Though Noshiro’s primary claims to fame are its wood industry and its basketball team, the city boasts unique architectural structures, extraordinary woodcraft prowess, and an awe-inspiring summer festival.
Dining in Style: Kaneyu
Kaneyu opened in 1937 as a traditional Japanese-style restaurant, showcasing some of Akita’s finest cuisine as well as its exquisite local timber. It now serves as a museum and event stage and can be viewed free of charge. When Kaneyu was first built, no expense was spared, which is evident by looking at the many unique wooden structures and architectural features throughout the building. Though mostly using Akita cedar to highlight its versatility, Kaneyu boasts a variety of wood types from all over Japan, including pine, cypress, Ezo spruce, zelkova, cherry, and many more.
Visitors should remember to look up as the ceilings in each room are different. The ceiling in the second-floor banquet hall features wood from the root of a giant cedar tree rather than the trunk, which is exceedingly rare. Those who would like a taste of Kaneyu’s glorious past as a restaurant can book a private room overlooking the garden and dine on a lavish meal ordered from one of the nearby local restaurants. Reservations for this must be made in advance and service and room rental fees apply.
Crafts Surviving the Ages: Akita Cedar Casks
The craftsment of Noshiro, nicknamed the Wood Capital, are known for their dedication to making items with great care and consideration to raw materials and design. It is for this reason they use wood from Akita cedars to make everything from traditional rice containers known as ohitsu, to modern beer mugs and wine buckets. Akita cedar is not only resistant to warping, making it an easy material to work with, it also has a fine and straight woodgrain, giving any item made using it a naturally elegant appearance.
Castles in the Sky: Noshiro Tanabata Festival
Noshiro has a long history of celebrating Yaku-Tanabata, a traditional summer festival. In the Edo period the city used 17.6m-tall floats in the shape of Nagoya Castle as part of its celebrations. This continued until the Meiji period, but eventually power lines were installed on the streets and restricted the size of the floats.
In 2013, Noshiro revived its Tenku no Fuyajo (Sleepless Cities in the Sky) festival after burying power lines to open the city to giant lantern floats again. Now, the tallest lantern float is an awe-inspiring 24.1m in height. Each level of these bright and colorful floats depicts a different historical or mythical scene, making their enormity even more spellbinding. The festival takes place annually on August 3-4.
Noshiro Tanabata Festival, noshiro-huyajou.jp
HOW TO GET THERE
From Tokyo, via Akita City
Tokyo Stn -> (Akita Shinkansen) -> Akita Stn -> (Ou Main Line) -> Higashi-Noshiro Stn -> (Gono Line) -> Noshiro Stn
Haneda Airport -> Akita Airport -> Akita Stn ->(Ou Main Line) -> Higashi-Noshiro Stn -> (Gono Line) -> Noshiro Stn
From Tokyo, via Sendai
Tokyo Stn -> Tohoku Shinkansen -> Shin-Aomori Stn -> Ou Line Limited Express Tsugaru -> Higashi-Noshiro Stn -> Gono Line -> Noshiro Stn