A trip to the shrine of Our Lady of Akita

Located outside the city of Akita, Japan

The shrine is a Vatican approved Marian apparition site where one of the nuns
from the convent was blessed with the vision of Our Lady, and a statue of Mary shed actual human tears.

From the main train station in Tokyo, I took the Shinkansen train to the city of Akita.  Having a Japan rail pass really helped, and was a super deal.  One lesson learned is to always reserve a seat on the train and get a ticket (free after showing my rail pass).  The train conductor comes around to check the ticket once the train is on it's way, and will expect you to be seated in your assigned seat.  After the four hour train ride, I took a taxi to my hotel, the Akita Washington Hotel (booked room before arriving in Japan).
The next day I took the AkitaOnsen bus from the Akita train station (at bus stop 4) and got off the bus at the Yuzawa stop.  Walking about 20 yards further away from the town of Akita, there is a sign for the shrine.  Following the arrow, I took a left and walked up the street.  It is a semi-rural area, and there were a bunch of houses lining the street.  Each house had a very well-kept, distinctly asian-style garden.
After about 100 yards, there was another sign on the right side of the road pointing the direction up the mountain along another very small road.
Walking up the mountain was absolutely beautiful!  The tall pines and mossy road gave a very antique feel to the area.  There was even a Buddhist cemetery on the way up.  The mountain is not very big, so it was an easy walk that only took about 20 minutes.
About halfway up the mountain, there was a break in the trees, showing the rice fields below.
Finally at the top of the mountain, there is the shrine with the convent in the back.
The shrine is absolutely beautiful, and is quite new even though the sisters have been there for several decades.  The sisters do not allow photographs of the inside of the shrine, but there is a main chapel in the center, with two smaller chapels on either side.  The sisters will sell you an informational booklet, telling all about the history of the convent and the building of the shrine.  The booklet contains many pictures and is not very expensive.
Here are the hours that visitors are allowed (at least when I was there).  
09:30am - 11:30am
13:00pm - 16:30pm
The grounds around the shrine are very nice as well, with a walk for the Stations of the Cross, a water garden and many trails through the woods.

The city of Akita is not located in a big tourist area, but there is a
wonderful park on the north side of town containing some nice historical
structures and Shinto temples.  On my walk through the park there were
some people practicing Tai-Chi swords, and in another area, a Shinto wedding that was
taking place in one of the temples.  The bride and groom, as well as many
of the guests, were wearing traditional clothing so I was happy to have
an unexpected cultural lesson.

Here is the Catholic church in the center of town:

Dont forget to stop by the Catholic bookstore, which is to the left from
the church and around the corner.