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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 the location of the prefecture’s only airport, Iwate Hanamaki Airport. The East Japan Railway Company (JR-East) line runs north to south through here, making it very convenient for travelers using mainly public transport. The Hanamaki Hot Springs are within a 30-minute drive of JR Hanamaki Station, just one of the region’s rich endowment of hot springs.

Iwate-Hanamaki Airport

A World Heritage Site that reflects the unique religiosity found in Japan 1200 years ago

One of the foremost attractions of this area is Hiraizumi, which gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011. The site comprises temples like Chuson-ji and Motsu-ji and gardens built by the Northern Fuijwara family that ruled the Tohoku region, dating from the 9th to the 12th century.

Based on a unique Buddhist “Pure Land” cosmology the Hiraizumi complex was a vision of the pure, peaceful and pain-free world that awaits us after death. Visitors find calm in the temples and gardens created in a quiet environment surrounded by nature.

Hiraizumi, developed from the combination of Buddhism from India and Japanese nature worship and due to the fact that it was based on a unique cosmology, is the expression of a religious worldview found nowhere else in the world.

Chuson-ji Temple, the heart of Hiraizumi, is a complex of structures set in a forest

A notable structure of Chuson-ji is the Konjikido, covered with gold leaf on its ceiling, inside and outside walls

Motsu-ji Temple, like Chuson-ji, is said to have opened in 850. Here is the garden, created in the image of the Pure Land

Kanjizaio-in is a former 12th century temple. Its simple garden was also created in the image of the Pure Land

Muryoko-in is a former 12th century temple. Its garden is said to be the epitome of all gardens in Hiraizumi

Kinkeizan Hill is part of the Hiraizumi World Heritage complex. It was a sacred hill and a focus of people’s faith

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 and poems, depict a unique worldview and are considered classics of Japanese literature – to the extent that they are even included in Japanese literature school textbooks. The International Congress of Miyazawa Kenji Studies is held regularly, gathering researchers from around Asia, the West and the Middle East.

Miyazawa made up the word “ihatobu” to describe the world he created in his books. He explained 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. This is said to have been an idealization of his own region, Iwate Prefecture.

Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933)

A gallery of images from the world of Kenji Miyazawa children’s stories, Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village

A gallery of images from the world of Kenji Miyazawa children’s stories, Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village

A gallery of images from the world of Kenji Miyazawa children’s stories, Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village


See & Do

This area in the southwest of Iwate Prefecture is a smorgasbord of sights, from the temples and gardens of the Hiraizumi World Heritage Site to natural beauty spots like Geibikei Gorge and Genbikei Gorge in Ichinoseki City, famously majestic mountain ravines. In the area around the station of Hanamaki, the hometown of renowned children’s author Kenji Miyazawa, are monuments and benches that pay homage to the animals appearing in his stories.

Hiraizumi World Heritage Site

Especially famous is Konjikido, in Chusonji Temple. Its walls and ceiling are fully covered in gold leaf

Genbikei and Geibikei

Enjoy all four seasons of Japan in these spectacular ravines, from green forests to fall foliage and snowy landscapes

Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village

Miyazawa’s books come to life in this Hanamaki gallery

Eat & Drink

As a rich agricultural region, this is a hotbed of high-quality produce, including Maesawa beef, a wagyu meat from Japanese black cattle that is brilliantly marbled, melt-in-the-mouth and flavorsome, and Esashi apples, a highly valued gift item. Ichinoseki is famous as the place in Japan where mochi rice cake is eaten on the most regular basis.

Mochi cuisine

Sweet dipping sauce, salty dipping sauce – enjoy a variety of flavors of rice cake, Ichinoseki-style

Maesawa beef

Top class wagyu in the form of steak, chargrilled strips, sashimi and sushi

Backyard apples

At a cafe in Esashi, enjoy sweets and drinks made from freshly picked backyard apples


Washi hariko (Japanese papier mache) is a folk craft of Hanamaki, wooden ornaments wrapped in Japanese paper. Back when Iwate was a thriving center of gold production, cattle were used to transport alluvial ores. Today, gold cows are an ornament particularly popular among the locals. 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 striking designs feature gold leaf.

Hanamaki general goods store

This shop offers a lot of folk crafts with a modern touch

Local specialty shop in Ichinosek

A souvenir shop in front of Ichinoseki Station that stocks specialties from around the district. Also has a tourist information desk and Wi-Fi

Hidehira-nuri lacquerware

A Hidehira-nuri lacquerware company founded in 1904 and offering bowls, chopsticks and glasses crafted by masters

Stay & Relax

Hanamaki Hot Springs is a popular family holiday destination for its easy access from Hanamaki Airport and large, well-equipped hotels and traditional inns. Geto Hot Springs is located close to a ski resort, offering skiers the prospect of a hot soak after a day on the mountain. Sannozan Hot Springs overlooks the stunning Iwai River gorge. Both are about 30 minutes’ drive from the Shinkansen station.

Hanamaki Hot Springs

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

Geto Hot Springs

A large number of lodges offer a low-cost soak in the springs for day trippers, making this a popular destination for locals

Sannozan Hot Springs

These waters are also known as “Bijin no Yu” (hot waters of beauty) for their skin-enhancing properties


A new kind of rural community created by rice

In Oshu City, Iwate Prefecture, a group is practising self-sustaining agriculture based on rice, the specialty of the region. They produce ethanol from fermented rice, then use the by-product as chicken feed. The chicken manure is used as fertilizer for rice and vegetable crops. The idea is to establish a zero-waste resource cycle in the local area. The ethanol is used to manufacture soap and cosmetics for sale. Overnight Oshu farmstay tours include visits to the ethanol laboratory, rice paddies and gatherings with local farmers over a meal of locally produced rice, eggs and vegetables (bookings required).




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