Iwate Travel Guide

Spanning from the Pacific coast to snow-peaked mountains, with culturally-rich farmlands in between, variety really is the spice of life in Japan’s second-largest prefecture.

Iwate Featured Restaurants



Lunch: ¥6,000-7,999
Dinner: ¥10,000-14,999

Located on the Pacific coast of the Tohoku Region, on the north of Japan’s main island, Iwate Prefecture benefits from the best of both worlds. As the second biggest prefecture in the country—beaten only by Hokkaido—it stretches out across vast swathes of mountains, farmlands, and coastline. The high-end Appi Kogen Ski Resort sees some of the country’s best snow sports in winter, while the coastal roads offer pleasant drives in summer.

In fact, the Sanriku Coast is a contender for most beautiful in the country, although reconstruction efforts are still under way to repair the damage done by the 2011 tsunami. To learn more about this event, head along to the modern Iwate Tsunami Museum in Rikuzentakata. The displays here tell of the terrible cost of and stunning recovery from the disaster.

The prefecture also has plenty to offer for foodies, with some of the best buckwheat grown here used to make incredible soba noodles. If you hike up to the beautiful Genbikei Gorge, you can even order some dango sweet rice dumplings from the most famous shop which serves them—Kakkoya—delivered across the rushing rapids on a rope and cable.

You might want to stay away from the rivers in Iwate, the birthplace of the legendary “kappa,” murderous humanoid turtles (mer-turtles? tur-maids?). Anyone with an interest in such colorful Japanese folklore should pay Iwate a visit; the prefecture has birthed more than its fair share of myths and legends.

Whether you’re looking for culinary adventures, mythical adventures, or just plain ordinary adventures, you’re guaranteed to find plenty of things to do in Iwate.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What to eat in Iwate?

The capital city of Iwate, Morioka is famous for noodles, and wankosoba is probably the most exciting kind — a series of small noodle bowls served one after the other like a ramen-lover’s tapas feast. Iwate wagyu beef and its Japanese sake are also legendary, on account of the abundance of rice fields and verdant pasture.

What are the best things to do in Iwate?

If you love a traditional Japanese festival, visit from August 1st to 4th to witness the largest taiko drumming celebration in Japan. To discover the rich epicenter of Japanese folklore, head to the town of Tōno. Made famous by Japan’s most noteworthy folklorist, Yanagita Kunio, this quaint and historic village is the best place to learn about the sprites and imps which terrorized the nightmares of Japanese children of old.

Where to try Iwate wagyu beef?

To try some delicious Maesawa beef, head to Gingarikyuu in Morioka where it’s served in a wide range of styles, from yakiniku to kaiseki. For a more affordable option, try Otaya, where you can get a set meal for under 3000 yen.

What is Iwate famous for?

Peaks and powder in the west, folklore and farmland in the center, sea and sun in the east — Iwate has so much going for it. However, in the hearts of Japan’s alcohol lovers, its main accolade is the quality of its Japanese sake.

What to buy in Iwate?

Nambu cast iron teapots have been made in Iwate since the 1800s, and are considered some of the best in the country. If you’re looking for a more baggage allowance-friendly Japanese souvenir, then maybe a traditional hand-carved Nambu wooden spoon is a better fit.
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