Top ChoiceBuddhist Temple in Hiraizumi

Chūson-ji

Chūson-ji

Established in AD 850 by the priest Ennin, the Chūson-ji complex was expanded by the Ōshu Fujiwara family in the 12th century. A total of 300 buildings with 40 temples were constructed. Ironically, the family's...

Buddhist Temple in Hiraizumi

Konjiki-dō

Gilded and gleaming up to its eaves, with elaborate lacquerwork and mother-of-pearl inlay throughout, the Konjiki-dō, in the Chuson-ji complex, was at the cutting edge of Heian-era artistry when it was created in...

Udon in Morioka

Pairon Honten

Jaja-men (じゃじゃめん; noodle with miso and minced meat) joints are all over town, but this hole-in-the wall is still the leader. Ordering is a breeze: just ask for shō (small), chū (medium) or dai (large). When...

Gardens in Hiraizumi

Mōtsū-ji

Established by the priest Ennin in AD 850 at the same time as Chūson-ji, Mōtsū-ji was once Tōhoku’s largest and grandest temple complex. The buildings are all long gone, but the enigmatic 12th-century ‘Pure Land’...

Brewery in Tōno

Tono Brewing

Sleepy Tōno is a surprising home for this hip, friendly taproom, but it's a welcome addition to the city's drinking landscape nonetheless. Locally brewed beers include a 'coffee stout', as well as pale ales and...

Japanese Curry in Morioka

Karē Kōbō Chalten

Serving the best curry we tried in the whole of northern Japan, this small, charming restaurant makes nothing except creamy plates of curry. The wonderful vegetarian option uses eight different vegetables diced...

Soba in Morioka

Azumaya Honten

Customers line up and tour buses roll in for this hugely popular wanko-soba restaurant. As per tradition, the waiter will refill your tiny bowl with soba as soon as you've put the last one down. Fifteen bowls are...

Japanese in Hiraizumi

Kanzan-tei

On top of the hill within the Chūson-ji complex, this glass-walled restaurant has lovely views of the surrounding countryside and is the perfect place to rest your temple-weary legs. Hot and cold soba dishes hit...

Cultural in Tōno

Tōno Matsuri

This flamboyant spectacle, involving prayers for a bountiful harvest, is deeply imbued with the legends of Tōno. There are yabusame events (horseback archery, in this case a 700-year-old event), traditional...

Coffee in Morioka

Cappuccino Shiki

Perfectly placed to catch caffeine addicts as they tumble off their train and out into the bustle of Morioka, this cosy, dark-wood coffee shop has great espresso and a hip vibe. Toasted sandwiches are also...

Homewares in Morioka

Kamasada Honten

Morioka is known for its nanbu tekki (cast ironware), notably tea kettles. There are some beautiful examples at this venerable shop, along with more affordable items such as wind chimes and incense holders.

Dance in Morioka

Sansa Odori

In Morioka's most famous festival, thousands of dancers take to the streets in parades and performances celebrating the banishment of an evil ogre that once upon a time plagued the city.

Museum in Tōno

Tōno Folktale & Storytelling Center

Housed in the restored ryokan where Yanagita Kunio penned his famous work Legends of Tōno, this evocative museum has audiovisuals of some of the tales and memorabilia pertaining to Yanagita. There is minimal...

Buddhist Temple in Tōno

Jōken-ji

This peaceful temple is dedicated to the deity image of Obinzuru-sama. Behind the temple is the kappa-buchi pool, where Tōno's famous water sprites lurk. It is said that if pregnant women worship at the shrine on...

Soba in Tōno

Itō-ke

Among the soba varieties served here, try hitsuko soba (ひつこそば), eaten with chicken, mushrooms, onion and raw egg. Otherwise go for hittsumi (ひっつみ), hand-cut noodles served with chicken-and-vegetable dumplings in...

Landmark in Tōno

Tsuzuki-ishi

A curious rock that rests amid aromatic cedars, Tsuzuki-ishi is either a natural formation or a dolmen (primitive tomb). A short, steep hike rewards you with views across the valley, but take heed as bears (and...

Park in Morioka

Iwate-kōen

If you head east on foot from the train station along Kaiun-bashi for about 2km, you’ll eventually come to this landscaped park, where Morioka-jō once stood. All that remains of the castle, completed in 1633 and...

Landmark in Morioka

Rock-Splitting Cherry Tree

A huge cracked granite boulder sits in front of the Morioka District Court, out of which sprouts this large cherry tree, said to be almost four hundred years old. The tree is a much-loved local attraction, though...

Korean in Morioka

Pyonpyonsha

This yummy Korean noodle place is perfect for a quick bite after getting off your train, before exploring the city sights. There's often a line out the door at lunchtime, but there's plenty of seating inside,...

Memorial in Tōno

Gohyaku Rakan

In the hills above Tōno, these eerie, moss-covered rock carvings of five hundred disciples of Buddha were fashioned by a priest to console the spirits of those who died in a 1754 famine. It's a truly unique site...