15 Things You Must Do in Iwate

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Source: kanegen

Depending on the time of year you visit Iwate you have a variety of choices that you won’t get anywhere else. April to May is the best time to visit this prefecture as seasonal events such as The Corridor of Snow along the Aspite Line, the cherry blossom festival at Tenshochi in Kitakami City, and the Winding Stream Festival in Hraizumi City are all amazing to experience firsthand. Although the scenic Pacific coast was badly hit by the earthquake in 2011, you can still experience some of the most stunning hikes and drives in this part of Japan.

1. Chuson-ji Temple

Source: Herry Lawford

The most famous attraction in Hiraizumi, Chusonji Temple is part of the Tendai Buddhism sect. Established in 850 by the Fujiwara Clan, the temple survived the fall of the Clan at the end of the 12th century, with only 2 of the original buildings remaining. One of these is the Konjikido hall, where everything is completely covered in gold.


  • Name: Chuson-ji Temple
  • Address: Koromonoseki-202 Hiraizumi, Nishiiwai District, Iwate Prefecture 029-4102, Japan
  • Hours: 8:30 to 17:00
  • Entry Fee: ¥800/ $8 USD
  • Website: http://www.chusonji.or.jp/en/

2.  Tenshochi Park

Source: Kimon Berlin

Over 10,000 cherry trees are planted along the Kitakami River, making a shaded, colorful stroll a must if you are visiting Tenshochi Park. The trees bloom in late April and has given that park the rank of one of the top 3 best cherry blossom spots.You can also take a sightseeing boat along the river to see the park from the water for a 20 minute joyride!


  • Name: Tenshochi Park
  • Address: Tachibana, Kitakami-shi, Iwate
  • Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
  • Entry Fee: Free!
  • Website: http://sakura.kitakami-kanko.jp/ (in Japanese)

3. Ryusendo Limestone Cave

Regarded as one of the 3 greatest limestone caverns in Japan, extending almost 5000 meters. There are 4 underground lakes and a large underground river in the cave. Almost 700m of Ryusendo Cave is open to the public and visitors will walk along the underground river towards the underground lakes in the back caverns.


  • Name: Ryusendo Limestone Cave
  • Address: 1-1 Iwaizumiaza, Kaminari, Shimohei-gun, Iwaizumi-cho 027-0501 , Iwate Prefecture
  • Hours: 8:30-17:00
  • Entry Fee: ¥1000/ $10 USD

4. Ishiwarizakura

Source: Noriko YAMAMOTO

Thought to be around 400 years old, the Ishiwarizakura or rock-breaking cherry tree is growing from what was once a small crack in a giant granite boulder. Today the tree is splitting the rock in half, making a wonderful photo oppotunity for tourist. Only 10 minutes away from the train station, this is a must see if you have a stop in Morioka.


  • Name: Ishiwarizakura
  • Address: Uchimaru, Morioka, Iwate Prefecture 020-0023, Japan
  • Hours: All hours
  • Entry Fee: Free!

5. Pet a Cat at Tashirojima

A small island off the coast of Ishinomaki City in the Miyagi prefecture, Tashirojima was hit hard by the tsunami in 2011. Luckily the majority of the damage was cleaned up within a year. The island is one of the many “Cat Islands” in Japan. Originally brought to the island to help with pest control at the silkworm farms, the cats now outnumber the humans almost 4 to 1.


  • Name: Tashirojima
  • Hours: Dependent on ferry
  • Entry Fee: ¥1230 for a ferry ride

6. Fukusenji Temple

iwate6Source: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)

A buddhist temple in the northeast corner of Tono, Fukusenji has a gorgeous 5 story pagoda that stretches along the mountain slope. Several large wooden halls adorned with intricate carvings are great for all sorts of photos. The main attraction is a 17m high wooden statue of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Make sure to check for Kappa water spirits at the Kappabuchi Pond behind the Fukusenji Temple, you can fish for them by using cucumbers to lure them out.


  • Name: Fukusenji Temple
  • Address: 7-57-1 Komagi, Matsuzaki-cho, Tono, Iwate Prefecture
  • Hours: 8:00 to 17:00
  • Entry Fee: ¥300/ $3 USD

7. Shiogama Shrine

iwate7Source: ポトフ

A large Shinto shrine complex in the center of Shiogama city, Shiogama Shrine is thought to be 1200 years old. One of the most important shrines in the region it extended protection to the fishermen and safety in childbirth. To enter the shine you need to climb at least 200 stone steps that are on a truly steep slope. Check in for festivals, events and tournaments that get hosted all year round.


