The New York Times recently named Morioka City of Iwate Prefecture on its list of 52 places to visit in 2023. It’s not technically a ranked list, but to our delight, Morioka City was placed 2nd, right below London. As a long-time resident of Morioka, I’ve long known about the beauty of this place and yet I never imagined it being placed next to LONDON on a list! But it’s true: Morioka is as beautiful and enjoyable as any one of the world’s major cities. It’s buried treasure just waiting for you to unearth it.


Journalist and writer Craig Mod already showcased great spots like Nagasawa Coffee, Booknerd, Café Jazz Johnny’s, and Azumaya’s wanko soba, so I thought it would be a great idea to show off other spots a traveler might want to visit if they’re wandering by foot through the city.


Most people stay in hotels located near Morioka Station or its main street Odori. You’ll see lots of people congregating day and night, going shopping, eating out, or meeting up with friends. But let’s head out into the brisk winter air, and get away from the city streets. Walk north towards the Kitayama residential area. It can be a little slippery in the wintertime, so remember to bring sturdy boots if you plan on being here December-March.


Hoon-ji Temple

Address: 31-5 Nasukawa-cho, Morioka City

Hours: 9:00-16:00

Admission: 300 yen per adult, 100 yen per child

More info (VISIT IWATE)


I like to visit this space whenever I need something extraordinary and ethereal to calm me. This temple is home to the 500 Rakan, a large number of Buddhist statues all in various poses and emotions. Each statue is about the size of a toddler, and they all have a different expression. Some are happy and laughing, drinking in the others presence. Others are stern or morose. Others still are calm and serene. But they’re all important. There’s a strange energy here that I feel, and it always grounds me. They call this a “power spot” in Japanese so hopefully you can gain a little power yourself from their curious expressions before we head out on the rest of our walk.


Mitsuishi Shrine

Address: 2-1 Nasukawa-cho, Morioka City

Hours: It’s always open, but it’s not illuminated at night, so we recommend heading there during daylight hours.

Admisson: Free


About 5 minutes walk to the south will bring you to the doorstep of Mitsuishi Shrine. This small, unassuming shrine is shaded by trees; you might even miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for. But this humble shrine birthed the legend that came to name this whole prefecture. Iwate in Japanese is written with two characters: Rock (岩), and Hand(手). Within this shrine is a humongous rock that is said to have a handprint on it.


Long ago, an oni demon came to torment the people of the village. The people desperately prayed to the god Mitsuishi to save them, and so Mitsuishi shackled the oni to these rocks and demanded it leave the village posthaste. The oni agreed, and left his handprints on the rock as a testament to his promise. They say you can see the faint outline of them on the rock on rainy days…



Can you see the handprints? A lot of people have come to leave their own handprints on this rock. You’re touching history here.


Kaminohashi Bridge

Address: 1-4 Kaminohashi-cho, Morioka City


Let’s walk towards the river. Morioka is home to three large rivers and many tributaries, so there are many old, historic bridges crisscrossing the town. Probably the most famous is Kaminohashi. This bridge is home to traditional onion-shaped “giboshi” ornamental pillars. People gather on this bridge in the fall to see salmon swimming upstream in the Nakatsugawa river. Right now, there are swan gathered on the river, cooing out greetings to passersby.


The air is cold, but the town is alive with history. There’s a small museum visible from here; let’s check it out.


Fukazawa Koko Nonohana Art Museum

Address: 4-8 Konya-cho, Morioka City

Hours: 10:00-17:00 (closed on Mondays)

Admission: 500 yen per adult, 300 yen per university/high school student, 200 yen per child

More information at their homepage (Japanese only)


This small museum is home to the works of Fukazawa Koko, an artist born in Morioka in 1903. She is known for her lifelong devotion to drawing wild flowers (nonohana), which is where the museum got its name. She especially loved the Forget-Me-Nots (wasuregusa) that grew on the banks of the Nakatsugawa river. A brilliant painter, her works appeared in local newspapers and magazine covers, and she worked with her husband, a fellow artist, to spread the joy of art to the youth of Japan.


