoku|
|Transport||Takanosu-Odate Bus Schedule • JR Ōu Line • Akita Nairiku Line • Odate-Noshiro Airport|
|Driving||Roadside Stations||Takanosu • Odate-Noshiro Airport • Ani|
|Roads||Route 7 • Route 105|
|Living||Education in Kitaakita • Kitaakita garbage collection|