Morioka is the charming capital city of Iwate Prefecture which can be easily accessed from Ichinoseki by local train, bullet train and bus. The city is surrounded by nature. This is most apparent as you walk along Kaiun Bridge, where you can see magnificent Mt. Iwate as the backdrop and the Kitakami River flowing below.
Check out the sights!
Morioka Castle Site Park: A beautiful park with remnants of Morioka Castle which had over 200 years of history before it was demolished in 1874. In 1906, the area was revived as a park. Take a walk around the grand granite walls, cross a vivid red bridge, find enchanting shrines and enjoy what each season brings. Spring exhibits gorgeous pinks as plum trees and cherry blossoms bloom. In summer, enjoy bright azaleas and roses and in autumn, vivid maple leaves. In winter, keep an eye out for the 'Morioka Yuki Akari' event where snow candles light up the park.
The Rock-splitting Cherry Tree or Ishiwarizakura in Japanese, is a magnificent cherry tree which is regarded as a national natural monument. Its most distinguishing property is that it grew out of a crack of a granite boulder which can be seen at the tree's base. Keep an eye out around mid-April to see the tree and all of its glory.
Hoonji Temple: a hidden treasure of Morioka which can be accessed from Morioka's main street Odori, within 15 minutes on foot. '500 Buddhist Disciples' (the actual number is 499 Buddhist statues) reside in this Zen-sect temple, all of which have different poses and facial expressions. Each statue is carved out of wood and coated in lacquer and were crafted between the years 1731 and 1735 by Buddhist priests.
If you are in the area during August 1st through 4th, check out the Sansa Odori festival which is one of the Five Great Festivals of Tohoku! Watch as thousands of drummers and dancers parade the street. This festival has even been recorded in the Guiness Book of Records as the biggest taiko drum performance in the world.
Find the old and the new in Morioka. Connected to the JR Morioka Station is a convenient little department store called Fesan which has a wide range of shops. If you are feeling peckish and don't want to leave the station, the first floor of Fesan now has a trendy new eating area called 'おでんせ館 (odensekan)' where you can try traditional local foods or stick to a cafe. A shop I tend to stop by whenever I go to Fesan is Jupiter (a shop that specializes in foreign foods and alcohol). Aeon Mall Morioka-Minami: The biggest shopping mall in Tohoku!! Need I say more? You will need to take a 10 min bus ride from JR Morioka Station (get on at Boarding Area 13 at the East Exit) or take a 30 min walk. Specialty Plaza Lala Iwate: If you are heading over to the Morioka Castle Site Park, hop on over to this souvenir shop. It has a selection of Iwate's renowned crafts such as Hidehira-nuri lacquerwear, Nanbu Tekki (cast iron-ware) and Iwayado Tansu (chest of drawers) as well as your favorite Iwate foods!
Noodles, noodles and noodles!
As a huge fan of noodles, I thoroughly enjoy Morioka's noodle cuisines. Try the 'Three Famous Noodles of Morioka' which are wanko-soba, reimen and jajamen.
Wanko soba: If you are a fan of soba-noodles and love a challenge, I cannot recommend this enough. Have a waitress serve you shots of soba continuously until you indicate that you have had absolutely enough. The average amount of soba shots for women is about 30-40 bowls, and for men, about 50-60 bowls. If you get over 100 in some shops, you will get a certificate and a plaque (if I can do it, so can you!)! Reimen: A chilled noodle dish which originated in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Some adjustments were made by a Korean-born man to cater more to the pallets of the people of Morioka and from there, it became well-known all over Japan! Morioka Reimen is now certified as it's own brand. Its mains components are firm-elastic noodles, beef broth, kimchi and have additional toppings such as cucumber, sesame seeds, beef and a slice of fruit (I mostly see watermelon but sometime it's pear or apple). Many locals of Iwate will finish off their yakiniku meal with this refreshing noodle dish.
Jajamen: A warm-noodle dish which consists of miso-meat, a white noodle similar to udon and often has cucumber as a topping. This dish was inspired by the Chinese dish, 'Zhajiang-mein' but what makes Morioka Jajamen special is how you finish off the meal. Once you have finished eating the dish, ask for 'chitantan' and you will be given an egg to mix in with the left over miso-meat and poured a clear, hot soup. Now you have a delicious egg-y soup.
For more on Morioka, check out the https://visitiwate.com/ website. Also stay in the loop by checking out Rock on Iwate on Facebook which brings you the hottest info on Iwate!