Morioka Travel Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat in Morioka, Japan

Yokoso! Are you ready to dive into the heart of Japan’s Iwate Prefecture and explore the enchanting city of Morioka? Nestled amidst verdant mountains, flowing rivers, and rich cultural tapestry, Morioka is a city where every street, every dish, and every season tells a story. This hidden gem in the northern Tohoku region offers a blend of serene nature, historical sites, and mouthwatering cuisine that promises an unforgettable journey. So, lace up your shoes. And let’s embark on an adventure to discover the vibrant life, tranquil landscapes, and the warm, welcoming spirit of Morioka.

Cherry blossom views low vantage point looking up in Morioka, Japan

Nature’s Canvas

Scenic Splendors: From the picturesque banks of the Kitakami River to the awe-inspiring vistas at Mount Iwate, Morioka’s natural beauty is a breath of fresh air. Whether you’re soaking in the vibrant hues of autumn leaves or admiring the cherry blossoms in spring, the city’s landscapes offer a perfect backdrop for nature lovers.

A Walk Through History

Echos of the Past: Morioka’s rich history is palpable in its well-preserved samurai residences, ancient temples, and the iconic Morioka Castle ruins. Each site narrates tales of yesteryears, inviting you to step back in time and explore the city’s storied heritage.

Culinary Expedition

Feast for the Senses: Ready to tantalize your taste buds? Morioka is famed for its three great noodles – reimen, wanko soba, and jajamen. Dive into the culinary scene and discover a world of flavors that blend tradition with innovation, promising a gastronomic journey like no other.

Artistic Alleys and Craftsmanship

Creative Pulse: The city thrives with artistic expression, from traditional Nambu Tekki (ironware) workshops to contemporary art galleries. Morioka’s craftsmanship and cultural festivals showcase the artistic talents and creative spirit of its people.

Morioka is more than just a stopover. Whether you’re wandering along the riverside, savoring local delicacies, or discovering artisanal crafts, Morioka offers a unique blend of experiences that capture the heart of Japan’s Tohoku region. So, come and uncover the charms of Morioka, where every moment is a story waiting to be told.

Autumn colorful mountain in Tohoku, Japan which can be easily visited from Morioka, Japan

Morioka City Guide: A Brief History Of Morioka, Japan

Ready to unravel the rich tapestry of Morioka’s history? Morioka boasts a storied past that stretches from feudal times through the Meiji Restoration and into the bustling modern era. It’s a city where ancient traditions fuse with contemporary life, creating a vibrant cultural landscape. Let’s take a journey through the epochs that have shaped Morioka into the captivating city it is today.

The Feudal Era: Castles and Samurai

Samurai Strongholds: Morioka’s origins are deeply rooted in the samurai era, with the construction of Morioka Castle in the 17th century under the Nambu clan. This formidable stronghold was not just a military bastion but a center of governance and culture, around which the town of Morioka flourished. Though the castle now lies in ruins, its stone walls and serene surroundings in Iwate Park continue to narrate tales of power, intrigue, and samurai valor.

Industrial Revolution: The Birth of Nambu Tekki

Craftsmanship and Innovation: As Japan opened its doors to the world during the Meiji Restoration, Morioka embraced change and innovation. The city became renowned for its Nambu Tekki (ironware), a craft that dates back over 400 years. This period marked the emergence of Morioka as a hub of craftsmanship and industrial prowess, with Nambu Tekki becoming a symbol of the city’s resilience and ingenuity.

Modern Transformation: From Reconstruction to Cultural Hub

Rising from the Ashes: Like much of Japan, Morioka faced challenges in the 20th century, including wartime devastation and natural disasters. However, the city’s spirit of perseverance shone through as it rebuilt and modernized, all while preserving its rich cultural heritage. Today, Morioka is a testament to the balance between preserving the old and embracing the new, evident in its museums, festivals, and restored historical sites.

Culinary and Cultural Renaissance

A Taste of Tradition: Amidst its historical and industrial evolution, Morioka developed a unique culinary identity. The city’s famous three noodles – reimen, wanko soba, and jajamen – are not just food; they’re cultural artifacts that tell stories of adaptation, creativity, and community. Alongside its culinary delights, Morioka’s traditional crafts, from Nambu Tekki to Nambu senbei (rice crackers), continue to thrive, drawing visitors and artisans alike.

