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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

Enjoy folk dances in a place from another time

Start the second day of your trip at the Esashi-Fujiwara Heritage Park in Oshu, about 40 minutes’ drive from Hiraizumi. This is a theme park where you can experience the history and culture of the Tohoku region from the 8th to the 12th century.

Performances of the native dance of the Esashi district, the “Esashi Shishi-odori” are held every Sunday from April to November (check ahead for schedule). It is said the dance began in gratitude to deer, the hunters’ prey – many locals hunted for a living at the time, and this performance reflected their deep reverence for nature.

The costume consists of headgear that resembles a stag’s head, a 3m-high bamboo construction weighing up to 15kg. The dance with the bamboo truly conjures the dynamism of a real deer, at times calm and quiet, at other times abrupt and jumpy.

Enjoy local treats at a farmhouse restaurant

You really ought to savor the local produce of Oshu, a renowned farming district. Around 30 minutes by car from Esashi-Fujiwara Heritage Park is a farmhouse restaurant that serve local food in a restored traditional home run by a group of local women. The menu lists a large number of healthy meals with vegetables and tofu, for example, and the rice is known to be particularly flavorsome here. This restaurant does not use an electric cooker to steam rice but rather, a traditional kama that brings out the sweetness and texture of each grain of rice. Try it just once.

Into the world of Kenji Miyazawa, Japan’s leading children’s author

Now it is time to head for the Miyazawa Kenji Memorial Museum in Hanamaki, an hour’s drive or so to the north. Born in Hanamaki in 1896 and dying at the tender age of 37, Miyazawa was a leading poet and children’s author. A lover of the night sky, his most famous book Night on the Galactic Railroad conjures up a magical, beautiful world that has enchanted every generation, and has been repeatedly reproduced in movies and cartoons.

Screenings and documents at the museum give you a sense of the world of Miyazawa and his stories. If this whets your appetite for more, do visit the Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village nearby, a gallery that recreates his world visually. This will completely immerse you in his fictional worlds.

Relax with a show at a hot spring hotel

In the evening of your second day, stay at the Shidotaira Hot Springs, around 30 minutes by car from the Miyazawa Kenji Memorial Museum. There is a large hotel with a wide range of baths, including a big, clean open air hot spring featuring views of the mountain stream. A different show plays every night at the Wakuwaku Theater, from magic shows to taiko drumming, Kitakami onikenbai sword dance and Morioka Sansa dance – fun for the whole family.

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