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Southwestern Iwate

Two days of history and culture

About this Itinerary

The temples and gardens of Hiraizumi, a World Heritage Site, as well as the traditional arts and crafts of each district, contribute to a rich tapestry of historic and cultural attractions in Iwate Prefecture. Here we present a model itinerary for a history and culture tour of the southwestern area.

DAY 2
Into a world of traditional dance and famous fiction

Step back in time and experience traditional culture

Start the second day of your trip at the Esashi-Fujiwara Heritage Park in Oshu, about a 40 minute's drive from Hiraizumi. At this historical re-enactment theme park, you can enjoy the Heian Period history and culture of the Tohoku region.

Among other cultural demonstrations, the Shishi-Odori (or deer dance) is a regional tradition with performances regularly scheduled on Sundays from April-November. The characteristic dance is thought to have been first created to express gratitude for the bounties of nature in a time when the region’s people hunted to sustain themselves.

The weighty mask and costume, generally about 15kg, are made to resemble a stag, and the dance steps similarly embody the movements of deer, alternating calm and elegant steps with jumps, skips, and twirls.

Farm-fresh and locally grown

The Oshu area is known for its agricultural products, so today’s lunch will let you sample that local flavor. Madakisuta is about 30 minutes by car from Esashi-Fujiwara Heritage Park, and serves food made with local produce in a remodeled classic Japanese homestead. There are plenty of healthy meals featuring farm-fresh vegetables and tofu, but the rice is their specialty here. Madakisuta carefully steams all their rice in a traditional iron kama pot, rather than a modern electrical cooker, which brings out the flavor and texture of each grain of rice. Try a bowl, and taste that extra mile.

Welcome to the world of Kenji Miyazawa

Next, we’re heading to the Miyazawa Kenji Memorial Museum in Hanamaki, an hour’s drive or so to the north. Born 1896 in Hanamaki and dying at the early age of 37, Miyazawa was an active poet and children’s author. A lover of the night sky, his most well-known book, “Night on the Galactic Railroad,” conjures up a magical, beautiful world that has enchanted generations and been reproduced in film, theater, and animation.

Screenings and documents at the museum serve as an introduction to the world of Miyazawa’s stories and his life. If you’re ready for more, visit the Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village nearby, a fanciful art gallery that recreates scenes and characters from Miyazawa’s works, immersing you in his fictional worlds.

Hot springs and a show

For the second night, we’ll be staying at the Shidotaira Hot Springs, around 30 minutes by car from the Miyazawa Kenji Memorial Museum. The large hotel has a range of baths with different features, including a spacious and clean open air outdoor bath with views of the mountain stream. A different stage show plays every night at the Wakuwaku Theater, from magic shows to taiko drumming, Kitakami’s Onikenbai sword dance, and Morioka’s Sansa Odori dance – All offering a taste of traditional regional culture.

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