Living History: Morioka Today

A City that Embraces Its Past: Walking through Morioka is like strolling through a living museum, where every corner holds a piece of history, from the Meiji-era buildings to the bustling traditional markets. The city’s festivals, such as the Morioka Sansa Odori, celebrate its history and folklore, inviting everyone to partake in its cultural legacy.

Morioka’s journey from a samurai stronghold to a modern cultural hub is a fascinating saga of resilience, innovation, and tradition.

Night views of Morioka city in Japan from a high vantage point

Morioka Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Japan

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.

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.

Other Attractions

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.

More Attractions

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.

Japanese cherry tree detail of flowers in full Spring bloom: Things to do in Morioka, Japan

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Morioka, Japan

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.

More Attractions

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.

Relaxing in a Japanese Onsen is something you can enjoy while visiting Morioka, Japan

Top 20 Things To Do in Morioka, Japan For Visitors

Here are the top 20 things to do in Morioka:

1. Visit Morioka Castle Ruins Park (Iwate Park)

Explore the serene beauty of Morioka Castle Ruins Park, also known as Iwate Park. The park is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring, making it a favorite spot for hanami (flower viewing). Although the castle itself no longer stands, the stone walls and moats evoke the area’s rich history. The park offers a peaceful retreat with stunning views of Mount Iwate.

2. Enjoy Morioka’s Noodles: Reimen, Wanko Soba, and Jajamen

Morioka is famed for its three unique noodle dishes: spicy and cold Reimen, bite-sized Wanko Soba, and the Chinese-inspired Jajamen. Visitors can challenge themselves with the Wanko Soba eating contest or savor the other dishes at local restaurants. Each noodle dish offers a unique taste experience reflective of Morioka’s culinary diversity. Don’t miss the chance to try these local specialties.

3. Stroll Along the Kitakami River

The Kitakami River, flowing through Morioka, offers beautiful riverside paths perfect for walking, jogging, or cycling. The river is particularly beautiful in the cherry blossom season, lined with hundreds of blooming trees. It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty. The seasonal changes bring different scenic views, making it a lovely visit any time of the year.

4. Discover Traditional Crafts at Morioka Handi-Works Square

Morioka Handi-Works Square is a unique venue where visitors can learn about and experience traditional Iwate crafts. Workshops include pottery, ironware casting, and dyeing, providing a hands-on experience with Morioka’s artisanal heritage. The square also features shops selling local crafts, perfect for finding unique souvenirs. It’s an excellent place for families and those interested in Japanese crafts.

5. Visit the Iwate Museum of Art

The Iwate Museum of Art showcases a collection of modern and contemporary art, with a focus on artists connected to Iwate Prefecture. The museum’s architecture is as impressive as its exhibitions, offering a space of calm and inspiration. Temporary exhibitions feature both Japanese and international artists. The museum also boasts a beautiful sculpture garden.

6. Taste the Local Delicacy: Morioka Cold Noodles

Beyond the three famous noodle dishes, Morioka offers an array of local delicacies, including its version of cold noodles. Served with a refreshing broth, these noodles are a summer favorite among locals. Various toppings, such as kimchi, boiled eggs, and cucumber, add to the dish’s flavor. Sampling this dish provides insight into the local food culture.

7. Explore the Rock-Breaking Cherry Tree

The Rock-Breaking Cherry Tree (Ishiwarizakura) is a symbol of perseverance and nature’s power, located near Morioka Courthouse. This cherry tree is famous for growing out of a granite boulder, becoming a natural monument. It’s especially beautiful in spring when in full bloom. The tree is a testament to the resilience of life and a must-see landmark in Morioka.

8. Visit Hoon-ji Temple

Hoon-ji Temple is known for its collection of 500 Rakan statues, each with a unique facial expression and pose. These statues represent the disciples of Buddha, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship. The temple itself is a peaceful place for contemplation. It’s a significant cultural site that offers a glimpse into Japanese Buddhist art and philosophy.

9. Relax at Tsunagi Onsen

Tsunagi Onsen is a hot spring resort area located on the shores of Lake Gosho, offering stunning views and relaxing baths. It’s an ideal place to unwind after a day of exploring Morioka. The area has several ryokans (traditional inns) where visitors can experience Japanese hospitality and cuisine. The healing properties of the hot springs, combined with the natural beauty of the surroundings, make for a rejuvenating experience.

