Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Top Guide to Ichinoseki’s Attractions and Mochi Cuisine

Ichinoseki (一関市) is the southmost city in Iwate Prefecture. Having a wealth of beautiful natural landscapes, it is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway from the big city’s hustle and bustle. If you are a foodie, Ichinoseki should also be of your interest. The city also has a unique mochi culture, meaning you will have your first mochi set menu for lunch!

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Tip: If you plan to spend a night at Ichinoseki, consider Toyoko Inn Ichinoseki Ekimae. The hotel is clean and offers complimentary breakfast!

Ichinoseki’s Cherry Blossom and Autumn Foliage Season

The Hidden Flower Spots in Ichinoseki

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

If you are in the city from spring to autumn, there are a couple of places you can head to to adore seasonal flowers. So, don’t be too disappointed if you can’t visit Japan during the cherry blossom season. Other flowers, such as wisteria, also have their charms!

For more information, refer to our article on Ichinoseki’s Hidden Flower Spots!

Ichinoseki’s Mochi Culture

While rice cakes can easily be found across Japan, the mochi in Ichinoseki really stands out! When you visit the city, you will have your first mochi cuisine. The rice cake there isn’t just eaten as a dessert, but as a main dish too!

So, if you ever visit Ichinoseki, check out the restaurants in our Top Places to Enjoy Ichinoseki’s Mochi Culture article. Eating mochi is the must-do in this part of Japan!

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

Ichinoseki Tourist Information Center (一関市観光協会)

The first thing you do when arriving at a city you plan to explore is to visit its tourist information center. You will usually find some useful information and tips even if you have your day all planned out.

Ichinoseki Tourist Information Center is conveniently located close to the station’s west exit. The sightseeing pamphlets are also available in English, so remember to stop by! The friendly staff will also assist you if you run into any issues.

Ichinoseki Tourist Information Center not only provides information about Ichinoseki but also the southern Iwate Prefecture, northern Miyagi Prefecture, and the Ogatsu region in Akita Prefecture.

  • Bicycle rental is available from 9 am to 5 pm.
    • The cost is 300 yen per hour or 500 yen per day.
  • Luggage storage service is available at the Ichinoseki Tourist Information Center too.

Ichinoseki Tourist Information Center’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Ichinoseki Tourist Information Center is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm.
  • The tourist information center is located right next to the ticket machine at JR Ichinoseki Station’s west exit. You can also visit the Ichinoseki Tourist Association, a one-minute walk from the west exit.

The Former Numata Family Samurai Residence (旧沼田家武家住宅)

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

If you are curious about how fancy a chief retainer’s residence in the region was during the Edo period, visit the Former Numata Family Samurai Residence.

The Numata clan was the chief retainer of Ichinoseki Domain. The residence that was determined to be built in the first half of the 18th century miraculously escaped from the fate of collapsing due to the repeated floods of the Iwai River nearby!

For more information, refer to our article on The Former Numata Family Samurai Residence.

Shōeidō (松栄堂)

Shōeidō is Ichinoseki‘s representative traditional confectionary maker, established in 1903. It is very good at creating gorgeously shaped sweets made from local ingredients, reflecting the local cultures and current seasons. As the rice cake is found in all seasonal events in Ichinoseki, the local traditional sweets makers, such as Shōeidō, have created a variety of mochi sweets to reflect this mochi culture.

Shoeido Ichinoseki 's Best Traditional Sweets Maker Iwate Japan

So, refer to our Shōeidō article for more information, including its cafe!

Urashima Park (浦しま公園)

Urashima Park was renovated from the reception hall (迎賓館) of the Tamura clan, the feudal lord of the Ichinoseki Domain. The pure Japanese-style garden is filled with a large variety of flowers and trees, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of this Japanese garden throughout the seasons. During the fall foliage season, the park is especially stunning!

Entry is free, and it also has a public toilet, so how about taking a relaxing stroll while waiting for the next bullet train?

The park also has a tea room called Nishiki-an (にしき庵), which can be rented out from 9 am to 5 pm. The cost is 300 yen per hour. Please call the city government’s Urban Development Division (都市整備課) at +81-191-21-2111 if you wish to use it.

Urashima Park’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Urashima Park is open from:
    • 7 am to 7 pm from February to October
    • 7 am to 5 pm from November to January
  • Urashima Park is a 10-minute walk from JR Ichinoseki Station (一ノ関駅).

Sake Brewery Sekinoichi (世嬉の一酒造)

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

Sake Brewery Sekinoichi isn’t an ordinary alcoholic facility. It is also a place to discover Ichionoseki‘s culture. Besides Japanese sake and beer, the sake brewer also has a restaurant offering mouthwatering traditional and modern cuisines, and other various cultural activities.

So refer to our Sekinoichi article for more information!

Ganjoji Temple (願成寺)

Ganjoji Temple is located on a hill about 500 meters south of JR Ichinoseki Station. The temple was erected in 1385 but suffered from three fire incidents in 1567, 1750, and 1771. Most of the buildings in the precinct were restored/renovated by the end of the 20th century. But the Buddha statues have a much longer history, mostly from the 14th century!

