Welcome to Akitsu


Word and photos by Tom Brennan

How to get there: Akitsu is on the Kure line. From Hiroshima City it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours and sometimes requires a transfer at Hiro. From Mihara it takes about 1 hour. Get off at Akitsu (安芸津).  It takes around 30 minutes from Saijo by car, or about 1 hour by bus from Saijo station.

The small town of Akitsu is located on the coast of the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. Akitsu was originally part of Toyota-gun, but was absorbed by Higashihiroshima City about seven years ago.

The green of rice paddies and red of the iron rich soil meet at sunset

What we now know as Hiroshima Prefecture was once divided into two provinces, Aki Province (安芸国), which occupied the western part of the prefecture, and Bingo Province (備後国), which occupied the eastern part of the prefecture. Akitsu, like many places in the Aki Province, starts with “Aki.” The final kanji in Akitsu (津) means port, due to the town’s favourable location for a port. It is then no surprise that the town’s main industry is shipbuilding. It also serves as a gateway to the beautiful island Oosakikamijima. Akitsu itself also includes seven small islands. One island is so small that it sits only 6 meters above sea level. This tiny island is slowly being eaten away through a process called bio erosion, which means it’s being eaten by bugs. It has been estimated that in 100 years the island will be under water!

Perhaps the best time to visit Akitsu would be during spring to enjoy some hanami in the town’s biggest and best park, Shoufukujiyama kouen (正福寺山公園). Situated on the side of a hill and only a 10 minute walk from Akitsu Station, the park is home to around 2,000 sakura trees. Take a blanket, a bento, a few drinks, and some friends to enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding area and Inland Sea. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one should give you a good idea of what to expect if you pay Akitsu a visit during hanami season next year!

The view from Shofukujiyama Park looking out over the sakura trees and the Inland Sea

The park is beautiful by day and enchanting by night. If you decide to stay around after sunset, you’ll be treated to some nighttime hanamiwith the flowers gently lit by small lanterns.

Every year in November, the town holds a big two-day festival called 火とグルメ安芸津フェスチバル, which translates to the Akitsu Fire and Gourmet Festival. This festival showcases local delicacies and culture. Hiroshima Prefecture is known for its oysters, and Akitsu is one of the many oyster-producing towns dotting the coastline. Depending on your taste, you can enjoy these oysters grilled or fried. If you are a little more adventurous, you can try the famous nama-kaki, or raw oysters. The true local specialty, however, is the potatoes, or jyagaimo as they’re known in Japanese. These delicious little morsels are grown in earth that is a distinctive red color due to its high iron content. You’ll find these potatoes cooked about every which way you can imagine. While you’re indulging in the local grub, you can enjoy taiko drum and dance performances from the local elementary and junior high students.

Akitsu’s local taiko group 万葉太鼓 (Man’youtaiko) perform at the Akitsu Festival

And now for the fire! On the side of the mountain to the west of the town is a large kanji (万 – man). This was constructed as a celebration of the contribution the town made to Japan’s oldest and most significant anthology of Japanese poetry – Man’youshuu (万葉集) or the “Collection of ten thousand leaves.” Once the sun begins to set, the fires are lit and the kanji comes to life. The combination of the fire and the setting sun is spectacular.

The kanji 万 lights up at sunset for the Akitsu Festival

After having enjoyed a full day of potatoes, oysters, beer, taiko performances and the fire display, you can walk to the nearby train station in Kazahaya (風早) and catch a ride home. お疲れ様です!