Picture it: an ILC laboratory in a picturesque winter wonderland. Researchers testing their theories while snow falls gently outside. Warm stews made with local produce being made in the cafeteria. Snow sculptures of Higgs-kun. Iwate and Tohoku are famed for their beautiful, snowy winters, and living in the area will give you access to a whole treasure-trove of winter activities.

Winter Sports

Once the weekend arrives… the ski slopes await! Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoe trekking, cross country, ice skating – Iwate is one of the best places to do winter sports in the whole country! Over 20 ski areas can be found throughout the prefecture, from the northern highlands to the coastal hills. While there are intermediate and expert courses for the veteran skier, there are also kiddy hills and easy courses available so fun can be had with the whole family. “A Trip to Iwate” keeps a list of some of the more famous ski areas, which can be found here.

APPI Ski Resort

APPI Ski Resort

But that’s not all. In fact, a huge winter sports competition just started on January 27. Iwate will be home to the National Sports Festival, or Kokutai as it’s called in Japanese. Held once a year, the Kokutai is similar to the Olympics in which athletes compete in a number of events with a prefectural team. Iwate’s natural surroundings make it the perfect host for the Kokutai, with its snowy mountains and vast coastline. This is the first time Iwate will be hosting both winter and summer games, and is now holding the winter events of January and February. All of the Kokutai is free to attend. Are you going to be in Japan during January and February? Drop on by if you have the chance!

Iwate is the first of the tsunami-struck prefectures to hold the Kokutai since the disaster. The games have been subtitled “Spreading the joy. Giving thanks.” as part of Iwate’s efforts to thank all that have supported us.

Winter Festivals

Iwate Snow Festival (early February)

Iwate Snow Festival at Koiwai Farm

Iwate Snow Festival at Koiwai Farm

Similar to the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival, snow sculptures are constructed in the shapes of various characters and locations. You can also have lunch inside of a snow igloo, where they serve their specialty grilled lamb.
(Unfortunately for 2016, due to the lack of snow, there will not be any snow sculptures up on display. Continue to check their website for the latest updates)


Morioka Snow Lights Festival (mid-February)

Morioka's Snow Lights Festival

Morioka’s Snow Lights Festival

Thousands of snow lanterns are sculpted in Morioka’s Castle Park. Walk by granite stone walls illuminated by soft candlelight.


Daito-Ohara Mizukake Festival in Ichinoseki (mid-February)


Running through the streets of Ohara, Ichinoseki

This is right in the middle of the ILC site! Scantily clad men run down a street in near zero temperatures as onlookers throw water at them at the Mizukake Festival (water-throwing festival). The race down the street is the main event at the festival which began over 350 years ago to pray for and raise awareness of fire safety, following a fire which destroyed more than half of Tokyo (then known as Edo) in 1657. The festival today continues the message of fire safety but people also pray for sound health, for recovery following the Great East Japan Earthquake, and so on.

Sominsai – Naked Man Festival in Oshu (mid-February)


Can you handle the cold!? The Sominsai of Oshu

The naked Sominsai Festival is held on a freezing night, surrounded by deeply packed snow. Men in loinclothes run through the snow and huddle together to celebrate masculinity. This event has been held for over a millenium, and is known as one of the Three Strangest Japanese Festivals. It’s also a nationally designated “Intangible Folk Cultural Property.” Check out the video made by Oshu For You about this very festival!

…and many more!

Winter Cooking

Hittsumi, an nabe with hand-made dumplings

Hittsumi, a local stew with handmade dumplings

The best way to beat the cold is a “nabe” party with friends. Nabe (pronounced “nah beh”) is the Japanese word for a hot pot, or basically a soup with meat, vegetables, mushrooms, tofu and more thrown in. Anything on hand works – there’s chicken meatball nabe, fish nabe, kimchi spicy nabe, etc, etc. Supermarkets even sell the broth, so all you have to do is pick out the ingredients and thrown them in a pot of water. Traditionally a large clay pot is used, and friends and family gather around the table to eat.

Iwate grows so much fresh food that you could have an all-Iwate nabe if you so wish. Visit any farmer’s market to get local shiitake mushrooms, daikon radish, potatoes, carrots, hakusai cabbage, as well as local pork or beef. You could even splurge on some “Iwate-gyu” beef, high quality cuts from various makers near the ILC site! Round it off with a bottle of local sake, craft beer, or a cup of piping hot tea.

Onsen – Japanese Hot Springs

A nice bath outside at Sukawa Onsen

A nice bath outside at Sukawa Onsen

The night is cold and the sky is clear. Snow is piled on the ground, and lights twinkle from houses that dot the countryside. There, fenced in a winter-white Japanese garden, is a hot spring with steam billowing out from the water. This might just be the quintessential winter activity in Iwate – a hot soak in an outdoor bath out under the stars.

Iwate is home to many onsen, from the famous Hanamaki Onsen resort about an hour north of the ILC site, so many smaller ones in the mountains. You can find a list here.

The Kotatsu

kotatsuThe world’s greatest invention.

No, no, but seriously. The houses in Tohoku can be a little old, and insulation is thin. The most economic and ecological way to heat your home can be found in the simple kotatsu table. The tabletop can be removed to place a blanket overtop a frame with an electric heating element. The heater warms up the space underneath the blanket so you feel toasty even when the room around you is quite chilly.

In olden days, these were pits found in wooden houses with thatched roofs, where the family would do their cooking and stay warm. Now you can buy kotatsu from any furniture store. The blanket need not stay out after winter is over – the table can be used like any normal table in the summer. You can even buy taller tables that can fit chairs.


岩手~冬のワンダーランド[5号] 和山 アマンダ(岩手県)





岩手は、東日本大震災で被災した3県の中で、発災以来初めて国体を開催します。私達を支援してくれた全ての方々に感謝を伝えるため、「広げよう 感動。伝えよう 感謝。」のスローガンのもとで開催します。

詳細 (岩手旅)
世界でも有名な札幌雪まつりのように、様々な雪像が会場で造られています。かまくらの中では、ジンギスカンなどのランチを食べることができます。 (注:今年は雪が少ないため、雪像が造られないのでご了承ください)