Morioka Travel Guide
Lorded over by a massive volcano (which takes on a striking snow-covered appearance in the cooler months), Morioka is a smaller city that is often missed, but shouldn’t be by those looking for places with off the beaten track charm.
With museums, temples, and an inspiring natural symbol of triumph over adversity, it is a place you will remember long after your departure.
Come check out our Morioka travel guide for adventure trippers as we cover the best things to do in Morioka, Japan.
Start your visit to the Morioka area by spending a few hours walking the halls of the Iwate Museum of Art. Its large size is a testament to the artistic talent in this corner of Japan, as the majority of the facility features works from this region exclusively.
Featuring modern and contemporary designs, you’ll find enough paintings, pottery, and sculptures to keep you busy, especially in the three permanent galleries that feature works from the region’s best artists.
In addition to all this, you’ll also find a peaceful library and a gift shop where you can take home some authentic Japanese art that you can show off in your home.
Morioka is known for its abundance of religious attractions; start your tour of them by dropping by the Hoon-ji Temple. A special Buddhist hall of worship located down a nondescript alley, it is here where you’ll find up to 500 mini sculptures of the Buddha.
That isn’t the only work of art you’ll see here, though – within, you’ll find the likeness of famed traveller Macro Polo and Chinese emperor Kublai Khan, among others. Note that photography is not permitted within the temple, so pay attention to what is contained inside so you can come away from here with vivid memories.
Check out one of better Shinto shrines in Morioka by strolling into the Sakurayama Shrine. Featuring a simple yet beautiful garden area that is outfitted with stone lanterns, its primary attraction is not any standout feature, but the opportunity to watch local residents seek out spirituality, good luck, and protection from evil.
If you wish to follow in their footsteps, there are pictorial instructions which guide you through the process of how to purify your soul (i.e. wash your hands and drink water from a spring). Once inside, consider leaving a donation, as these shrines are heavily dependent on the generosity of their believers.
Morioka Hachimangu is another Shinto shrine that is well worth your time during a visit to Morioka. This hall of worship is dedicated to Hachiman, an ancient Japanese deity of war. This fact has made this place a popular spot among soldiers, generals, samurai, and others who lived by the sword throughout the history of Japan.
Try to time your visit for Saturday, as it is on this day that a small museum relating to the history of the shrine opens.
Morioka was not left behind during the modernization sweep that took place during the Meiji era. It gave this city a number of Western-inspired structures, the most spectacular of which is The Bank of Iwate.
Constructed in 1911 out of multicoloured bricks, it was named a national cultural property for its iconic design. While it is a nice building which makes for great pictures, remember that this building remains a bank branch first and foremost. As such, be sure to behave appropriately should you decide to scope out this structure from the inside.
It is said that life almost always finds a way, in spite of the harsh conditions occasionally thrown at it by Mother Nature. A textbook example of life’s tenacity can be found by checking out the Rock-Breaking Cherry Tree.
Easily one of the most famous sights in Morioka (especially during cherry blossom season in the spring), this hardy cherry tree germinated in this granite boulder more than 400 years ago, cracking it open as the generations went by.
It also survived a fire in the early 20th century, giving this National Historic Treasure an aura that will inspire all who see and learn about it.
Relax and enjoy a beautiful day in Morioka by spending it within the bounds of Iwate Park. While there are plenty of facilities that make this a great place to relax, exercise and play with the kids, its top attraction lays in ruins compared to its glory days in centuries past.
While it was left to rot after being abandoned in the 19th century, city planners opted to clean up and rehabilitate the ruins of Morioka Castle in the early 20th century. This gives this green space an atmosphere which makes this city a great place to visit and live.
If you are visiting in September, be sure to attend the Ishigaki Music Festival, as it will expose you to the rock scene in a language other than your own.
Before taking off on the train to your next destination, browse the Fesan Department Store for some deals. From local sake to kimonos, you can find something uniquely Japanese before leaving Morioka.