Oodles of noodles in this colorful Iwate city.
Connoisseurs of Japanese noodles must head north to the capital of Iwate Prefecture, home of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka.”
Criss-crossed by rivers and hemmed in by mountains, Morioka has been nicknamed “the capital of forest and water” for its natural beauty. A generous array of festivals truly makes this city come alive with color and excitement.
Morioka cherry blossoms
The Ishiwarizakura, or rock-splitting cherry tree, is Morioka’s most intriguingly unique attraction, and a national treasure of Japan. Located on the grounds of the district courthouse, it’s a beautiful 400-year-old cherry tree growing mysteriously through two broken halves of a granite boulder.
The beloved tree is an inspiring sight, especially when change-heralding sakura bloom in the spring.
Three Great Noodles
With Morioka’s three types of famous noodles, you could eat a different bowl for every meal of the day.
Reimen and jajamen have worldly influences: potato-starch based ramen noodles are based on a Korean dish and often served with kimchi and even a slice of fruit, while tasty jajamen is the local version of Chinese black bean noodles.
But the most interesting dish of all is wanko soba, arguably the most fun and game-like noodle-eating experience you could have.
The thin buckwheat noodles are served in bite-size portions in tiny bowls, but every time you slurp a bowl down, an attentive server will immediately replace it. The noodles are all-you-can-eat, and customers typically compete with each other to see who can stack up the most empty dishes.
For a small city, Morioka hosts some spectacularly vibrant and popular festivals.
Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival
On the second Saturday of June, the adorably named Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival sees 100 horses paraded through the streets and hills. Chagu chagu is an onomatopoeia for the sound of tinkling bells, and it’s fitting because the horses are decked out in beautiful traditional decorations.
Morioka Sansa Festival
August 1 to 4 brings the Morioka Sansa Festival, the largest taiko parade in the world. In the pulsing heat of summer, teams of dancers twirl energetically through the streets to the sound of taiko drums and flutes.
Morioka Fall Festival
The Morioka Fall Festival is a shrine festival held annually from September 14 to 16. Floats are paraded through the streets, and a traditional Yabusame ceremony is held at Hachimangu Shrine, where archers shoot targets from the backs of galloping horses.
The parade starts from the shrine at 1 p.m. on the first day of the festival, and at 6 p.m. from Morioka Castle Ruins Park on the second day. The exciting horseback archery kicks off at Hachimangu Shrine at 1 p.m. on the last day of the festival.
Iwate Prefecture hosted two matches during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in nearby city Kamaishi. Check out our Kamishi travel guide to plan your trip!