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  • PAPERSKY #14 AKITAPHOTOGRAPHY: KEIGO SAITO

A Lush Green Tour through Early Summer Akita

, 2005/07/25

As we stared up in amazement at a double rainbow in the sky, a small elderly gentlemen said hello and shook our hands. “Akita, Yutaka. Nice to meet you.” Despite the man’s age (probably early 70’s) his eyes twinkled with a young boy’s curiosity and innocence. His cheeks were ruby red, filled with happiness and energy, and from his mouth flowed stories as wide and rich as the surrounding landscapes of rice fields and mountains. This magical man, Akita-san, embodied everything great about the land his mother had named him after. He was Akita embodied in a person.

As Akita-san guided us around the mountain, pointing out sansai (mountain vegetables), buna trees, bear tracks, frog eggs, and an abundance of plants, I couldn’t help put feel peaceful. In fact, in all my journeys I can’t remember visiting a place more peaceful than the early summer Akita we encountered. Everywhere we went, mountains, lakes, onsens and even the food we ate and people we met radiated a warm synchronized energy.

Akita in the early summer is a Yutaka land. For the eyes it is a place of emerald rivers, raging waterfalls and more shades of green then stars in the sky. For the stomach it is a showcase of Japan’s finest foods ranging from Jidori chicken, Akita Beef, homegrown rice, Nihonkai fish, sansai and some of Japan’s best sake made with some of Japan’s freshest mountain water.

This issue of PAPERSKY takes you on three guided nature walks around Akita.

The first course we have chosen is the Tomeyama walking course in Hachimori. On this walk you will be overwhelmed by the beautiful buna trees, and if you feel up to the challenge, you can pray beneath the mystic and beautiful Shirataki waterfall. The second course takes you to Kakunodate, where the water is bluer than the sky. The amazing Dakigaeri gorge is a walk you will remember forever and you’ll be lulled by the beauty of the Mikaeri no Taki waterfalls. After the walk be sure to stop by the snack shop for a super fresh dango and if you’re still hungry try out some of the jumbo sembei (rice crackers… tottemo natsukashi aji!). For the third course we travel to Akita Botanical Garden. This course is acutaly a great place to begin your adventure because all of Akita’s native plants are neatly labeled. When visiting the Akita Botanical Garden be sure to check out their wonderful collection of sansai.

All of the walks take approximately two to three hours, and all the walks can be self-guided, or for a few extra yen you can hire a guide who will point out to you all the sansai and other vegetation that overwhelms the lush forests and woods.

Also, each walk is accompanied by a short feature on a person who represents both the specific area of the walk as well as Akita. The three people we have selected include a young sake brewery owner and ex-manager of Hanaregumi, a female vice-president of a very unique supermarket that specializes in Akita area foods, and an itayazaiku who is keeping the minge tradition alive.

Besides the suggested courses don’t be scared to venture out on your own, as we did, and try  hunting for your own sansai and picking your own jyunsai (sprouts) while riding in a jyunsai boat.

PAPERSKY #14: AKITA Nature Walk

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