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Southwestern Iwate

Hanamaki / Hiraizumi

Full of Abundant historical and cultural sites, including starting with religious world heritage

The historical and cultural gateway to Iwate

The Hanamaki/Hiraizumi area of southwestern Iwate is where you’ll find the prefecture’s only airport, Iwate Hanamaki Airport. The JR-East Tohoku line runs north to south through the area, making it a convenient option for travelers. The Hanamaki Hot Springs are within a 30-minute drive from Hanamaki Station, and are just one of the region’s rich endowment of hot spring baths.

Iwate-Hanamaki Airport

A World Heritage Site reflecting the unique Japanese culture of the Heian Period

One of the foremost destinations in this part of Iwate is Hiraizumi, which was enrolled on the UNESCO World Heritage Registry in 2011. The sites within date from the 9th to the 12th century, and include temples like Chuson-ji and Motsu-ji, and gardens built by the Northern Fujiwara clan during their reign over Tohoku.

Based on concepts and teachings from the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, the temples and gardens of Hiraizumi were designed in the image of the paradise that was thought to await practitioners after death. Subtly incorporating the backdrop of their natural surroundings, visitors today can still enjoy the peaceful and beautiful gardens.

The design of Hiraizumi’s temples are an expression of the unique synthesis of Buddhist thought and Japanese nature worship, a distinctive blending of cultural traditions that is found nowhere else in the world.

Chuson-ji Temple, the heart of Hiraizumi, is a hilltop complex surrounded by forest

Chuson-ji is home to the famed Golden Hall (Konjikido), a shrine wrapped top to bottom in gold leaf

Motsu-ji Temple, along with Chuson-ji, is said to have been founded in the year 850. The temple garden was created in the image of the Pure Land paradise.

Kanjizaiō-in was once a 12th century temple. The garden, which remains today, also was designed to embody paradise.

Muryōkō-in was the site of a temple founded in the 12th century. The garden was said to be the finest of all the temples in Hiraizumi.

Mount Kinkeizan, a central landmark, also plays a part in Hiraizumi’s cultural heritage. The peak has historically featured in folklore and religious rites.

The hometown of Kenji Miyazawa, a leading Japanese children’s author

Hanamaki, a city in the southwestern area, was the birthplace of Kenji Miyazawa, a leading writer of children’s books (1896-1933). His fantastical works, including books, short stories, and poetry, depict a unique worldview and are considered classics of Japanese literature – Miyazawa’s works are even taught in Japanese schools to this day. The International Congress of Miyazawa Kenji Studies is held regularly, bringing together scholars from around Asia, the West and the Middle East.

Miyazawa named the world he created in his books “Ihatov”. He described it as “a nirvana where all things are possible, where the shining beauty of the sacred overcomes sin and sadness” – comparable to the worlds created by Hans Christian Andersen or Lewis Carroll. Ihatov is thought to have been an idealization of his own homeland of Iwate, colored by Miyazawa’s Buddhist faith.

Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933)

A room for reflection within the Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village

A room covered in mirrors and lights to convey the world of Kenji Miyazawa

The gates outside


See & Do

This area in the southwest of Iwate is a smorgasbord of sights, from the temples and gardens of Hiraizumi to breathtaking natural scenery like the mountain ravines of Ichinoseki City’s Geibikei Gorge and Genbikei Gorge. In Hanamaki, the hometown of renowned children’s author Kenji Miyazawa, you can find fanciful monuments and public art that pay homage to characters and creatures from his stories.

Hiraizumi's Chuson-ji Temple

See the famous Golden Hall at Hiraizumi’s Chuson-ji Temple. This Buddhist shrine is coated top to bottom in gold leaf.

Nature at Geibikei and Genbikei

Enjoy all four seasons of Japan in the spectacular ravines at Genbikei and Geibikei, from green forests to fall foliage and snowy expanses.

Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village

Miyazawa’s books come to life in this Hanamaki gallery

Eat & Drink

A rich agricultural region, southwest Iwate is a hotbed of high-quality produce, including Maesawa beef, a melt-in-your-mouth flavorsome and brilliantly marbled wagyu brand, and Esashi apples, a popular choice for gifts. Ichinoseki in particular is known for cuisine featuring mochi rice cakes, and famously eats more mochi than any other place in Japan!

Traditional Fare

Enjoy mochi with a variety of toppings and flavors, Ichinoseki-style

Mouth-Watering Meats

Find top-class wagyu served as steak, Korean barbeque, sashimi and sushi

Backyard apples

Enjoy sweets and beverages made with farm-fresh Esashi apples at this café


Washi hariko, wooden ornaments wrapped in Japanese papier mache, are a traditional handicraft of Hanamaki. Don’t miss the whimsical golden cow ornaments, a popular item that recalls when Iwate was a thriving center of gold production and cattle were used to transport ore. Hiraizumi’s Hidehira-nuri lacquerware is recommended for those with an interest in floral-patterned traditional crafts to suit your interior or dining table. The designs are strikingly finished with gold leaf.

5th Season (Hanamaki general goods store)

Traditional folk crafts with a modern touch


A combined tourist information desk, local gift shop, and co-working space in front of Ichinoseki Station.

Marusan Lacquerware (Hidehira-nuri style)

Founded in 1904, this workshop specializes in Hidehira-nuri style designs, offering artisanal quality bowls, chopsticks, and glasses. (Page linked is in Japanese only)

Stay & Relax

Hanamaki Hot Springs is a popular family holiday getaway, owing to its selection of large, well-equipped hotels and traditional inns, all with easy access to the airport. Geto Hot Springs is also located nearby a ski resort, offering skiers a hot soak after a day on the mountain. Visitors also enjoy Sannozan Hot Springs, which commands a view of the stunning Iwai River gorge. Both are about a 30 minute drive from the shinkansen station.

Hanamaki Hot Springs

One of Tohoku’s leading hot spring resorts, featuring large hotels with amenities such as theaters, rose gardens and pools

Geto Hot Springs

A number of lodges offer a low-cost soak in the baths for day trippers, making this a popular stop-over choice

Sannozan Hot Springs

The waters here are also known as “Bijin no Yu” (waters of beauty) for their mineral qualities, believed to promote healthy skin


A multi-faceted co-op built around rice

In Oshu City, Iwate, Fermenstation is a new manufacturer and retail brand practicing self-sustaining agriculture based on the use of rice, a regional specialty crop. They produce ethanol for use in soap and cosmetics by fermenting the rice, then reclaim the by-product for chicken feed, and collect the chicken manure for use as fertilizer to grow the next crop of rice and other produce. Fermenstation is aiming to set an example and establish zero-waste cycles for all agriculture in the Oshu area. Overnight farmstay tours are welcomed at their facilities, and include visits to the rice paddies, ethanol labs, and a meal with local farmers with local eggs, rice, and vegetables on the menu. (Reservations required)




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