10. Learn at Morioka History and Culture Museum

The Morioka History and Culture Museum provides insights into the city’s rich history, from the Edo period to modern times. The museum features exhibits on local samurai culture, traditional crafts, and the development of Morioka as a city. Interactive displays and artifacts make it engaging for all ages. It’s housed in a beautifully restored historical building, adding to the atmosphere.

11. Attend the Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

The Morioka Sansa Odori Festival, held in August, is one of Japan’s largest drum festivals. Participants dance through the streets wearing colorful costumes, accompanied by the rhythmic beating of drums. It’s a vibrant celebration that fills the city with energy and music. Visitors can even join in the dance to fully experience the festival’s joyous atmosphere.

12. Enjoy the View from Mount Iwate

Mount Iwate, the tallest mountain in Iwate Prefecture, offers hiking trails with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. It’s known as “Nanbu Fuji” for its resemblance to Mount Fuji. The mountain is accessible for hikers of various skill levels, with routes leading to scenic viewpoints. On clear days, the panoramic views from the summit are unforgettable.

13. Explore the Morioka Castle Town Project

The Morioka Castle Town Project aims to preserve and revitalize the area surrounding the Morioka Castle Ruins. Visitors can explore historical streets, traditional shops, and cultural landmarks that reflect the city’s samurai heritage. The project hosts events and activities that celebrate local history and culture. It’s an excellent way to understand the historical significance of Morioka and its development over time.

14. Savor Morioka’s Local Sake

Morioka’s breweries produce some of the finest sake in the Tohoku region, thanks to the area’s clean water and high-quality rice. Visitors can tour local breweries to learn about the sake-making process and enjoy tastings. It’s a great opportunity to discover the depth and variety of Japanese sake. Many breweries also offer limited-edition sakes that are not available elsewhere.

15. Shop at Morioka’s Morning Markets

Morioka’s morning markets are a tradition that dates back over a century, offering fresh local produce, seafood, and handmade goods. It’s a lively place to experience the local community and culinary culture. The markets operate on specific days of the week, starting early in the morning. Visitors can enjoy the bustling atmosphere and find delicious local specialties.

16. Experience the Koiwai Farm

Koiwai Farm is a vast agricultural estate offering activities for all seasons, from dairy farming exhibits to sheep shearing demonstrations. The farm’s scenic landscapes are perfect for leisurely walks and picnics. In winter, it transforms into a snowy wonderland with sledding and ice sculptures. The farm produces high-quality dairy products that visitors can sample and purchase.

17. Visit the Ishikawa Takuboku’s Residence

The residence of Ishikawa Takuboku, a famous Japanese poet, has been preserved as a museum. Visitors can learn about his life, works, and the literary significance of his contributions to modern Japanese poetry. The traditional Japanese house offers a glimpse into the living conditions of the Meiji and Taisho periods. It’s a serene spot that reflects the poet’s life and inspirations.

18. Stroll Through Kaiunbashi Bridge

Kaiunbashi Bridge is one of Morioka’s iconic landmarks, offering picturesque views of the Kitakami River. It’s especially beautiful in the evening when illuminated. The bridge is a popular spot for couples and photographers, known for its romantic and scenic setting. Strolling across the bridge is a peaceful way to enjoy the city’s natural beauty.

19. Explore the Iwate Folklore Museum

The Iwate Folklore Museum delves into the region’s folk traditions, agricultural history, and daily life in ancient times. It features a range of exhibits, from traditional farmhouses to folk art and tools. The museum’s outdoor area allows visitors to explore historical buildings and structures. It’s an educational visit that offers insights into the rural culture of Iwate Prefecture.

20. Attend the Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival

The Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival is a colorful event celebrating the bond between horses and their owners. Horses are adorned with vibrant costumes and parade from Onikoshi Sozen Shrine to Morioka Hachimangu Shrine. It’s a unique cultural experience that showcases local traditions and community spirit. The sound of the horses’ bells, known as “chagu chagu,” adds to the festive atmosphere.

Japanese Dry soba buckwheat noodles which you can try eating while visiting Morioka, Japan

What To Eat and Drink in at Restaurants in Morioka, Japan

From soul-warming noodles to sweet treats that delight, here’s your guide to the must-try eats and drinks in this culinary gem of Iwate.

Morioka’s Noodle Trilogy

1. Wanko Soba: Brace yourself for a unique noodle experience where small portions of soba noodles are continuously served until you signal you’re full. It’s not just a meal; it’s a challenge, complete with encouragement from the servers to eat just one more bowl.

