Situated just 2.5 hours from Tokyo by the bullet train, Iwate Prefecture is located on the Pacific Coast of the northeastern region of Japan known as the Tohoku region. Here lies a great example of “deep Japan,” thanks to the friendly, warmhearted people of the countryside. The towns and cities found in the Tohoku region are rich with history, and the natural beauty is breathtaking to behold. With its jagged coastline there are many bays and inlets to be explored, not to mention the lush, verdant mountains as far as the eye can see.
Mt. Iwate is a conically-shaped volcano that offers one of the best views in the entire Tohoku area. It is often referred to as the “Nambu Fuji,” or “Mt. Fuji of the North,” due to its resemblance to Japan’s most famous mountain, Mt. Fuji. The beautiful mountain watches over the nearby Morioka City, the capital of Iwate Prefecture. From here you can challenge yourself to make the hike to the top, albeit the 21km round trip means you will need to get an early start!
Flowing from the north to the south of Iwate Prefecture is the powerful Kitakami River. The Kitakami River is the fourth largest river of Japan and the largest in the Tohoku region. Historically it served as an important transportation route during the feudal periods. In the Autumn, you just might catch a glimpse of the salmon swimming upstream to lay their eggs!
It usually takes until around November for the leaves to turn their brilliant shades of scarlet and gold in the Tohoku region. However, there are two great spots for autumn leave viewing that peak a little earlier, from around September to October. Mount Kurikoma, a volcano which has also been chosen as one of Japan’s best 200 mountains, and the “Hachimantai Aspite” Line, a 27-km mountain road that runs through the “Towada-Hachimantai National Park”. Both are well-known and popular amongst tourists, and make a perfect spot to enjoy the change in seasons a little earlier during the Rugby World Cup 2019 (September 20 through November 2.)
Nambu Cast Ironware is one of the most well-known of Iwate’s local crafts, and is recognised as a Traditional Craftwork of Japan. These iron pots and other kitchen utensils are growing popular all over the world. Picking up some Nambu Cast Ironware will make a souvenir of such quality that you could even pass it down to the children one day!
Kamaishi City is known as the city of iron, fishing, and rugby. What a tough mix! It is known as the birthplace of Japan’s modern steelmaking industry, and has been producing iron ore since the late 19th century. Due to its location aside the Pacific Ocean, it also has a long and proud fishing industry. As for the rugby, many years ago the local rugby team, sponsored by Nippon Steel, was ranked as the top amateur team in Japan for seven years running. That team has evolved into what is now the Kamaishi Seawaves. This history earnt Kamashi city its reputation for raising strong rugby players and a love for the sport.
The Kamaishi Daikannon is a large statue of the Buddhist deity of mercy, that has watched over fishermen and protected the oceans of the Kamaishi peninsula since the 1970’s. Visitors can climb the stairs on the inside of the statue and look out from her forehead at a spectacular view of the Kamaishi bay.
The “Kamaishi Hikifune Festival” is held every year during the third week of October. The festival presents a flotilla of boats adorned with colorful flags setting out into the bay. During the festival there are also spectacular performances of the “tora-mai” (tiger dance) which take place throughout the city. As the Kamaishi Hikifune Festival will take place during the same period as the Rugby World Cup in 2019, visitors to the matches have an excellent chance to witness this colorful festival. Make sure to experiencing the tiger dances and departure of the boats in Kamaishi City!