Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Natayachō: The Hidden Gem in Morioka for Sake & Old Township

Natayachō (鉈屋町) at the side of Kitakami River (北上川) was an area in Morioka that once flourished as a key point for shipping. Because of the high-quality natural water source from Daijiji Temple (大慈寺) and Gidaji Temple (祇陀寺), many sake breweries, tofu shops, soba noodle makers, and cafés surround the neighborhood. Besides the commercial facilities, you will also learn how the locals have shared the precious water source together from centuries ago!

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Morioka Machiya Story Museum (もりおか町家物語館)

Machiya is a type of private house. It refers to a building where a store is attached to the residence. The Machiya in each region has its own unique characteristics. In Morioka, the center of the Machiya is an atrium and usually has a Shinto altar. Without the second floor built in the center of the house, no one could “stand” above the head of the family. This still also has the meaning of not hindering the family’s business advancement.

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

Morioka Machiya Story Museum, which opened in 2014, has a small township with small alleys and Machiyas recreated. Each of the facility’s four buildings has a different theme. The information center and community space are at the Omoya (母屋), the main building. Exhibitions and various events are held here.

The Taishōkura (大正蔵) was a sake brewery. It is now a building to travel back in time. Unlike most museums with a souvenir shop attached, the storage’s first floor is a shopping street of the remnant of Morioka’s old township. This is why it was named Time’s Shopping Street (時空の商店街). As you walk between the ancient-looking shops where the regional’s local specialties fill the shelves, you get a clear idea of the lifestyle of the Japanese a century ago.

There is also a café with incredible gelato! The gallery on the 2nd floor has artworks owned by the city exhibited periodically.

Morioka Machiya Story Museum’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Morioka Machiya Story Museum is open from 9 am to 7 pm. The TIme’s Shopping Street is open from 10 am to 5 pm.
    • The last admission is at 6:30 pm.
    • The museum is closed on the 4th Tuesday and from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January.
    • If the 4th Tuesday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day.
  • The museum is a 7-minute walk from the bus stop, Minamiōdōri Nichōme (南大通二丁目). From Morioka Bus Center (盛岡バスセンター), it is a 15-minute walk.

Asabiraki Sake (あさ開)

The conditions for making delicious sake are high-quality water and rice, and Iwate Prefecture is one of the places in Japan that meet this criteria. If you are after nice Japanese sake, visit Asabiraki. The sake maker was started by Murai Genzō (村井源三), an ex-samurai. While it has a long history, it also adapts to new technology. In addition to the traditional handmade method, sake is made using contemporary equipment requiring less manpower.

If you want to bring a couple of bottles of sake home, Asabiraki is the top choice in Morioka. Using the delicious soft underground water from Daiji Shimizu, a water source nearby. The water there is soft and delicious, allowing Asabiraki to produce sake that has won numerous awards and is really popular on various online marketplaces. Free sake sampling is possible, so try it before purchasing!

Asabiraki also holds free sake brewery tours. If you don’t speak Japanese, they should be able to accommodate you using a translation machine.

☛ The best time to join the sake brewery tours is between October and April. This part of the year is when the sake is made. Only the bottling machines are operating during other parts of the year.
☛ Try the sake soft serve if you don’t drink alcohol normally.

Asabiraki Sake’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Asabiraki Sake is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
    • The sake brewery tour can be conducted from 9 am to 4 pm. Please arrive by 3:30 pm.
    • The sake brewery is closed on the 31st of December and the 1st of January.
  • The Sake Brewery is a 5-minute walk from the bus stop, Matsuo mae (松尾前).

Daiji Shimizu Spring (大慈清水)

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

An old infrastructure still used nowadays is Daiji Shimizu, where natural groundwater is shared among the locals. The communal water supply point has a tiered structure. The top water pool is drinking water, followed by water for washing rice, then for food ingredients, and lastly for washing feet. Each pool has its purpose.

Nowadays, as the spring doesn’t go through chlorine sterilization, many people come to Daiji Shimizu to draw water for domestic use.

Important: Daiji Shimizu is carefully managed by local people, so please be respectful when using it.

How to Get to Daiji Shimizu Spring

  • Daiji Shimizu is a 10 to 15-minute walk from Morioka Bus Center (盛岡バスセンター).