  • Name: Shiogama Shrine
  • Address: 1-1 Ichimoriyama, Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture 985-8510, Japan
  • Hours: 5:00 to 20:00
  • Entry Fee: Free!
  • Website: http://www.shiogamajinja.jp/

8. Go Skiing in Appi Kogen

One of the best ski resorts in the country, they offer a wide range of ski courses both groomed and un-groomed for the new and the advanced skiers. Mainly situated on the smooth slopes of Mt. Maemori and Mt. Nishimori, you can tak ein the stunning views of Mt. Iwate and Mt. Hachimantai from the observation points at the peaks.


  • Name: Appi Kogen Ski Resort
  • Address: 〒028-7305 岩手県八幡平市松尾1-605-209, Japan
  • Hours: December to early May

9. Takkoku no Iwaya

iwate9Source: Dime Gontar

Constructed during the 9th century for the God of warriors, the Japanese were in a period of northern expansion and would face the skilled Emishi people (the indigenous population). Built partially into a cliff wall, the temple is an imposing sight.


  • Name: Takkoku no Iwaya
  • Address: 16 Hiraizumi Kitazawa, Nishiiwai-gun, Hiraizumi-cho 029-4102, Iwate Prefecture
  • Hours: 8:00 to 17:00
  • Entry Fee: ¥300/ $3 USD
  • Website: http://www.iwayabetto.com (need translate app)

10. Eat Wanko Soba in Morioka

iwate10Source: shrk

Get into an eating contest with these tiny bowls filled with buckwheat noodle that can be flavored with a wide range of condiments and dipping sauces. Women eat around 50 bowls and men around 60 bowls, but the record holding champion from 2008 was a woman who ate 383 bowls of soba. This fun food experience has been a local favorite for 400 years!


  • Name: Wanko Soba
  • Address: Various Restaurants in Morioka
  • Hours: Varied
  • Price: Varied
  • RSVP: Yes

11. Tsuzukiishi Stone

iwate11Source: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)

This precariously balanced boulder is perched upon 2 smaller stones almost like a pedestal. Legend tells that the boulder was set there almost 1000 by the super strong warrior monk Benkei. Make sure not to knock it over when you take pictures!


  • Name: Tsuzukiishi Stone
  • Address: Hike 10-15 minutes uphill through the forests from a small parking lot
  • Hours: All hours
  • Entry Fee: Free!

12. Morioka Castle Ruins

Morioka Castle Site ParkSource: Yuichi Shiraishi

Today, all that remains of Morioka Castle are stone walls. The other structures were demolished around 1874 and then cleared out in 1906 in order to create space for Iwate Park. A popular cherry blossom spot, 2oo cherry tree are scattered around the park intermingling with around 100 plum trees making a fragrant walk during the spring time when the trees are in bloom.


  • Name: Morioka Castle Ruins
  • Address: 〒020-0023 Iwate Prefecture, Morioka, 内丸1-37 Japan
  • Hours: All hours
  • Entry Fee: Free!

13. Jodogahama Beach

iwate13Source: sayo tsukiyama

Known as the “Pure Land Beach” Jodogahama is one of the most famous tourist sites that overlaps along the Sanriku Coast and the Sanriku Recovery National Park. A sheltered inlet that is covered in smooth white pebbles, this is one of the best swimming spots in the summer. There is a small Visitor Center located by the main parking lot featuring a free museum that gives a bit of history about the coastline.


  • Name: Jodogahama Beach
  • Address: 〒027-0001 Iwate Prefecture, Miyako, 日立浜町32番地ほか Japan
  • Hours: All hours
  • Entry Fee: Free!

14. Get Spirited Away at Gohyaku Rakan

iwate14Source: François Rejeté

These moss covered stone statues were created over 200 years ago as a way to pacify the spirits of those who died in the widespread famines The carved statues are of Buddhist disciples and while originally there were 500, a good 380 still remain today. There are even some reliefs carved into the stones that line the river bed in the mountains.


  • Name: Gohyaku Rakan
  • Address: Found southwest of the town center
  • Hours: Always open
  • Entry Fee: Free!
  • Website: http://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/english/buildings-and-cultural-heritage.html

15. Visit an Onsen in Hachimantai

iwate15Source: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)

Set in the volcanic region of Hachimantai in northern Iwate, there are 100s of onsens (natural hot springs) for you to explore. Mineral rich warm water flow freely in this rusting countryside, allowing travelers and locals alike to enjoy some of the best onsens in the country.


  • Name: The City of Hachumantai
  • Address: Northern Iwate
  • Hours: Varies
  • Entry Fee: Varies

There are so many beautiful places to visit during your trip to Japan, but the Iwate Prefecture offers a stunning mix of old and new sometimes even in the same setting. Iwate has the second lowest population density in Japan, making a perfect destination for a low key trip. If you want to experience Japan without staying in the big cities like Japan and Kyoto, definitely consider traveling in Iwate.

Have a good trip and travel!

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Asia, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, Tohoku Region