The head of the museum, Ms. Hiroshima Yasuko, and the curator, Ms. Watanabe Kaoru, were thrilled to take me through the exhibits, and even presented me with a few postcards with Ms. Fukazawa’s wildflower art on them. There’s even a small café on the first floor right by the wide windows, so you can see the passerbys walking by the riverside. Art, nature, and local culture – a very pleasant afternoon!


Konyacho Banya Café

Address: 4-34 Konyacho, Morioka City

Hours: 10:00-17:00 (closed Mondays)

More info on their homepage (Japanese only)


This café and gift shop is located in the Konyacho district. It almost looks like a lighthouse on the banks of the Nakatsugawa, but was originally used as a fire station (completely with fire trucks) for the local firefighting division. It was used in this way until 2005, and stood as a local monument until refurbished as a café and reopened last year in 2022. I stood before the entrance, a simple wooden sliding door, and cautiously slid it open.
The proprietor, Mr. Iwabuchi Koji, was waiting to greet me and regaled me with tales of Konyacho’s history as a commercial and residential district. The shop owners of the area have an interest in and ties to Europe, and in the Banya shop, Mr. Iwabuchi carries various knickknacks from overseas as well as from local makers. The coffee was very nice; on offer are two special house blends called “Mori” and “Oka.” (The beans are from Fukosha, a coffee roaster in the next town over)



The smell of freshly baked senbei crackers wafts through the air. Across the street is the famed Shirasawa Senbeiten, which sells Nanbu senbei, a type of wheat cracker that the Iwate area is famous for. Let’s head over and get some souvenirs.


Shirasawa Senbeiten

Address: 2-16 Konyacho, Morioka City

Hours: 9:00-17:00

More info on their homepage (Japanese only)


Senbei are traditionally made from rice flour, but Nanbu senbei are made of wheat. These are slightly sweet, with a cookie like texture, and are filled with things like peanuts, pumpkin seeds, or flavored with soy sauce or sesame. Shirasawa even sells crackers filled with chocolate. The shop’s owner is prolific on social media, and often shows off pictures of the shop’s staff (his daughters) dressed in the Shirasawa uniform.


Bank of Iwate Red Brick Building

Address: 1 Chome 2-20, Nakanohashidori, Morioka City

More info on VISIT IWATE


A wander through Morioka is always benefited from a pass by this old red brick building. Perhaps the most famous building in all of the city, it was built in 1911 by Manji Kasai and Kingo Tatsuno, who also designed many other famous buildings such as Tokyo Station. The building is open to the public and often hosts various exhibits.


Sakanacho Shopping Arcade

Address: 8 12 6 Sakanacho, Morioka City


A visit to this area of town isn’t complete without a quick jaunt up and down the Sakanacho shopping district. These types of commercial districts, covered with a roof and closed to traffic, used to be very popular in Japan, but have lost favor in the face of large chain stores and an increasingly car-friendly society. Some shops are shuttered here, and a large commercial facility called “Monaka” is currently under construction for a 2024 open date, so it’s a quiet street. But there are tea shops, candy shops, a grocer, apparel shops, a café or two, a bookstore, and even a Mister Donut. This is where the people of Morioka shop and live their lives.


If you’re here in August, the street is adorned with handmade streamers and decorations for the Tanabata Festival. The area vibrates with energy, filled with festival goers clad in cotton yukata and little children hoping to scoop up a goldfish from a festival game.


Morioka Bus Center

Address: 1 Chome 9, Nakanohashidori, Morioka City

Hours: West Building 6:00-22:30, East Building 7:00-20:00 (Individual shop hours vary)

More info on their homepage (Japanese only)


It’ll be dark in an hour or so, so it’s time to head back. We’re right by the newly built Morioka Bus Center so let’s take a quick look before we take a bus back towards Morioka Station. (You can walk back into town too; it’s maybe a twenty minute walk back to the station)


This local hub is a new facility opened last year. A bus ticketing center and shopping complex, it has shops, restaurants, a hotel and even a spa facility. Jazz lovers who visited the Jazz Café Johnny mentioned in the NYTimes – there’s a jazz museum inside the bus center as well.



I may have been living for Morioka for almost 15 years, but as you can see, just when I thought I knew everything about the city, there were more discoveries awaiting me. I just love this city. This is the place for me. I can’t imagine being in any other city in the world.















【深沢紅子 野の花美術館】









【岩手銀行 赤レンガ館】