There is a celebratory air in Akita, where year round festivals and street parades are colorfully integrated into daily life. A key city in the Tohoku region since medieval times, Akita was once a castle town of the Satake clan, but today is a vibrant, prosperous city that seamlessly honors its past but embraces its young energetic spirit. Noted for its burgeoning art community, there are several fine museums to explore including The Hirano Masakichi Art Musuem housing a collection of work by Western and Japanese artists, the Akita City Folklore Museum and the Kakunodate Samurai District, a living museum that showcases the samurai way of life. In the neighboring Oga Peninsula, the region's most famous icon, the terrifying Namahage, has it's won cultural center and festival ritual performed in his name. Surrounding the city, fertile farmland and rice fields produce some of the best sake in the country and nature lovers won't know which way to turn – to the west is the picturesque Sea of Japan and to the north, south and east, majestic mountain ranges including the UNESCO World Heritage sight of Shirakami-Sanchi proudly stand. A trip to the revolving observation center Mt. Kanpuzan Observatory solves the dilemma.