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IWATE Guide

Iwate

Iwate Prefecture is the second largest prefecture in Japan, after Hokkaido. It has unique characteristics, giving you various ways to enjoy various things, all in one prefecture. There are many hot spring villages such as Hanamaki Onsenkyo located along a river surrounded by mountains and Hachimantai Onsenkyo with magnificent natural surroundings. These two hot springs are well-known in the area where you are sure to find a place to soothe the fatigue of your trip. They also offer a wide range of fresh seafood and vegetable ingredients.

Iwate is indeed popular for being a great place for people wanting to experience "deep Japan", with towns and cities steeped in history, agriculture and scenery and is well known to some of Japan's best wagyu beefs, rices and sakes. Iwate is also home to Hiraizumi, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the region, which was known as "the most peaceful land on earth“ in the ancient time.

 

01. Jodogahama Beach

02. Koiwai Farm

03. Genbikei Gorge

04(1). Wankosoba, Morioka city

04(2). Wankosoba, Hanamaki city



Jodogahama Beach

Jodogahama beach is a famous spot in Iwate Prefecture, known for its peculiar yet spectacular formations of white rocks topped with vivid greenery jutting out of calm, crystal clear sea waters. During every opening season, the area is almost sure to be packed with many visitors. Also famous as a superb stargazing spot, the sprawling, glinting night sky seen from the beach is said to be the most beautiful in Tohoku.
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In the same coastal area (Sanriku Coast) where the Jodogahama Beach is located, you can go for a boat ride to a cave where the waters below glow a stunning aquamarine blue. Other notable mentions include the national natural monument that is the Ryusendo Cave, a limestone cave with emerald blue-green underground lakes, and the Miracle Pine Tree, the sole surviving tree of what used to be a forest of thousands, an encouraging symbol of Iwate Prefecture's recovery after the 2011 Great Earthquake and Tsunami Tragedy.


 

 

 

 

Koiwai Farm

Koiwai Farm boasts a history of more than 120 years, and a whopping 21 of its facilities have been designated as national cultural assets to show for it. Arguably it’s most famous landmark, a single cherry tree blooms here with Mount Iwate in the background, said to have been planted some 100 years ago. You can also enjoy outdoor activities like horseback riding, and rest up after by dining into farm fresh foods made with the local produce! In winter, the farm goes all out and gets decked out with festive LEDs to become one of the largest winter illumination events in Tohoku.   
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In the suburbs of Morioka of Iwate Prefecture, you can find delicious Koiwai brand dairy products (cheese, cheesecake, ice cream, fresh milk) by Koiwai Farm itself. Also popular are the Hachimantai Dragon Eye Kagami Pond, a crystalline pond that eerily resembles the eye of a dragon come spring, and the Miyazawa Kenji Dowa Mura, a “village” that lets you delve into the fantastical world of Japanese fairy tales.


 

 

 

 

Genbikei Gorge

Follow the path along Genbikei Gorge, and you’ll be awed by just how painting-like the rugged sceneries of this valley are. Look down to see how the quaint streams below transition into rough whitewater rapids, look up and you’ll see... a floating basket?! The "flying Dango” (sweet sticky rice balls) snacks here are just about as notorious as its beautiful views: just put some money into the basket hanging on a cable stretched over the river, signal with a good thump of a wooden hammer, and your “Dango” will come zipping down from the store on the other side. To add to all that fun, this is also one of the best spots for cherry blossoms from April to May, and lush autumn foliage from October to November.
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Another famous autumn foliage spot in Iwate Prefecture would be the Chuson-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a canopy of striking red foliage leading up to it. The autumn landscapes here could be said to be second in grandeur only to the temple’s impressive in-house gold-covered hall, the Konjikido. If we’re talking Tohoku overall, the Naruko Gorge in Miyagi Prefecture and the Tsuta Numa Lake in Aomori Prefecture are also choice destinations.

 

 

 

 

Iwate Noodle Dishes, Wanko Soba

Iwate Prefecture’s regional foodscape is almost entirely dominated by noodles. While countless variants of it is available, one of the most famous is Wanko soba.
More an experience than a dish, Wanko soba is a traditional dish where you eat bite size portions of soba one after the other, continuously served to you in small bowls by a eager waiters on stand-by. The only way to stop their onslaught is by putting a lid on your bowl before they can top you up! Those who eat more than 100 bowls will receive a certificate, but the unique gourmet experience (slash casual eating competition) itself is the true reward.
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Along with Wanko soba, Morioka Reimen (thin noodles served with icy cold spicy broth, kimchi, and watermelon!) and Jajamen (thick noodles eaten mixed together with a dollop of meat miso and fresh vegetables), make up Iwate's 3 most popular noodle dishes. Other popular gourmet foods include the premium Maezawa Beef, from cattle meticulously bred in Iwate, and Tono City’s Genghis Khan, where lamb is barbequed until juicy on a bucket-like grill.

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