2. Jajamen: A Chinese-inspired dish that Morioka has made its own, jajamen combines thick wheat noodles with a savory miso-based meat sauce, usually topped with cucumber and sometimes a raw egg. It’s a hearty, comforting dish that’s beloved by locals and visitors alike.

3. Reimen: Perfect for warmer months, reimen is Morioka’s take on cold Korean-style noodles. Served in a tangy, slightly spicy broth, these chewy noodles are accompanied by kimchi, boiled egg, and slices of beef or pork, making for a refreshing and flavorful meal.

Sweet and Savory Delights

4. Iwate Wagyu: Renowned for its marbling and tender texture, Iwate Wagyu is a must-try for meat lovers. Whether grilled as steak, served in a hotpot, or featured in a gourmet burger, this locally raised beef is a luxurious treat.

5. Morioka Sanshoku Dango: These colorful dumplings on a skewer are not only a feast for the eyes but also for the palate. Each color represents a different flavor: pink for cherry blossom, white for plain sweet rice, and green for mugwort, offering a sweet, chewy delight.

Brews and Beverages

6. Nambu Bijin Sake: Dive into the rich sake culture of Morioka with a glass of Nambu Bijin, a locally brewed sake known for its smooth, refined taste. Visit a local brewery for a tasting session to learn about the sake-making process.

7. Iwate Craft Beers: The craft beer scene in Morioka is on the rise, with local breweries experimenting with unique flavors and brewing techniques. From crisp lagers to hoppy IPAs, there’s a brew to suit every taste.

Café Culture and Sweet Treats

8. Zunda Mochi: This sweet delicacy made from edamame (young soybeans) paste and mochi (rice cake) offers a unique taste of Morioka’s traditional sweets. It’s creamy, sweet, and has a fresh, natural flavor that’s utterly addictive.

9. Morioka Coffee: Take a break at one of Morioka’s quaint cafés to enjoy a cup of locally roasted coffee. The city’s coffee culture is thriving, with several spots offering not just excellent brews but also a cozy atmosphere for relaxation.

10. Apples from Iwate: Iwate’s apples are crisp, juicy, and renowned throughout Japan. Enjoy them fresh, in desserts, or even as apple cider, showcasing the region’s rich agricultural bounty.

Sake being poured in a traditional bowl into a cup in Japan

source: Ninja Monkey On YouTube

Tours For Visitors To Morioka, Japan

Here’s a curated list of tours that showcase the best of Morioka, inviting you to dive deep into the city’s charms and wonders.

1. Morioka Historical Walk

Explore the rich tapestry of Morioka’s history with a guided walk through its most iconic landmarks, including Morioka Castle ruins in Iwate Park, the old Ishikawa Takuboku and Ishii Miso breweries, and Hoon-ji Temple with its impressive collection of 500 Rakan statues. This tour is a must for those looking to immerse themselves in the samurai and Meiji era stories that shaped Morioka.

2. Morioka’s Culinary Adventure

Tantalize your taste buds on a gastronomic tour through Morioka, famous for its three great noodles: wanko soba, jajamen, and reimen. Visit local restaurants to try each specialty, learn about the history and preparation of these dishes, and even get hands-on experience in noodle-making workshops.

3. Craft and Artisan Tour

Delve into Morioka’s celebrated craft heritage with a tour of its artisan workshops. Witness the meticulous art of Nambu Tekki (ironware) casting, explore traditional Japanese paper-making at a washi studio, and visit a sake brewery to learn about the sake-making process and enjoy a tasting session.

4. Nature and Scenic Beauty Excursion

Discover the natural splendor surrounding Morioka with a tour to nearby attractions such as the picturesque Lake Gosho, the breathtaking Takamatsu Park, and the enchanting Koiwai Farm. These tours offer a refreshing escape into nature, with opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and seasonal fruit picking.

5. Morioka Handicraft Experience

Engage in hands-on workshops where you can try your hand at creating local handicrafts unique to Morioka and the Tohoku region. From pottery and Nambu Tekki to traditional Japanese indigo dyeing, these workshops provide a memorable and personal connection to Morioka’s artistic traditions.

6. Morioka Castle and Historical Sites Cycling Tour

Cover more ground and enjoy the fresh air with a cycling tour that takes you around the historical sites of Morioka, including the serene grounds of Morioka Castle, the bustling Nakanocho Street with its Meiji-era buildings, and the Morioka Hachimangu Shrine. It’s a perfect blend of exercise and education.