The magnificent Sanmon Gate was reconstructed in 1998. Even by looking at the photo, you can see that the gate is majestic! The wooden tower gate has three rooms on the second floor decorated with intricate carvings. The guardian gods placed inside on the first floor will also catch your attention as the sculptor did a great job in making them look fierce and powerful.

Although the courtyard past the gate isn’t wide, it is a beautiful site. The traditional buildings are amazing and worth examining if you are interested in Japan’s architecture. The main worship hall’s last renovation was completed in 1984. The hill at the back of the temple is a forested hilly graveyard.

  • Ganjoji Temple is a 15-minute walk from JR Ichinoseki Station (一ノ関駅).

Aoba Chokurian (青葉 直利庵)

If you don’t mind consuming non-vegetarian broth, visit Aoba Chokurian, and you will be surprised by how thick the soba noodles there are. The noodles there are so famous that people from other prefectures (even Tokyo) would come to Ichinoseki for them.

Aoba Chokurian’s soba noodles are thick because the founder wanted his customers to chew the noodles to taste the sweetness of the buckwheat. The noodles he made in his restaurant are long and as thick as udon noodles, making it hard for anyone to swallow them in whole!

Another special thing about Aoba Chokurian is the condiment. Instead of wasabi, chilli-infused grated radish is used. So don’t be surprised to see a lump of red mysterious thing next to the sliced shallot!

Note that the order is made and paid first at the register at the back of the restaurant before being seated. Also, the volume of the noodles at Aoba Chokurian is large, even for a normal portion order.

Aoba Chokurian’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Aoba Chokurian is open from 11 am to 3 pm from Monday to Saturday.
  • The restaurant is a 15 to 20-minute walk from JR Ichinoseki Station (一ノ関駅).

Tip: Arrive early as the restaurant is very popular. It can be full shortly after the restaurant opens.

Genbikei Gorge (厳美渓)

Ⓒ 一関市観光協会

Genbikei, one of the most beautiful spots in the Tohōku region, is a 2km gorge created by the continuous erosions of the Iwai River. Walking on the well-maintained promenade along the gorge, it only takes around 45 minutes to explore the dynamic landscape.

Another main reason that Genbikei Gorge is so popular is due to the Kakkō Dango. The rice cakes will come “flying” at you from the teahouse across the bank after an order is placed!

For more information, refer to our article on Genbikei Gorge!

Roadside Station Genbikei (道の駅 厳美渓) and Restaurant Pettankun (ペッタンくん)

Located just a 5 to 10-minute walk from Genbikei Gorge, the Roadside Station Genbikei is the perfect resting spot after exploring the gorge. It has a restaurant serving mochi cuisine and a museum filled with amazing exhibits.

For more information, refer to our Roadside Station Genbikei article!

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

Matsurube Observation Hill (祭畤被災地 展望の丘)

You might still remember the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that severely impacted the Tōhoku region. Three years prior to that earthquake, another large earthquake struck the Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture. The Matsurube Observation Hill serves as a reminder of those disastrous events.

Ⓒ 一関市観光協会

Walking along the promenade leading to the observation hill, the badly damaged former national highway that leads to the collapsed bridge is located just adjacent to you. None of these roads and the bridge were repaired as it allows the visitors to see how powerful Mother Nature can be!

For reassurance, the bridge will not collapse further by future earthquakes. Measures have been taken to stabilize the bridge girders. Although all in Japanese, explanation panels with images are placed around the park for visitors.

Important: There is no toilet facility in the park. Also, the promenade can be slippery when wet.

How to Get to Matsurube Observation Hill

  • From Ichinoseki Station, take Iwateken Kōtsū’s bus service and get off at Bunanomori Matsurube-kan (ぶなの森まつるべ館).
    • The bus trip takes around 60 minutes.
    • The park is then a 5-minute walk.

Shinyu Onsen (真湯温泉センター·温泉交流館)

Ichinoseki also has natural hot springs, and one of the better-known ones is Shinyu Onsen. It is just a few stops from Matsurube Observation Hill. Although there is only one onsen facility around the area, it is a recreation zone with a hot spring and outdoor activity facility. Tennis, camping, hiking, and skiing in winter can all be enjoyed at Shinyu Onsen. If you don’t like camping, cottages are available for rent!

Contrasting the strongly acidic springs at Sukawa Onsen, Shinyu Onsen’s hot spring is neutral. The locals have used Shinyu Onsen to help their skin recover from the damage or potential damage that Sukawa Onsen’s acidic spring has caused.

Ⓒ 一関市観光協会

Although Shinyu Onsen doesn’t have a private hot spring tub, the indoor and outdoor pools are connected to different spring sources. The hot spring in the open-air pool is brown due to the onsen’s iron deposit, so don’t mistake it for mud water!

You might notice a slight metal smell when you indulge yourself in it. As the hot spring facility is located in a cedar forest, it will feel like you are bathing in the wild!

  • As the hot spring in the indoor pool is circulated, chlorine is used to ensure hygiene.
  • Coin-operated lockers are available in the changing rooms.

Note that Shinyu Onsen only takes reservations via phone for overnight stays. Their phone number is +81-191-39-2713. It is best if you can speak Japanese as there might not be any English-speaking staff.

