Japan City Guides: Morioka
Things to see and do in Morioka
Morioka in the Tohoku region is one of northern Japan's most pleasant towns, especially in the summer when temperatures are lower than areas to the south and west.
Relaxing parks and riverside walks combine with traditional shopping streets and a lively night life scene, to make Morioka a must-see on any visit to the region.
Geibikei Gorge is a beauty spot in Iwate prefecture easily reached from both Morioka and Hiraizumi
A short walk east of Morioka JR Station is Iwate Park, the former site of Morioka Castle, the seat of the Nambu clan during the Edo Period. The castle was completed in 1633 but all that remains after the battles of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 are the impressive granite walls and the pretty grounds which have cherry trees in season.
The park contains the Sakurayama Shrine and to the north is the Rock-Splitting Cherry Tree, (Ishiwara Sakura), an ancient tree in front of the Morioka District Court, which has has sprouted through a crack in a large granite boulder.
Heading east over the Nakatsugawa River is the red-brick Iwate Bank building which dates from 1911. Another historic bank is the Morioka Shinkin Bank designed by architect Kasai Manji who designed the Bank of Japan and Tokyo Station.
Turn north to the Gozaku district of Meiji-era buildings now selling local crafts including the famed Nambu Tekki iron kettles, dyed cotton textiles and senbei rice crackers. The wooden Konyacho Fire Watchtower is a local landmark and is a fire station dating from the Taisho Period (1912-1926). North again is the 17th century Kami-no-hashi Bridge with its ornate iron railiings.
Morioka's museums worth a visit are the Iwate Museum of Art (Tel: 019 658 1711) with paintings by local artists including Matsumoto Shunsuke, Yorozu Tetsugoro and Funatoshi Yasutake, 2km west of the station by bus. for history buffs, the Hara Kei Memorial Museum (Tel: 019 636 1192) is dedicated to Japan's first popular elected Prime Minister and stands opposite his birthplace. Again take a local bus or taxi from the station.
Morioka's main shopping areas are Zaimokucho just north of station over the Kitakamigawa River for traditional arts and crafts and Kitano Minzoku Ichiba, a fruit and vegetable market. For more modern shopping opportunites walk Odori, Morioka's main drag and its cross street, Central Street.
Morioka's main festivals are the Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival on the second Saturday of June celebrating horse-breeding in the area when a 100 decorated horses are paraded through town. The festival procession has been designated an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
The Morioka Autumn Festival or Hachimangu Festival from September 14-16 sees colorful floats paraded through the town accompanied by taiko drumming.
Morioka's specialties must include wanko soba and sake, the former is a speciality of small bowls of noodles eaten in the form of a contest between the diner and the wait staff in a number of restaurants around town.
Morioka Tourist Information Center (Tel: 019 604 3305) is on the second floor of Plaza Odette and the Northern Tohoku Information Center (Tel: 019 625 2090) is on the second floor of the main station.
Morioka is on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line from Tokyo and Ueno Station. The journey from Tokyo to Morioka is 2 hours, 30 minutes. The Akita Shinkansen runs to Akita (90 mins) via Tazawa-ko and Kakunodate.
There are highway buses from Morioka Station overnight to Tokyo (7 hours, 30 mins) and during the day to Sendai (2 hours, 30 mins), Aomori (3 hours) and Hirosaki (2 hours, 30 mins). There is a loop bus departing from Morioka Station 100 yen for a single journey and 300 yen for a day pass. The loop bus is convenient for many of Morioka's sights. The Tohoku Expressway from Hiraizumi and Mizusawa runs north to Morioka.
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