7. Seasonal Festivals and Events Tour

Experience Morioka’s vibrant culture firsthand by joining a tour focused on seasonal festivals and events. From the lively Sansa Odori Festival in summer to the enchanting Chagu Chagu Umakko horse parade, these tours offer a glimpse into the city’s festive spirit and traditions.

8. Gourmet and Craft Beer Tasting

Indulge in Morioka’s emerging craft beer scene with a tour of local microbreweries, where you can taste a variety of beers paired with regional cuisine. Learn about the brewing process and the influence of local ingredients in creating unique beer flavors.

9. Tea Ceremony and Japanese Culture

Immerse yourself in Japanese culture with a tour that includes a traditional tea ceremony in one of Morioka’s tranquil tea houses. Learn about the history and etiquette of the tea ceremony, and enjoy a peaceful moment of reflection.

10. Mount Iwate Hiking Adventure

For the adventurous, take a guided hike up Mount Iwate, the imposing volcano that looms over Morioka. These tours cater to various fitness levels and offer stunning views of the city and surrounding landscapes from the summit.

Ryokan is a traditional Japanese accommodation you can experience

Morioka Accommodations: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Here’s a list to guide you through the top places to stay, ensuring a comfortable and memorable visit to this jewel of Iwate Prefecture.

Luxury Hotels

1. Hotel Metropolitan Morioka: Situated near Morioka Station, this hotel combines convenience with comfort, offering spacious rooms, several dining options, and impeccable service. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking luxury and easy access to transportation.

2. Shikitei: For a more traditional experience, Shikitei offers luxurious Japanese-style accommodations with tatami floors, futon beds, and onsen facilities. It’s a blend of traditional Japanese hospitality and modern luxury.

Mid-Range Hotels

3. Hotel Royal Morioka: This hotel provides a cozy atmosphere with clean, comfortable rooms and friendly staff. Located in the heart of the city, it’s close to Morioka’s main attractions and offers great value for families and business travelers.

4. Morioka Grand Hotel Annex: With modern amenities and a convenient location, the Morioka Grand Hotel Annex offers a pleasant stay with easy access to the city’s dining and shopping areas. Their attentive service ensures a comfortable experience.

Budget-Friendly Options

5. Hotel New Carina: A budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on quality, Hotel New Carina provides compact, clean rooms, basic amenities, and a friendly atmosphere, making it perfect for travelers on a tight budget.

6. Morioka City Hotel: Offering simple, comfortable rooms at affordable rates, Morioka City Hotel is ideal for backpackers and solo travelers. Its central location allows easy exploration of the city.

Guesthouses and Hostels

7. Kikunoyu: This guesthouse offers a taste of traditional Japanese living, with tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and a warm, welcoming environment. It’s a great choice for those looking to experience Japanese culture firsthand.

8. Morioka Hachimantai Backpackers: For a truly budget-friendly stay without sacrificing cleanliness or comfort, this backpacker’s hostel is the place to be. It offers both dormitory-style and private rooms, a shared kitchen, and a cozy lounge area.

Unique and Boutique

9. Iwate Morioka Tezukuri Mura: For something a little different, this accommodation is part of a craft village where guests can participate in pottery, woodworking, and other traditional crafts. Its cottages offer a peaceful retreat in a scenic setting.

10. Hotel Shion: Located a bit outside Morioka, Hotel Shion offers luxurious accommodations with stunning views of Mount Iwate, natural hot spring baths, and exquisite dining options focusing on local ingredients.

Hiraizumi at dawn is a popular day trip from Morioka, Japan

Day Trips From Morioka, Japan

Here’s our travel guide to the top day trips from Morioka, each offering unique attractions and unforgettable experiences.

1. Towada-Hachimantai National Park

Explore the rugged landscapes of Towada-Hachimantai National Park, where you can enjoy hiking, hot springs, and breathtaking volcanic scenery. The park is divided into two areas: Towada Lake, known for its beautiful blue waters and surrounding forests, and Hachimantai, a mountainous region offering scenic drives and numerous walking trails. Autumn is particularly stunning when the leaves change color. This trip is perfect for nature lovers looking to escape into the wilderness.