For more information, refer to Shinyu Onsen’s official website HERE and translate it by using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.

Shinyu Onsen’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • Shinyu Onsen is open from 10 am to 7 pm.
  • The restaurant is open from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm.
  • For day visitors, the cost is 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for elementary school students.
  • From Ichinoseki Station, take Iwateken Kōtsū’s Sugawa Onsen Line (須川温泉線) and get off at Shinyu Sensō (真湯山荘).
    • Refer to HERE and scroll down to “須川温泉線” for the timetable in Japanese. “平日” means weekdays, and “土日祝日” means weekends and public holidays.
    • You can also use one of Japan’s Transport Apps to plan your visit.

Mountain Spring Buna no Megumi (須川岳秘水 ぶなの恵み)

Ⓒ 一関市観光協会

If you plan to visit Sukawa Kōgen Onsen (須川高原温泉) after visiting Genbikei Gorge, get your water bottles ready for the fresh mountain stream from the fountain Buna no Megumi.

The water fountain on the National Highway 342 is around 30 minutes from Genbikei Gorge. It was chosen to be one of the 100 Famous Waters of the Heisei Era (平成の名水100選). Because the mountain spring there is sweet and delicious, many locals visiting it will bring buckets of water home. It is even used to make beer!

Around the Buna no Megumi, there is a small parking lot, giving you enough space to draw the water safely. Different from many other water fountains in the mountain, the spring at Buna no Megumi comes out of a dragon’s mouth – just like the purification fountain in a temple or a shrine!

A few bamboo tubes are also set up to increase the number of drawing points.

Tip: If it is packed around Buna no Megumi, the waiting time shouldn’t be long, as it is not a place where people will be lingering around.

Sukawa Kōgen (須川高原)

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Sukawa Kōgen is the plateau halfway up Mt. Kurikoma (栗駒山). You can find the unique volcanic landscape at Sukawa Kōgen, including lakes, marshes, wetlands, and alpine plants. In autumn, the vivid color that spreads across the mountain is another reason why people visit the spot.

For more information about what to do at this stunning spot, refer to our Sukawa Kōgen article!

Geibikei Gorge (猊鼻渓)

Another famous gorge in Ichinoseki is Geibikei Gorge. While there is no promenade along the gorge for you to walk on, taking the traditional boat that travels between the cliffs over 100 meters is the best way to enjoy Geibikei.

While in Japanese only, the boatman will introduce you to the must-see spots at Geibikei Gorge during the boat ride. He will even sing the traditional song to you!

The 90-minute trip also includes a short break at the other end of the gorge, where you can enjoy nature and participate in a small ritual.

For more information, refer to our article on Geibikei Gorge!

Ⓒ 一関市観光協会

Kamisukikan (紙すき館)

If you are after some traditional souvenirs, visit Kamisukikan for washi paper. The washi paper maker was first founded more than 800 years ago. It is said that the founder was the fugitive of Hiraizumi‘s Fujiwara clan, which was destroyed by the army led by Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first Shōgun of the Kamakura shogunate.

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

The handmade washi paper made from mulberry is extremely durable compared to other washi paper. Paper-based stationery, postcards, envelopes, and colored paper made of washi paper are sold at the facility.

You can also join a washi paper-making workshop, which will only take around 15 to 30 minutes. In addition to the plain washi paper, you can dye it with colors of your own choosing and stick leaves on it. The final product is then shipped to you around one week’s time. The cost, excluding shipping costs, is:

  • 1,000 yen for one person
  • 1,500 yen for two people
  • 700 yen per person if there are three or more people in your group

Important: Check with the staff if they can ship it to an overseas address before joining the washi paper-making workshop.

Kamisukikan’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Kamisukikan is open from:
    • 9 am to 5 pm from June to November
    • 10 am to 3 pm from December to March
  • Kamisukikan is a 5-minute walk from JR Geibikei Station (猊鼻渓駅).

Yūgendō Cave (幽玄洞)

Yūgendō is a cave you can explore after visiting Geibikei Gorge. The cave that was 50 meters below water 350 million years ago is Japan’s oldest limestone cave!

For more information, refer to our Yūgendō article!

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

Senmaya Sake no Kura Community Facility (千厩酒のくら交流施設)

If you are interested in getting a rough idea of what the Japanese refer to as the Taishō Roman, visit the Senmaya Sake no Kura Community Facility. The complex, comprising 25 buildings from the last few centuries, epitomises the dramatic changes to the townscape from the Edo to the Taishō periods. It is also a great spot for coffee and cheap snacks!

For more information, refer to our Senmaya Sake no Kura Community Facility article.

Enjoy a Cultural and Scenery Feast in Hiraizumi Town

Click the photo to discover the charms of Hiraizumi!

Hiraizumi town (平泉町), once Kyoto’s rival for its refined culture and elegant surroundings in the 12th century, still retains its charm and traces of former greatness. If you are after a cultural and scenery feast, it is the destination that you don’t want to miss!

To find out more about this town (that isn’t too far from Genbikei Gorge), refer to our article on Hiraizumi!

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