The capital city of Iwate does not usually pop-up at the top of the list of foreign visitors to Japan. The general idea as in other parts of Tohoku is that there’s just a lot of nature. But this friendly and cozy city should not be discounted as it is full of surprises that will make you want to hang around longer than planned.
Morioka city is the capital of the Iwate prefecture. This castle city was founded 400 years ago by the feudal lord of the Nanbu Clan. Morioka is rich in natural resources, particularly in high quality iron which has resulted in the local traditional craft of Nambu Cast Ironware being developed – ironware that has now become popular across Asia and even as far as Europe.
The pleasant city sits at the convergence of three rivers, and is surrounded on three sides by mountains. One of the main attraction of Morioka is what remains of the grand Morioka Castle that once stood strong and resolute. After being demolished in 1874, the castle was left to rot, resulting in an extremely interesting walk through the old castle grounds, now known as Morioka Castle Ruins Park, or just simply Iwate Park. As well as serving as a popular destination for tourists visiting Morioka and locals looking to have a nice stroll, the park also provides a breathtaking atmosphere for viewing cherry blossoms during cherry blossom season.
Apart from its natural beauty, Morioka is also the home of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka” – Jajamen, Reimen, and Wanko Soba – all of which can be found in tiny noodle houses and large restaurants throughout town. Wanko Soba is a strange meal which only ever contains one mouthful of soba noodles per serving, once you’ve eaten the mouthful the server gives you another, and another, until you say stop – it’s not uncommon to see hungry patrons going through stacks of 50-60 bowls.
Reimen, or Morioka Ramen as it is known outside of Morioka, is of Korean origins. The story goes that a North Korean resident of Morioka wished to recreate the cold noodles he had eaten in his youth, and the result is the Reimen of today. The third of Morioka’s famous noodle dishes, Jajamen, is of Chinese origins. The noodles are a variation of udon and are served without broth, a scoop of meat miso, green onions, and cucumber, with a side of ginger. Morioka is filled with specialist Jajamen restaurants, as well as restaurants specializing in the aforementioned other noodle varieties – ensuring any visit to Morioka will be a delight to the taste buds and please even the fussiest of noodle lovers.