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History and Culture in Northern Akita

Odate City in Akita is extremely proud of its history and traditions, and rightly so, it is home to several fascinating aspects of Tohoku culture after all, including Magewappa craftsmanship, Kiritampo rice cakes and the much revered bear hunting Matagi!

The Kosaka Mine Office
  • The surrounding area also has a lot going for it, with an array of interesting history and activities ready to explore, not least of all the town of Kosaka which is just thirty minutes by car from Odate. In this article we will be taking a look at the various offerings both Odate and Kosaka have in terms of entertainment for visitors to the area who are keen to learn about its history.

    We will start in the quiet town of Kosaka. Once a bustling mining community, the local copper mine was the life and soul of the area when it opened in 1861 - it was the most profitable mine in all of Japan, and was in business for almost a whole century.
    After the mine closed there was a period of inactivity during which time many of the miners left, but the former premises is now back in business and is home to a “precious metals” recycling operation, giving the valuable metals inside old mobile phones and PCs a new lease of life. This is one of just three such recycling centers in the whole world.

    Kosaka Town

    Kosaka Town

    The Kosaka Mine Office

    The Kosaka Mine Office

    Visitors to Kosaka are welcome to step inside and read all about the past and present life of the Kosaka mine. The exhibits on display are in both Japanese and English, and the setting itself is well worth a look as well, as it incorporates both European and Japanese architectural styles of the early twentieth century, something that marks the era in which it was built (during the Meiji Restoration).

    Inside the Kosaka Mine Office

    Inside the Kosaka Mine Office

    Inside the Kosaka Mine Office

    Inside the Kosaka Mine Office

    View from inside he Kosaka  Mine Office

    View from inside he Kosaka Mine Office

    Just a few yards down the road is another remarkable building from the same period, a fully operational Kabuki theatre, built as a source of entertainment for the miners and their families. This large wooden structure is an impressive sight both inside and out and to this very day plays host to a number of famous Kabuki groups who make regular trips from around Japan to perform. If you happen to be in town when there’s a performance on and you manage to get hold of tickets you will be treated to a very special Japanese cultural experience. If not though, the theatre is open to visitors during the day time, which still offers one a rare glimpse inside the fascinating world of Japanese Kabuki theatre.

    Kosaka Korakukan Kabuki Theatre

    Kosaka Korakukan Kabuki Theatre

    Kosaka Korakukan Kabuki Theatre

    Kosaka Korakukan Kabuki Theatre

    Kosaka Korakukan Kabuki Theatre

    Kosaka Korakukan Kabuki Theatre

    Feeling peckish? When in this part of the Japan it is highly recommended that you stop in Odate to sample the Kiritampo – a traditional Akita dish made from freshly harvested rice which is grilled over charcoal around wooden skewers. It is usually served in a big broth with a variety of vegetables. Originally Kiritampo was a portable meal made for the local huntsmen (Matagi) to take into the mountains, these days however it is considered a specialty of the area, and served in a number of establishments. We particularly recommend the Hokushu Club in the center of Odate – a fifth generation family run restaurant that claim to be the first place to serve Kiritampo to the general public. The atmosphere of the building and history behind is just as fascinating as the food is delicious!

  • Appetizer Set at Hokushu Club

    Appetizer Set at Hokushu Club

    Preparing a Kiritampo Stew at the Hokushu Club

    Preparing a Kiritampo Stew at the Hokushu Club

    Inside the Hokushu Club

    Inside the Hokushu Club

    The Hokushu Club

    The Hokushu Club

    Another interesting aspect of Odate culture is Magewappa craftsmanship. Magewappa crafts include boxes, trays, steamers and other household goods finely crafted from thin slices of locally grown cedar. The shavings are boiled, bent into shape and then fastened with thin strips of bark from cherry blossom trees. Magewappa goods are known around the world for their elegant straight grain, simple yet aesthetically pleasing design and light yet very rich colour.

    Magewappa Goods

    Magewappa Goods

  • Magewappa Goods

    Magewappa Goods

    Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten in Odate offer visitors the opportunity to try their hand at making Magewappa goods themselves. Their shop has a well-stocked workshop and staff ready on hand to guide you in making your very own Magewappa piece to take home. The workshop takes around two hours in total and we also recommend putting some time aside to look through their collection of beautiful items for sale in the shop.

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

    Magewappa Goods Workshop

  • For further information check the following links:

    Kosaka Mine and Kosaka Korakukan Theatre:
    http://kosaka-mco.com/
    Hokushu Club:
    http://hokusyu.o-date.jp/wordpress/
    Magewappa Workshop:
    http://magewappa.com/
    https://workshop.magewappa.com/

    Supported by Akita Inu Tourism

    Korakukan
    rating 36 Reviews
    Address
    Akita Pref. Kadunogunkosakamachi Kosakakouzan Matsunoshita 2
    Phone
    0186293732
    Kosaka Mining Office
    rating 41 Reviews
    Address
    Akita Pref. Kadunogunkosakamachi Kosakakouzan Furudate 48-2
    Phone
    0186295522
    Kitakikurabu
    rating 3 Reviews
    Address
    Akita Pref. Odateshi Saiwaichou 15-6
    Phone
    0186422033
    Address
    秋田県大館市御成町1丁目12-27
    Phone
    0186597123
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