Largest City


Oodles of noodles in this colorful Iwate city.

  • The 2020 Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival which was scheduled to take place June 13 has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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 during cherry blossom season

"Ishiwari-zakura", Rock-splitting cherry in Morioka Iwate

Photo by: yisris The legendary rock-splitting cherry tree.

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.

Sakurayama Shrine in Morioka

Stop by Sakurayama Shrine in Iwate Park.

Wanko Soba and the Three Great Noodle dishes

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 reimen 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.

Morioka noodles

Reimen, a Korean-inspired dish of cold noodles, is one of Morioka’s “Three Great Noodle” dishes.

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.

Seasonal festivals

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 Matsuri

The Morioka Sansa Matsuri features the world’s biggest taiko drum parade.

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.

Morioka Hachimangu Shrine

Photo by: Wiki The red and golden Morioka Hachimangu Shrine surrounded by flourishing autumn leaves.

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 will host two matches during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in nearby city Kamaishi. Check out our Kamishi travel guide to plan your trip! 

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How To Get There


2 Chome-7-5 Moriokaekinishidōri, Morioka-shi, Iwate-ken 020-0045, Japan

By train

Morioka Station is a stop on the Tohoku-Shinkansen. From Tokyo, the journey takes a little over 2 hours and costs ¥14,740.

By bus

Morioka can also be accessed from Tokyo via overnight highway bus. The trip takes around 7 hours, and can cost ¥5000-9000.

Where To Stay

Hotel Route-Inn Morioka Ekimae
  • Moriokaekimaedori 3-25 Morioka-Shi, Iwate 020-0034
  • 7.9/10
  • 0.3 km
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UNIZO INN Express Morioka
  • Moriokaeki Nishitori 2-10-25 Morioka-Shi, Iwate 020-0045
  • 7.9/10
  • 0.3 km
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Hotel Metropolitan Morioka
  • Moriokaekimaedori 1-44 Morioka-Shi, Iwate 020-0034
  • 8/10
  • 0.3 km
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Morioka City Hotel
  • Morioka Ekimae Dori 8-14 Morioka-Shi, Iwate 020-0034
  • 7.6/10
  • 0.3 km
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