2. Hirosaki

Visit Hirosaki, a city famous for its well-preserved castle surrounded by thousands of cherry trees, making it one of Japan’s best cherry blossom viewing spots in spring. Explore the historical samurai district and Neputa Village, where you can learn about local crafts and the Neputa festival. Hirosaki also boasts a vibrant café culture and apple orchards that offer a sweet taste of local agriculture. The city’s blend of historical architecture and lively cultural scene makes it a rewarding day trip from Morioka.

3. Hiraizumi

Travel back in time in Hiraizumi, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was once the political and cultural epicenter of northern Japan. Visit the magnificent Chusonji Temple, home to the golden hall of Konjikido, covered entirely in gold leaf. Explore the sprawling gardens of Motsuji Temple, which hosts historical reenactments and traditional tea ceremonies. Hiraizumi’s rich history and serene landscapes offer a peaceful retreat into Japan’s past.

4. Tono

Immerse yourself in the folklore and myths of Tono, known as the home of Japanese spirits and mythical creatures. Visit the Tono Furusato Village to experience traditional farmhouses and artisan crafts, or explore the folkloric landscape by cycling through rural scenes. The Kappa-buchi Pool is a must-visit for its picturesque beauty and legendary stories. Tono provides a deep dive into the mystical side of Japanese culture, making it a fascinating day trip.

5. Kakunodate

Dubbed the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku,” Kakunodate offers an exquisite experience of samurai heritage with its well-preserved samurai houses and gardens. Stroll through the historic district, where ancient black-walled warehouses now serve as artisan shops and sake breweries. In spring, the weeping cherry trees create a stunning canopy of blossoms. Kakunodate combines architectural beauty with a lush, natural setting, providing a serene and picturesque day out.

6. Hanamaki

Visit Hanamaki for its hot springs and the Kenji Miyazawa Fairy Tale Village, dedicated to the famous poet and author native to this area. Relax in one of the many onsen resorts that offer healing waters and serene nature views. Explore the Hanamaki-onsen Rose Garden or enjoy local performances inspired by Miyazawa’s works. Hanamaki merges natural beauty with literary history, offering a soul-soothing escape.

7. Matsushima

Matsushima, one of Japan’s three most scenic views, is famous for its bay dotted with over 260 pine-clad islands. Take a boat tour to appreciate the panoramic beauty from the water, visit historical temples like Zuiganji, and enjoy fresh seafood along the waterfront. Matsushima offers a blend of natural beauty and spiritual sites, making it a well-rounded day trip. The area is particularly striking at sunset when the bay reflects the golden hues of the evening sky.

8. Koiwai Farm

Just a short drive from Morioka, Koiwai Farm offers a pastoral experience with its vast landscapes, dairy products, and farm activities. Tour the farm to learn about sustainable agriculture, participate in seasonal events like sheep shearing, and savor fresh dairy products made on-site. The farm also features scenic spots for picnics and photography, especially during autumn when the leaves are vibrant. Koiwai Farm is perfect for families and nature enthusiasts alike.

9. Akita

Explore the nearby city of Akita, known for its Kanto Festival featuring impressive pole lantern balancing acts. Visit the Akita Museum of Art and the Senshu Park, built around the ruins of a historical castle. Akita’s local cuisine, particularly kiritanpo hotpot, offers a delightful culinary experience. This city combines cultural festivities, historical sites, and culinary delights, providing a comprehensive day trip option.

10. Shirakami-Sanchi

Venture into the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakami-Sanchi, an expansive mountain range home to one of the world’s last virgin beech forests. Hiking trails of various difficulties lead through scenic vistas and secluded waterfalls. The area is also ideal for wildlife watching, with chances to spot rare birds and other fauna. Shirakami-Sanchi is a must-visit for adventurous spirits and nature lovers looking to explore untouched natural environments.

Bicycle is one way to get around Morioka, Japan

Morioka Transportation Guide

Here’s your complete travel guide to the various transportation options available in Morioka, ensuring you can explore this vibrant city and its surroundings with ease.

By Air

1. Iwate Hanamaki Airport: Located about 30 minutes by car from downtown Morioka, Iwate Hanamaki Airport offers domestic flights to major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. The airport is well-connected to the city through a reliable airport bus service that provides a direct route to Morioka Station and other key locations in the city.

By Train

2. Morioka Station: The city’s major transportation hub is Morioka Station, which is part of the Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) line. It provides quick access to Tokyo, Sendai, and Aomori. Local JR lines also connect Morioka to various destinations within Iwate Prefecture, such as Hanamaki and Hachimantai.

