The Landlocked Islands of Nikaho, Akita Prefecture

Guide to Japan Travel

The Kisakata Kujūku Islands in the Kisakata district of Nikaho, Akita Prefecture, are actually not islands but outcroppings surrounded by rice paddies. Until about two centuries ago, however, they were islets dotting the surface of a shallow lagoon by the Sea of Japan. And the beauty of this scene was considered comparable to that of Matsushima on the Pacific coast, another scenic spot where many small islands rise from the sea. The famous poet Matsuo Bashō (1644–94) visited Kisakata and was inspired to write a haiku about it. In 1804 a tremendous earthquake struck the area, causing the ground level to rise by more than two meters and thereby turning the bottom of the lagoon into an expanse of land suitable for growing rice. The islands remained as elevations in the midst of the paddies, creating this unusual scene.

The site has been designated a natural monument. A good spot for viewing it is from the observation deck on the roof of Michi no Eki Kisakata-Nemunooka, a roadside rest and shopping facility within walking distance of Kisakata Station on the JR Uetsu Main Line. From this vantage point visitors can also see the Sea of Japan and Mount Chōkai. From mid- through late September, before the ripened rice plants are harvested, the former islands can be seen floating in a sea of golden rice stalks.

(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Cable Networks Akita.)

nature Tōhoku Akita rice paddy