We’ve been touring together with Hachiko Jr, a small Akita-Inu, across the beautiful Tohoku Region. This month we visit Odate City, located in the deep mountains of Akita Prefecture in Northern Tohoku!
A Town of Puppies
Odate is best known for being the hometown of Hachiko, the famed Akita Inu dog known for his unwavering loyalty to his owner. While many tourists may be familiar with the famous Hachiko Statue that stands in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo, and to a lesser extent, the statue of Hachiko and his owner at the University of Tokyo Campus, very few know of the Hachiko Shrine in Odate! Besides Hachiko, this region is known for the Akita Inu dogs in general, as the breed originates from this area.
What to see
Immediately arriving at the station, you are greeted by tons of Akita Inu signage and statues. The first thing to check out is JR East’s Hachiko Shrine which is located next to the platform, before you exit the station. Upon exiting the station, there are several Akita Inu Statues that are popular among tourists. Also, depending on the day and time, you can also find quite a few actual Akita Inus hanging around the station courtesy of the local Akita Inu groups! When I went, there were at least 5 adult Akita Inus and an Akita Inu puppy in front of the station. I’ve notice them hanging around between 9am to 3pm.
If you’re still hungering to learn more about the Akita Inu, there’s an Akita Inu Museum south of the station, about 20 minutes on foot, or 5 minutes by car. The entrance fee is only 200 yen for adults. For more information you can look at their website on the link below, as well as checking out our dedicated review of the museum.
Overlooking the city is a giant kanji (Chinese character) written on the hillside. The Kanji says 大 (Dai), which means big or great. During mid August, when the city celebrates the Daimonji Matsuri, this is lit on fire, glowing at night and providing a beautiful view from nearly anywhere in the city (most of Odate is low rise, so it is easily viewable!).
What to Eat
Odate, like many other Akita cities, is famous for Kiritampo Nabe, which can best be described as cylindrical shaped rice cakes in hot pot. The best place for this is called Mukashi no Kiritanpoya (昔のきりたんぽや or Old Kiritanpo Shop), located at 75-5 Odate, Akita Prefecture 017-0896 (about a 10 minute drive from Odate Station). Please note that these hot pots are large and intended for groups. If you want to eat a smaller portion, you can visit Hanazen (花善) which is located in a dark grey building immediately in front of Odate Station. Kiritampo is particularly popular during fall to early spring when it’s cold. During the hotter days, you can try the Odate Sakura Buta Reimen, which is spicy pork over cold noodles. The best place for this is the first floor restaurant of Royal Hotel Odate, located 5 minutes from the station.
Odate Sakura Buta Reimen (Spicy Pork and Cold Noodles), perfect for summer! During the winter, try Odate’s Kiritampo Nabe (rice cake hot pot soup)
Odate is in very close proximity to other northern Akita sites. Odate can be a day trip, while you visit sites such as Akita’s Samurai town in Kakunodate, or if you want to view the serene nature of Lake Towada. For those wanting a coastal view, Odate is also within an hour’s ride away from Noshiro City (famed for having the tallest tree in Japan), and the Oga Peninsula. Check out our dedicated reviews to these places in the links below.
Where to Stay
Unfortunately, being a small city, Odate does not have a wide selection of accommodations. You will likely be stopping over the city as part of a day trip from Towada or Akita City. However, the few hotels that exist in the city are cheap. I highly recommend Royal Hotel Odate, which is located near the station. The hotel contains a hot spring with a view of the city skyline which includes the famous “Dai” kanji on the mountain side. Staying here also includes free breakfast and polite staff. There is also Route Inn, which is a large chain of business hotels, located 10 minutes from the station.
There are no direct shinkansen (bullet train) access to Odate. If you’re coming from Tokyo, you will need to take the shinkansen to a large city, then transfer to a slow train to Odate.
The fastest way would be taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, then transfering to the JR Ou Line to Odate, this will take roughly 4 hours and 30 minutes. A slightly longer but cheaper alternative is to take the shinkansen to Morioka, then transfering to the JR Hanawa Line to Odate (please note the JR Hanawa Line is only partially owned by JR, so those of you using the JR Rail Pass or the Seishun 18 ticket may pay around an additional 600 yen).
You can also fly into Odate, with the Odate-Noshiro Airport being only 30 minutes away from Odate. ANA offers four flights, 2 from Haneda to Odate, and 2 from Odate to Haneda.
Hyperdia, use this to plan your train itinerary – http://hyperdia.com
Japanican, useful site to check for hotels – http://www.japanican.com
Akita Dog Museum Official Homepage – http://www.akitainu-hozonkai.com/index.html
Our Review of the Dog Museum – http://gogotohoku.jp/archives/10136
Our Review of Kakunodate – http://news.gogotohoku.jp/2017/05/08/spring-rain-kakunodate/
Our Review of Oga – http://news.gogotohoku.jp/2017/02/22/namahage-festival-the-descending-deity/