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Northwestern Iwate

A day tour to the mountains for scenery, gourmet food and more

About this itinerary

One major attraction of Iwate Prefecture is the natural beauty of the mountains. Here we present a model itinerary for a day trip from Morioka to Hachimantai, in the northwest of the prefecture, that will satisfy your lust for nature. See sights for the first time in your life like lava fields and emerald green crater lakes.

A sense of the Earth’s power

This is a trip into the mountains, so do not leave home without trekking shoes or other hard-wearing footwear. Also pack cold weather gear as the conditions can change fast, even in the warmer seasons.

The first stop is a place around 30 minutes’ drive north of downtown Morioka, the Yakehashiri Lava Flow, a national natural monument. This lava field was formed in the 1732 eruption of Mt. Iwate, the prefecture’s highest mountain at 2038m.

Against the backdrop of Mt. Iwate, the black rock-strewn lava field is 3km long and 1.5km wide, a desolate sight that is in marked contrast to the forest that flanks it. Looking out along the walkway that extends around a kilometer into the lava field, the occasional plant is visible, a reminder of the sheer power of nature.

A long, big sky drive to enjoy the scenery

After the extraordinary power of the lava field, get back on the road for a long drive. You are on your way to another famous peak of Iwate, Mt. Hachimantai. The Hachimantai Asupite Line is a 27km-long road that connects the west and east of the mountain, passing by the peak. This big sky route offers a beautiful view of the changing leaves (late September to early October) as well as Mt. Iwate.

The snow falls heavily in this region in winter, closing the Hachimantai Asupite Line from mid-November. It reopens in mid-April, but with snow remaining at the roadside until early May, there is the opportunity to enjoy the unique experience of driving through walls of snow that tower up to 8 meters high.

Late April is cherry blossom season in Iwate Prefecture. Depending on the timing of your trip, you could enjoy the snowy vistas of Hachimantai and the cherry blossoms down in the town on the same day – where else but Iwate?

Hike to the top for a panoramic view

While pulling over at the Hachimantai Rest House for a break, consider stretching your legs with a hike to the 1613m summit. Your eyes will thank you in spring for the hundreds of colorful different alpine species, the fresh new green on the trees in summer and the crisp reds and yellows during autumn foliage season.

The path of least resistance takes around 60 minutes from the rest house to the summit. On the way are two crater lakes, one big and one small. Hachiman Marsh has a circumference of 1.5km and features calm waters that mirror the color of the sky. The smaller Gama Marsh is just 500m round but it is a photogenic emerald green that will take your breath away. Looking out from the peak, just a little more sweat up the path, is a pleasant panorama of mountains as far as the eye can see.

Enjoy a fresh ice-cream down on the farm

After the beautiful views from the summit, trek down the south side of the mountain to visit Japan’s largest farm, Koiwai Farm, which produces over 7,000 tons of milk every year. Part of the farm is open to visitors, offering a fun and varied experience to adults and kids alike, from meeting the horses to sheep shows, horse riding, minigolf and tours of the dairy factory.

Trying the ice-cream and drinking yoghurt made from rich, freshly squeezed milk are unique farm experiences. Also look for exclusive souvenirs like cheesecake and butter cakes made with generous amounts of farm-fresh milk and eggs.

Italian dishes making delectable use of local produce

After enjoying the great outdoors, it is time to recount the highlights over a beautiful Italian meal. Italian cuisine is enormously popular in Japan and there are plenty of Italian restaurants that make the most of local ingredients.

One wine bar in Morioka prides itself on its Italian dishes that harness organic vegetables, wagyu, fish and other seasonal Iwate produce. The wine bar has fans from across the country who will not miss a visit whenever they are in Morioka, and it has the seal of approval of many Italians for its authentic, delicate flavors.

The owner of the bar trained in Italy and has won awards as a wine sommelier. The wine list presents a rigorously selected range of international wines as well as unfiltered wines from Iwate wineries, available only here. This is a friendly place and it is easy for foreign tourists to drop in and enjoy a chat at the bar.

The property was once a photo gallery on the second floor of a building of around 70 years of age. There is plenty for non-wine drinkers here, including pizza, risotto and pasta as well as a diverse range of beers. Come and enjoy food and conversation in this calming refuge.

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