This tour takes participants to various locations across Iwate, which was once considered to be the ‘ideal land’ by the Samurai who settled there.
This tour takes participants to various locations across Tohoku, a region just over three hours’ distance from the capital city of Tokyo. Far from the bustle and rush of the capital, Iwate was once considered to be the ‘ideal land’ by the Samurai who settled there.
Tohoku is rich with cultural heritage and historical significance, yet is still relatively unknown as a tourist destination, unlike locations such as Kyoto and Hiroshima. As a result, visitors are able to explore the mysteries of the area and connect with the warm, friendly residents in a way that very few ever take the time to do.
This is a unique trip, offering participants the opportunity to interact with local Japanese residents such as craftsmen, fishermen and those who make a living working in fascinating and unique shops along the shopping street. There will also be opportunities to watch performances of traditional Japanese arts, such as Kagura (a traditional Shinto ritual dance) and Kenbai (a fascinating mix of dance and martial arts originating from Iwate Prefecture).
In addition to conversation and culture, this tour also includes chances to make the most of the area’s sea and mountains through activities such as kayaking, hiking across Hachimantai (one of the leading hiking routes in Tohoku) and even a fascinating cruise on an authentic, working fishing boat. Having fully made the most of the area’s outdoor resources, participants can then take the time to relax in a hot spring facility at the foot of one of Tohoku’s stunning mountains.
Particularly ideal for food-lovers, participants on this tour can feast on freshly-caught game at a traditional winter hunters’ restaurant in Miyako, enjoy delicious paella on one of the islands of Yamada (an area famous for oyster farming), and even take part in a quayside scallop BBQ after a fishing boat cruise with a genuine scallop fisherman.
- Visit Hiraizumi, a World Heritage site dating back to 1100 AD that was once considered to be a ‘dream’ village by the Samurai who lived there
- Explore Tono, the hometown of Japan’s ancient legends and folklore, and find inspiration in tales that have been passed down for centuries
- Learn how to draw a sword and make paper cutting knives on a tour of a Japanese sword-making workshop
- Enjoy a stroll through the shopping street at the foot of “Ureira”, meaning “mountain with fog” in the ancient Ainu language
- Take in a Kuromori Kagura show, a traditional performance that has been performed by locals for centuries
- Visit spectacular blue caves and relax on a boat ride around Jodogahama, regularly described as a ‘paradise’ and considered one of the most beautiful and scenic spots in Tohoku
- Tour around Miyako’s popular fish markets, where one of the largest hauls in Japan goes to auction each day
- Hear of the devastating power of tsunami from someone who has experienced it first-hand
- Watch a performance of Ushibushi Nenbutsu Namba, a samurai requiem dance dating back over 400 years and performed by the local youth
- Explore the samurai residences of Kakunodate (often referred to as the “Little Kyoto” of Tohoku) on a guided walking tour
The tour begins early morning in Tokyo, meeting at the station for a pre-tour briefing before riding the bullet train together to Ichinoseki, where the activities begin with a tour of a local sake brewery before lunch.
Well-fed and having tasted some of the local sake offerings, it’s then time to travel to the picturesque Buddhist temple known as Motsuji, for a walking tour or the halls and surrounding Pure Land Garden. This will be followed by a second tour, this time of the nearby Chusonji temple, which dates back to 850 AD.
In the late afternoon, the group will travel to the night’s accommodation to check in and enjoy the opportunity to hear a series of traditional folktales, as told by a local story teller, before dinner.
Day two begins around 7:30am, with a filling breakfast at the accommodation that is sure to give everyone enough energy to fully enjoy the day ahead.
Travelling to the Takashimizu observation deck, there will be time to enjoy the panoramic views of Tono before heading into the town for a special folk tale tour, listening to stories of Kappabuchi and Oshikado in the very area that inspired them.
After lunch, there will be a walking tour of Furusatomura, followed by a drive to Miyako, where the group will check in to the night’s accommodation and spend some time relaxing before the evening’s activities begin.
In the evening, there will be a chance to enjoy a special dinner of game at Yuyu-tei, with an opportunity to hear the stories of the Matagi, the traditional winter hunters of Tohoku.
The third day of the trip is an extra special one, beginning with kayaking from Yamada to Oranda-jima and followed by a chance to enjoy an authentic oyster farming experience. Lunch will be served on the beach, in the form of some delicious paella that the group will have the opportunity to make together.