3. Local Trains: For more localized travel, the Iwate Galaxy Railway (IGR) and JR East services connect Morioka to nearby towns and attractions, making it easy to explore the region’s rural beauty.

By Bus

4. Iwateken Kotsu Bus: This is the main bus company operating in Morioka, offering extensive services throughout the city and to neighboring towns. Buses are a cost-effective way to navigate around Morioka and are especially useful for reaching areas not serviced by trains.

5. Inter-city Coaches: For longer distances, several coach companies operate from Morioka to various cities across Tohoku and even to Tokyo. These buses offer a comfortable and economical travel option, with features like reclining seats and WiFi.

By Car

6. Car Rentals: Renting a car is a fantastic option for those looking to explore Morioka and the surrounding countryside at their own pace. Car rental agencies are available at the airport and around Morioka Station. Driving in the area offers flexibility to visit remote attractions and scenic spots not easily accessible by public transport.

On Foot

7. Walking: Morioka’s city center is compact and pedestrian-friendly, making it ideal for exploring on foot. Many of the city’s attractions, including Morioka Castle ruins and the bustling shopping districts, are within walking distance from Morioka Station.

By Taxi

8. Taxis: Available throughout the city, taxis in Morioka provide a convenient, though more costly, option for quick trips or when public transport isn’t available. They can be hailed directly on the streets or pre-booked via phone or taxi apps.


9. Bicycle Rental: Morioka is conducive to cycling, with several bicycle rental shops in and around the station. This provides a healthy, eco-friendly way to tour the city, especially during the pleasant spring and autumn months.


10. Accessible Transport: Morioka strives to be accessible to all visitors. Public buses and most train stations are equipped with facilities for travelers with disabilities, ensuring everyone can enjoy their visit to Morioka without concern.

Kakunodate is a great place to visit in Japan after you're leaving Morioka

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Morioka, Japan?

Here’s a detailed list of destinations to consider visiting after your stay in Morioka, ensuring you capture the full essence of this diverse and fascinating region.

1. Hachimantai

Just a short drive from Morioka, Hachimantai is a paradise for nature lovers, offering stunning mountainous landscapes and hot springs. In winter, it transforms into a snowy wonderland, ideal for skiing and snowboarding. During the other seasons, the area is perfect for hiking and exploring the volcanic terrain of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. It’s a great spot to enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of northern Japan.

2. Hirosaki

Travel to Hirosaki to explore its famous castle, which is surrounded by over 2,500 cherry trees that bloom spectacularly in the spring. This city offers a glimpse into the feudal past of Japan with well-preserved samurai districts and traditional gardens. Hirosaki is also known for its Neputa Festival in the summer, where large, colorful lantern floats parade through the streets. It’s a cultural hub in the Aomori Prefecture, just a couple of hours away from Morioka.

3. Aomori

Head north to Aomori, where the modern meets the traditional, and the natural scenery is breathtaking. Visit the Aomori Museum of Art and the Nebuta Warasse Museum to learn about the region’s art and the famous Nebuta Festival. The city is also the gateway to the stunning Shirakami-Sanchi, a UNESCO World Heritage site with extensive beech forests. Aomori’s vibrant atmosphere and rich cultural offerings make it a worthwhile visit any time of the year.

4. Akita

Explore Akita, a city that blends history with natural beauty. Visit the ancient Samurai district of Kakunodate, often referred to as the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku.” Enjoy the natural hot springs in the area, and if you’re visiting in August, don’t miss the spectacular Kanto Festival. Akita also offers beautiful lakes and scenic rural landscapes that are particularly stunning in the autumn.

5. Sendai

As the largest city in the Tohoku region, Sendai offers a mix of urban convenience and scenic beauty. Visit the ruins of Sendai Castle, explore the lush Zuihoden Mausoleum, or enjoy shopping along Jozenji Street. The city is famous for its Tanabata Festival, one of the largest star festivals in Japan. Sendai’s vibrant atmosphere and rich history provide a stark contrast to the quiet charm of Morioka.

6. Yamagata

In Yamagata, you can visit the scenic Yamadera Temple, perched high on the mountainside with breathtaking views. The city is also known for its hot springs, like those in Zao Onsen, where you can also enjoy skiing in the winter. In the summer, the flower fields of Kaminoyama Castle provide a stunning backdrop for a leisurely stroll. Yamagata offers a blend of spiritual sites, outdoor activities, and relaxing hot springs, making it a comprehensive tourist destination.

