A Day Out in Oga
On a visit to Akita Prefecture one trip worth adding to your travel itinerary is a trip to the northwestern coast of Akita and Oga Peninsula. Within Japan, Oga is recognized for its rich historical folklore and more precisely for the Namahage tradition. The Namahage which look pretty scary, are actually kind-hearted demons that besides calling out people (especially children) for their misbehaviour, are said to bring fortune and joy to local residents. This mystical story is a big draw to this area but it is not the only attraction and setting out a day or maybe two to explore this unique peninsula is gratifying.
Located on the edge of the Sea of Japan and close to Akita City, Oga is a convenient location for taking part in water related activities from swimming in its beaches to fishing. One activity we recommend to get your Oga journey started is an early-morning Kayak fishing trip offered by Guesthouse Oga. For 6,000 yen you can paddle with a friend around the bay for up to five hours and try your luck at catching the local fish. No prior experience is necessary although it is preferable. For an extra 4,000 yen you can ask for an experienced to accompany you.
Back on dry land, the journey continues up the mountain and onto the Shinzan Shrine. This historical shrine is located behind the Namahage Museum and is connected to the Namahage tradition. Beyond its spiritual importance, it is an awesome place to add a steep hike as you make your way through a path of old cedar and up to the Shinzan Five Shrines.
On the way down, we recommend you to stop by to admire the magnificent kaya tree which is said to be at least a thousand years old.
Before leaving the Namahage area, a quick stop at the 10,000 Buddhas Shinzan is highly recommended. This tiny hall is filled with 10,000 wooden Buddhist statues and is a rarity of a site in this day and age.
After getting your fix of local folklore and the mystical side of Oga, make the approximately 30 minute drive over to Mount Kanpuzan and its rotating observatory. At 355 meters above sea level, the view from the top of the mountain is gorgeous and lets you appreciate the vastness of this part of Akita, and get a look a the town of Ogata, a town built on the reclaimed area of what used to be Japan’s second largest lake. For a small fee you can gain a few more metres of altitude and experience the rotating view of the observation deck.
From the observation deck you’ll notice the colourful paragliders taking off from a few metres below. You can simply enjoy the scene from a distance or if you are up for it take the tandem flight available through the Mt. Kanpuzan Paraglider School from March to November. For 6,000 yen plus 500 yen for insurance, you’ll get to enjoy the refreshing views of the peninsula and add some adrenaline to your day trip.