Nestled in the mountains of central Iwate, the Hanamaki area is famous for its hot springs, author Kenji Miyazawa and the SL Ginga train. Nearby, Tono village is the folklore capital of Japan.
Access the Hanamaki area through JR Shin-Hanamaki Station. From Tokyo, it takes three hours to Shin-Hanamaki Station from Tokyo Station on the JR Tohoku Shinkansen.
Depending on where you're going in the area, you may need to take a bus, a train or a taxi.
Renowned poet and author Kenji Miyazawa was born in Hanamaki.
Hanamaki Hot Spring, Dai, Shidodaira, Osawa, Namari, and about seven other hot springs are collectively known as the Hanamaki Hot Spring Village.
Hanamaki is famous for its hot springs and the Hanamaki Hot Spring Area has many options, from grand resorts to rustic outdoor baths.
There are a few hot springs in Hanamaki that have rotenburo or outdoor baths alongside the river. One of the most famous is the Osawa Hot Spring. At its outdoor bath, you can sit alongside the Toyosawa River and enjoy the view. In winter, falling snow melts on contact with your skin. Be aware that many outdoor baths are unisex, so not for the shy.
Hanamaki's most fabled son is author Kenji Miyazawa. You can learn about him at the Kenji Miyazawa Memorial Museum. You can see some of his personal effects and his famous works, “Ame Ni Mo Makezu”, roughly translated as "What's a little rain?" and the children's story "Night on the Galactic Railroad", which inspired the decor of the SL Ginga.
Just down the road from the Kenji Miyazawa Museum is the Kenji Miyazawa Dowa Mura. Based on Miyazawa's fairy tales, the Dowa Mura has several indoor and outdoor attractions including Kenji's Classrooms, where you can find plants, animals, stars, birds, rocks, and other elements that appear in his fairy tales through audio and video.
The SL Ginga is a steam locomotive that runs between Hanamaki and Kamaishi. The concept for the train was derived from Kenji Miyazawa's novel “Night on the Galactic Railway”. The interior of the train has been decorated as it would have been in the 1920's. There is also a digital planetarium inside the train. If you are a train fan, this is a must-see.
In between Hanamaki and Kamaishi is Tono, home to the mythical Kappa, a water creature that kidnaps children, plays tricks on people, and gets into trouble wherever it can. You can see Kappa, albeit concrete or stone ones, wherever you go in Tono. The Tono Municipal Museum is a great place to explore Tono's many legends and rich history.