In our “Art of Akita” series, we explore the region through the eyes of an artist to discover the unique characteristics of the region. Framed by its long harsh winters and short but hot summers, Akita’s four seasons are spectacular displays of extremes in color, temperature, and activities…

“Art is the child of nature” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” – Albert Camus

A Breathtaking Canvas: Oyasu-kyo

Splashes of amber, rusty browns and vibrant vermillion await visitors who make their way to Oyasu Gorge in southeastern Akita Prefecture. Take in the magnificent display of fall colors from the top of Kawarayu Bridge for a panoramic view of the 60-meter deep gorge or head down the 200-plus steps to the riverside to see the autumn leaves highlighted by the bridge’s bright red color. Walk by Minase River below and envelope yourself in the hot spring steam and the faint smell of sulphur that permeates the air. The source is easy to locate — scalding hot spring water erupts from the side of the mountain mere meters from the path, a potent reminder of Mother Nature’s force. To complete the experience, stay at one of the picturesque inns nearby to soak in the mineral-rich hot springs.

Oyasu Gorge and Hot Spring Village,

Cultural Capital: Senshu Park

An oasis of greenery in the middle of Akita City, Senshu Park is the perfect showcase for the four seasons right in the city center. The park sits on an area formerly owned by a samurai lord and the ruins of Kubota Castle can still be found here. You can spend hours roaming the pathways, discovering shrines and ponds and even a museum along the way. Head to the top of the hill to reach the observation deck — shaped as a replica of the old castle — to get a full view of the endless canvas of Akita city and its surroundings. If you want to take a break and rest your feet, head to recently reopened Saryo Café for some coffee and delectable Japanese sweets. It’s tucked away in one end of the park, offering a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Senshu Park,

Lovers’ Hill: Kimimachizaka Park

Lauded as one of the most romantic places in Akita, Kimimachizaka Park gets its name from Emperor Meiji who stopped by almost 140 years ago when he was traveling across Japan. He was struck by the beauty of the mountain and surrounding area and named it Kimimachizaka, meaning “waiting for you hill.” The name was inspired by a line from a waka poem that the emperor’s wife had written for him expressing her love and patience while waiting for him to return to her.

To capitalize on the romantic atmosphere, the park offers a picturesque Lovers’ Bell for couples to ring for good luck, or for singles to summon a partner. A love letter post box waits expectantly for visitors’ letters and a love poem contest held ever February keeps the lyrical tradition going.

One of the park’s most distinctive features is the bare cliff face known as Byoubu Iwa, which reminds of a traditional folding screen and comes alive when the bright colors of fall cover the mountainside. The park also boasts about 1,500 cherry trees, which shortly before Golden Week turn the park into a poetic display of pink blossoms. More adventurous souls can go kayaking in the river nearby.

Kimimachizaka Park,
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Photographs by Allan Abani