In Miyako, the afternoon will be spent at a traditional Japanese sword-making workshop. Here, there will be an opportunity to watch the masters in action and even practice drawing a sword, battle-style, before the group sits down to make their very own paper-cutting knives.
This night’s accommodation will be a traditional Japanese Inn, known as “Ryokan”, where there will be plenty of time to enjoy a delicious dinner and spend some time relaxing after a very busy day.
The morning of day four begins with a tour of Ryusendo, followed by a walking tour of the fascinating Ureira Shopping Street, where a wide of range of interesting shops sell everything from suits to tofu and anything in between.
There’s another opportunity to visit a local Sake Brewery just before lunch at a local restaurant, and this is followed by a chance to meet and chat with locals.
In the afternoon, learn more about the life and experiences of the fishermen who live and work I Tanohata during a ride on one of their fully-functioning fishing boats.
In the evening, there will be a delicious buffet dinner, followed by one of the most exciting highlights of the entire tour: a Kuromori Kagura Performance.
Explore the Blue Caves of Jodogahama on a relaxing morning boat ride, followed by a chance to try scallop gathering on a fishing boat cruise at Himeshima Fishing Port. Lunch will be a fantastic seafood BBQ with members of the local community, making for a truly memorable experience.
The afternoon will start with a short drive to the Miyako Fish Market to take in a busy fish auction. Afterwards, the group will travel to Taro to listen to the heart-wrenching experiences of locals who were deeply affected by the powerful tsunami that struck the area in 2011.
In the evening, the mood lightens once more with an opportunity to enjoy Ushifushi Nenbutsu Kenbai, a traditional Samurai Dance Performance dating back 400 years.
By day six, it’s time to make the most of the area’s natural beauty with a hike from Hachimantai-Tozanguhi to Chausuguchi, with a short lunch break at the Hachimantai Sancho Rest House on the way.
No doubt worn out from the day’s lengthy hike, the group will then have the chance to take a relaxing soak in an onsen hot spring at Fujishichi Onsen Saiun-so before a hearty dinner and some free time in the night’s ryokan.
The final day of the tour starts with a walking tour of the well-preserved, Edo Period Samurai town in Kakunodate. After enjoying the final meal of the tour at lunch time, there will be some free time (with an optional cycling experience) before the group boards the bullet train from Kakunodate to Tokyo in the afternoon.
Kenji Miyazawa, a well known Japanese poet and writer of fairy tales, referred to Iwate Prefecture as ‘Ihatov’ (a word he created meaning ‘Utopia’) and credited the area as the inspiration behind many of his creative works.
In the early 1900s, an ethnologist called Kunio Yanagida travelled to Tono in order to compile a collection of the area’s traditional folk tales and legends, which had until that point been passed down from generation to generation by mouth alone. The resulting anthology, known as the “Tono Monogatari”, which shares the tales of Kappa, Oshita and Zashiki-do, has become so popular that many Japanese people consider Tono to be like a second ‘home’.
Miyako is one of Japan’s leading fishing ports, famous for the Saury, Madara, Salmon and Squid caught there. Visitors to Miyako can discover the remains of the area’s ancient performing arts while sampling and savoring freshly caught and prepared seafood.
Taro has suffered at the hands of Tsunami throughout the Edo, Meiji, Showa and Heisei Eras, with locals learning to stand resilient despite the devastation and vowing to “never give up”.
Iwaizumi’s crystal clear water and Ryusendo Caves have lead to it becoming a popular and well-known location.
The complex coastline of the Rias Coast gives Yamada a reputation as an especially scenic spot, with the rafts and spread of the local oyster farmers making for a particularly beautiful view.
Explore an authentic Edo Period cityscape and enjoy the experience of time travel at Kakunodate, a small town in Tohoku’s Michinoku where Samurai residences still stand today.
The cliffs of the Tanohata area are particularly worth seeing, with both the Kitayamazaki and Unose Cliffs boasting breathtaking views.
Surrounded by a natural oasis of mysterious, stunning and unique scenery, the Hachimantai plateau volcano and the numerous hot springs that surround it are a must-see.
Chūsonji Templein Hiraizumi
Founded 900 years ago during a turbulent time of war and great battles taking place all across Japan, the aim was for Chūsonji Templein Hiraizumi to become a location of peace, known as ‘Risōkyo’, meaning ‘Utopic Land’.