7. Matsushima

Matsushima, known for its picturesque bay dotted with pine-clad islets, is considered one of Japan’s three most scenic views. Take a boat tour to fully appreciate the beauty of the bay, visit the historic Zuiganji Temple, and enjoy fresh seafood by the waterfront. The area is ideal for photography, especially during sunrise and sunset when the light plays beautifully over the water. Matsushima offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

8. Iwaki

Travel to Iwaki, located in Fukushima Prefecture, to visit the Aquamarine Fukushima, an innovative environmental aquarium. Explore the Iwaki Coal and Fossil Museum, and relax at one of the many onsen resorts in the area. Iwaki’s beaches are beautiful and less crowded, offering a great day out by the sea. The city’s recovery and resilience following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami add a layer of profound experience for visitors.

9. Tazawako

Visit Lake Tazawa in Akita Prefecture to see Japan’s deepest lake, known for its stunning cobalt blue color. Enjoy cycling around the lake, paddle boarding, or simply relaxing by the water’s edge. Nearby, the Tazawako Ski Resort provides excellent winter sports facilities. The area is also rich in folklore and features several hot springs, making it a perfect year-round destination.

10. Nikko

Though a bit farther afield, Nikko is well worth the visit for its breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Toshogu Shrine, Rinnoji Temple, and Futarasan Shrine. The area is also famous for its natural beauty, particularly the Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji. Nikko provides a splendid combination of cultural heritage and natural scenery. Its historic and scenic sites make it a top destination for both Japanese and international tourists.

Autumn colours in Morioka, Japan

Morioka Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Morioka is more than just a stop on the map. Whether you’ve come to explore its rich past, revel in its serene landscapes, or indulge in its unique culinary offerings, Morioka leaves a lasting impression. Let’s wrap up with some final thoughts on why this city might just be the highlight of your Japanese adventure.

A Blend of Tradition and Nature

A City That Lives Its History: Walking through Morioka is like traveling back in time. From the stoic ruins of Morioka Castle to the historic samurai homes in the city’s old districts, history is alive here. But it’s not just about the past; the city’s streets buzz with the energy of modern life, offering a perfect blend of old and new.

Culinary Delights

Eat Your Heart Out: If you came to Morioka with an appetite, you’ll leave satisfied. The city’s food scene, with its famous trio of noodles—wanko soba, jajamen, and reimen—offers a gastronomic experience that’s both fun and fulfilling. Don’t forget the local sweets and crafts beers that round out any culinary adventure.

Natural Beauty

Escape into Nature: The lush landscapes that surround Morioka provide a refreshing escape from the urban buzz. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll along the Kitakami River or a rigorous hike up Mount Iwate, nature is never more than a step away. The changing seasons paint the scenery in vivid colors, each visit offering a new perspective of Tohoku’s beauty.

Artistic and Cultural Hub

A Thriving Cultural Scene: Morioka is not just about its physical beauty and delicious eats; it’s also a center for arts and culture. With festivals throughout the year, traditional crafts like Nambu Tekki ironware, and vibrant performances at local theaters, the city is a hive of creative activity. Engaging with these cultural offerings provides a deeper understanding of the region’s heritage and its people’s pride.

Lasting Impressions

Why You’ll Want to Return: Morioka, with its charm and quiet strength, invites you to delve deeper with each visit. So, sayonara for now, but not forever—Morioka awaits your return.

Ode To Morioka

In the heart of Tohoku lies a city serene, Where cherry blossoms bloom in a pink and white scene. Morioka is the name of this charming place, Where ancient traditions still hold a steady pace.

The majestic Mt. Iwate towers in the distance, A sight to behold, a true natural existence. With ancient castles and temples to explore, Morioka is a city that leaves you wanting more.

The food is a delight, a true culinary treat, Wagyu beef and noodles, oh so sweet! The local craft beer is sure to please, A taste of Morioka that will put you at ease.

In the winter, snow covers the town, A winter wonderland, a sight to astound. The Hanamaki hot springs are a must-visit place, To soak and relax, and forget any life’s pace.

Morioka, a gem in Tohoku’s crown, A city with history, culture, and renown. A place to visit, a place to stay, A place that will make you want to come back someday.

0 replies on “Morioka Travel Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat in Morioka, Japan”