The Top Things to Do in Iwate Prefecture

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The Top Things to Do in Iwate Prefecture

Japan's second largest prefecture has a seemingly endless list of things to do that warrants a visit to the country's northern region. With the bullet train running through the center of the prefecture, getting there is easy and fast from Tokyo. If you're coming from further south, most major cities are connected with the region's Hanamaki Airport, along with a couple of international destinations.

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The Top Things to Do in Iwate Prefecture

Kitayamazaki Cliffs

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A section of rugged and dramatic coastline along the Pacific coast, Sanriku or Kitayamazaki are often referred to as the 'Alps of the Sea' due to the stunning high rising cliffs here and jagged peaks that rise up from the sea. Head to the Kitayamazaki Visitor Center from where it's a short walk to the viewing platform, an opening in the trees that gives you a view out over the dramatic cliff scenery. For those with a little more time, it's well worth taking one of the coastal hikes that offer plenty of views over the surrounding scenery.


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A paradise of nature in the north of Iwate, Hachimantai is full of mountains, valleys, hot springs and ski resorts. While there's not much to do in the city itself, the area is full of beautiful scenic spots and hiking routes. You can stay at one of the hot spring towns such as Matsukawa Onsen, or a ski resort like Shimokura Ski Area. The region is particularly beautiful in the autumn when the mountains are covered with colors of the fall leaves (early October).


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Once a huge ancient city rivaling even the old capital of Kyoto, Hiraizumi was left alone and almost forgotten after its golden age ended in 1189. As the old capital of the north, there's a number of fascinating temples and shrines built during its years of splendor. Highlights include Chusonji Temple's Konjikido, with its pavilion made entirely out of gold, and Takkoku no Iwaya a unique temple built in the side of a cliff.

Geibikei Gorge

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Another of Iwate's stunning natural wonders, Geibikei Gorge cuts through the mountains in the south of the prefecture. The dramatic rocky cliffs here are best explored by taking a boat ride along the river, which lasts for about an hour and a half and costs 1800 JPY per person. Along the journey you'll see the famous points of the gorge, including the 'lion's nose rock' where the name of the gorge came from.

Jodogahama Beach

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Further down the coast of Iwate, Jodogahama Beach offers beautiful azure waters you'd expect from an ideal beach, but it's the surrounding scenery that really makes this place shine. Jodogahama's shores are dotted with dramatic peaks rising from the waters around the coast. Take a boat tour to explore the sharp rocky islands here.


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In the shadow of Mount Iwate, Morioka, the prefecture's capital, is well worth a stop. There's plenty to do in this small picturesque city surrounded by mountains and rivers. The city is known for its 'Three Great Noodles of Morioka'. A must-try for any food lovers traveling through, these famous noodle dishes are wanko soba, Morioka reimen and jajamen, each one being delicious.


Despite Iwate being one of the largest prefectures in the country, the number of visitors are some of the lowest in Japan. Iwate is a wonderful insight into the Tohoku region, which holds some of the best scenery in Japan.