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3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Kakunodate - Lake Tazawa-ko - Morioka

Northern Tohoku

3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Northern Tohoku / Kakunodate - Lake Tazawa-ko - Morioka

Kakunodate is a castle town that was built in 1620 by Ashina Yoshikatsu, the younger brother of Satake Yoshinobu, the ruler of Akita. The house of Ashina died out after three generations, and the town was then ruled by Satake Bokke, the head of the Satake household. You can see the town sights on foot, but if the season is right you can also rent a bicycle. For those who want a retro atmosphere, now-rare jinrikisha(rickshaw) are also in operation.

First let's go to Uchimachi Bukeyashiki-dori Avenue. This is still lined with samurai houses, whose black walls and drooping cherry trees give them a dignified appearance, and give one the feeling of having traveled back in time. Uchimachi used to contain the houses of feudal retainers, and tourists can now visit lots of these. You are free to visit the houses, such as Onoda-ke, Kawarada-ke, Matsumoto-ke and Iwabashi-ke. The rice granary of Kawarada-ke contains an exhibition of the Kakunodate samurai houses, including clothes, household utensils and old documents.

Tourists can go inside some houses, like Aoyagi-ke and Ishiguro-ke. Today we are going to visit Ishiguro-ke. The family is still living here even today, but we can go and look round some of the rooms. In the house's storeroom are displayed valuable exhibits such as armor and household utensils.

The slightly odd building right in front of Uchimachi Bukeyashiki-dori Avenue is Kakunodate-machi Denshokan (Folklore Museum). This was designed in the old architectural style of Kakunodate, and as well as an exhibition of historical artifacts, it offers demonstrations of how to make craft products made out of birch, which has been a traditional craft for 200 years. Birch craft products are made by polishing the bark of wild cherry trees, and they have the warm appearance of bark. They are often used to make tea utensils.

Near the town office is a vacant piece of land called "hiyoke", which was designed so that even if a large fire broke out, the whole town would not be destroyed. South of this is an area called Tomachi, where there are rows of merchant houses. You might think these are just relics, but take a look and you will be surprised: they are stores still in operation. The most prominent of these are Fujiki Denshiro-shoten, which handles birch craft products, and Ando-ke, which makes miso bean paste and soy sauce. Their dignified construction gives the stores and warehouses a historical atmosphere.

There is another area of samurai houses to the east of Tomachi, called Tamachi Bukeyashiki-dori Avenue, and of these Nishinomiya-ke is presently open to the public.

The Nishinomiya-ke house thrived as a landowner from the Meiji to the Taisho Eras, and the main house and storehouse are still the same as they were at that time. The old look of the building gives it a sense of a different kind of affluence from the other samurai houses.

After immersing ourselves in history and culture, it would be nice now to see some nature in the Michinoku(old name of Tohoku) area. So we are now heading by bus for Lake Tazawa-ko. Lake Tazawa-ko is 20 km in circumference, and its depth of 423.4 m makes it the deepest lake in Japan. Just this fact gives it a strangely mysterious atmosphere. The lake is right in front of Tazawa-kohan (Tazawa Lakeshore) bus stop at the end of the bus route. Here there is a white beach that is used for swimming in summer, as well as a departure and arrival point for a sightseeing boat (operating from late April to mid November). The lakeside has a footpath and a cycle route, so when the season is right you can enjoy walks and cycling.

Today we're going to take a trip round the lake on a bus, the Tazawa-ko Isshu-sen ("Lake Tazawa-ko Circular Bus"), which takes about an hour. This will let us see the lake from all sorts of angles. You can get off the bus at one of the stops on the way, but it should be enough to just go round the lake once on the same bus. If you look out of the bus window, the surrounding scenery changes. The color and appearance of the lake also change with the angle of the sunlight, and it sometimes looks like a completely different lake. This may be the origin of the lake's being called mysterious. On the way, the bus stops for 10 minutes each at Katajiri Shrine, which has a statue of Tatsuko, and Gozanoishi-jinja Shrine. I'm quickly going to get off the bus, and take photographs of the statue of Tatsuko and the lake with the sun hitting the water surface at an angle.

The statue of Tatsuko is now a symbol of Lake Tazawa-ko, but there is in fact a strange, sad legend about it. According to this, a long time ago, a beautiful girl called Tatsuko wished for her youth and beauty to be preserved forever. When she drank some spring water as she was told to, Tatsuko turned into a big dragon and sank to the bottom of the lake. If you think of this legend while looking at the statue of Tatsuko on the lakeside, she looks rather sad.

The bus is first going to return to Tazawa-kohan (Tazawa Lakeshore) bus stop before going on to JR Tazawa-ko Station. So let's go off now to Morioka, where we are going to spend the night.