For the Hollywood view of what life was like for the old warriors of Japan, go down to the video shop and take out "The Last Samurai." But for a more accurate glimpse of how the samurai lived and the kind of world they inhabited, take a trip to Kakunodate.

This town in Akita Prefecture has one of the best-preserved samurai districts in the country. Samurai quarters are found in other places, such as Kanazawa, Matsue and Shimabara. None of those places, however, can match Kakunodate's authentic, sedate atmosphere, which seems straight out of feudal Japan.

Surprisingly, for a small provincial town with an overwhelmingly old-world image, most people hop on the shinkansen to get to Kakunodate. It's on the line linking Morioka with the city of Akita, and the approach to the town from Morioka is not short of appeal. The train passes long forested valleys that disappear in a gradual succession of spurs, and it speeds across gorges, through which flow boulder-strewn, turquoise streams of remarkable clarity, before reaching the rice-paddy plains of Akita Prefecture.