There are endless adventures on offer when visiting Iwate Prefecture. From a changeable railway journey through Sanriku Rias Coast to an epic discovery of old Japanese culture in Morioka city. As the gateway to so many fantastic locations in the northernmost part of Japan, Morioka is an impressive city with many great places to discover. If you’re looking for something in the most magical old town in Iwate, I have listed the best experiences in Iwate city.
How to get there and around
The best way to get to Morioka is to take the JR Tohoku shinkansen from Tokyo Station (2 hours and 15 minutes). Because of the sheer size of the city, I’d highly recommend taking a city bus which comes in 15-minute intervals. This will enable you to cover so much more ground, as many of the city’s offerings are spread out.
Morioka Castle Park
The main attraction in Morioka is to visit the ancient ruins of Morioka Castle which are most impressive. The ancient fortress castle was founded in the 17th century. The park is large and will take around an hour to visit.
Bank of Iwate Red Brick Building
The Bank of Iwate is commonly referred to as the most beautiful old building constructed in the Meiji era; one look at this photograph is sure to show you why. The nostalgic building was finished in the early 20th century and remains as one of the top attractions in Morioka.
Morioka Shinkin Bank
Built in 1927, Morioka Shinkin Bank gained attention when it became a landscape preserved property. It is located near the Bank of Iwate Red Brick Building and one of the most beautiful destinations for architecture lovers.
Ishikawa Takuboku’s house
Ishikawa Takuboku, a poet, was born in 1886 and made a new home in Morioka city. Ishikawa’s house is full of old-world charm and history at every corner.
Kogensha in Zaimokucho area
A 10-minute walk from Morioka Station, you can visit the Zaimokucho area to walk along an old shopping street. My favorite store is Kogensha which used to be a publisher famous for publishing Miyazawa Kenji’s “The Restaurant that has Many Orders” in 1924. Now Kogensha has shifted its business lines to crafts. If you are looking for antiques and collectibles in Morioka, Kogensha is one of the best places to visit. The shop has a keen eye for unique designs, textures and fabrics.
Nonohana (wildflower) Museum
There are a handful of popular museums in the city. The most comfortable one is Nonohana Museum exhibiting a range of wild flower paintings by Fukazawa Kouko. Be sure not to miss Cafe Nonohana, where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Nakatsu River from the terrace.
Where to shop
As the capital of handcrafts, there’s plenty of great handcrafts to enjoy and equally good Japanese sweets to be found in a number of local shops. Here are the most memorable shops I found in Morioka.
Goza9 store – Handmade basket lovers will have a hard time leaving the Goza9 (go-za-kyu) store without a full load of straw mats and baskets. For a long time I’d looked for the beautiful designs of handmade baskets to fit my house and Goza9 had exactly what I’d been looking for. Another great attraction of Goza9 is to enjoy the appearance of the gently curved store facade along the road. The 200 year architecture is a great insight into Morioka’s past.
Kamasada Nanbu Ironware – The craft of iron casting began in the 12th century and still over 60 factories are creating iron craft. Kamasada has 130 years of history and the variety of ironwares is few, but you can closely examine the orthodox ironworks at the storefront. It will age beautifully and offer iron-enriched water for years. I found beautifully designed iron kettles and bought bottle openers here.
Nagasawaya – Before arriving in Morioka I had done some prior research to discover where to find the best local sweets: Nagasawaya was the most unique place. This beautiful “ousei-ame” store is located in the heart of Morioka, a few steps away from the main street. “Ousei-ame” is a simple mixture of extracted essence of plant roots, rice flour and sugar. I bought 60 pieces and it lasted for less than 2 days before it was completely devoured.
Sekiguchiya-kashiho – While on the topic of sweets, you can’t pass up the opportunity to fill your bag with Japanese traditional snacks and sweets here.