The Linear Collider Workshop (LCWS) 2016 is coming to Morioka, Iwate, Japan during the first full week of December 2016. Hundreds of physicists, researchers, government representatives, public relations specialists, and many others will descend to a city of 310,000 that is relatively close to where the candidate site for the ILC. The conference, its workshops, and some friendly networking will occupy plenty of the participant’s time during their stay.

Still, one can assume that many of the conference goers will take in some sightseeing and tourism in Iwate, one of Japan’s largest prefectures. Many participants will be happy staying in Morioka proper, but should you desire to venture a bit further, I can offer two suggestions close to the proposed site in Southern of Iwate that would be of definite interest.


All right folks, please cue the Strauss music from 2001: A Space Odyssey for this introduction –to the beginning of the movie where “Also Spake Zarathustra” with its tympanic rolls, and solo trumpet blares, introduces Paleolithic proto-humanoids and evokes imagery of rising suns, early tools, mankind’s drive to develop, and the monolith that is the driving force of the movie.

Like that monolith that towered over the epoch-making film, Hiraizumi towers over the south of Iwate both physically and metaphorically. Physically, Hiraizumi is a collection of temples, and other buildings and artifacts, set on and around a large hill on the plain that runs from Kitakami to Ichinoseki, seemingly woven into the fabric of the space it occupies. It is also metaphorically woven into a high spot of the culture of Southern Iwate. So much so, that as of 2011 it was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Cultural designation or not, there are few collections of ancient buildings north of Tokyo that are as numerous and elaborate at those found at Hiraizumi, some dating back to the twelfth century. Of course the prefecture of Iwate heavily promotes and supports it which has helped with developing a strong surrounding infrastructure and backing tourist –oriented industry connected to Hiraizumi, especially since receiving the UNESCO Heritage appellation, officially known as “Hiraizumi-Temples, Gardens, and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land”. In its 12th century heyday Hiraizumi was the capital of much of the Northern portion of Japan’s main island Honshu, and was considered every bit the equal of Kyoto.

The Pure Land Garden at Motsu-ji

The Pure Land Garden at Motsu-ji

It should go without saying that, Hiraizumi is quite an eye catcher. Even to the locals, who you think might be accustomed to it somewhat, the gold-leafed walls of Konjikido are stunningly beautiful. The main hall at the Chuson-ji Temple complex is part of national TV networks coverage of the first pilgrimage of the New Year attracting lines of worshipers – think of it as the local Times Square over the New Year with strong cultural and religious importance attached.

Hiraizumi is usually one of the first places foreigners new to Iwate are taken to. The sight of Konjikido, when Japan was still a fresh and exotic place on a warm summer day is still etched in my mind like it was yesterday, not eighteen years ago. As the years go by the visits for various reasons pile up, and almost unconsciously, I can really fathom the large place it holds in Iwate life, culturally, economically, and in many other ways its presence looms large.

To the visitor to Iwate who wants to experience uniquely “Japanese” culture, and may have just a day to do it in, it is a no brainer obvious choice. A half-day or a day visiting Hiraizumi will be well spent, I heartily recommend it.

dean01An Aside (of beef) (…and a Delicious One at That)

A visit to Hiraizumi will put you right next to the Maesawa district of Oshu City. The district is most famous for Maesawa Beef, which is my vote for best in the region, though it might not be quite as widely known as Kobe Beef. It does have a great reputation throughout the country, and receives prizes at repeated taste competitions of various sorts. For the tourist who is in the area for just a limited time, and growing peck-ish, how about making your one meal in the area Maesawa beef at one of the numerous establishments that offer it?

Unparalleled snow quality

Unparalleled snow quality


Moving on from the ancient and traditional Japan, I will now point you in the other direction. Technology-driven, and ultra-modern, complete with all the trappings of modern life.

One of Japan’s biggest secrets is its cold winters. For all its stereotypical image of crowded cities, skyscrapers, high-tech goods and world class shopping and all …the snow comes with them. Tons of the white flaky stuff falls all over just about anything north of Tokyo, and to the winter sports enthusiast, it is manna from heaven, or at least powder from Siberia. Many observers will tell you that it is some of the best snow in the world, and that the best skiing by far in Asia is in the Tohoku Region of Japan as well as Hokkaido, the northernmost island.

Perched near the hump of a lengthy ridge of the Ou Mountains in Southern Iwate, just outside of Kitakami is Geto Ski Area. Geto can lay claim to being the ski area that gets the deepest snowfall of any ski area on the main island most years, and it will collect 450 to 600 centimeters of light, flaky, powder snow that skiers and snowboarders will relish under their skis and boards. This winter it is scheduled to open on December 3rd, and close in mid-May. I do not recall a winter when Geto was not open before just about any other resort in the Region. There is no reason to assume it won’t meet this year’s target date to open and have a considerable amount of luxurious powder snow.

Geto is a medium―sized ski area with two gondolas, a high speed quad lift and two double chairs, a decent amount of beginner to expert terrain in addition to wooded areas that are patrolled in acknowledgement of the powder enthusiasts that will ski off-piste, and a reputation for the best night skiing in Iwate. The night skiing reputation comes from running their main gondola until the resort closes instead of letting customers freeze on chairlifts as the face the cold windy night on the slopes.

In addition the ski consumer will also receive ample accoutrements inside the ski area’s modern base lodge facility. The base lodge, with a long in door escalator taking skiers from the base/parking lot level to the lodge/lift level, a main meeting/ticketing area with slightly diagonal walls that remind me of the space station promenade from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine television series, and a spacious cafeteria with large windows to gaze at the slopes with, and a food selection ranging from contemporary Japanese to Indian gives the ski consumer quite a bit of value for a moderate price. Geto becomes an even bigger bargain in dollar terms when it is compared to North American and European ski resorts.


I have given conference-goers only two choices, on the assumption that it is a short-term trip. One choice is for those seeking Japanese traditional culture and historical offerings and one is for the rugged, active, and hearty outdoor enthusiast. These two choices are just the tip of what the Tohoku iceberg offers, but with limited time to venture, they are South Iwate’s best.


LCWS 2016~岩手県南に行こう!
ILCサポート委員会 ディーン・ルーツラー



さて、『2001年宇宙の旅』のあの名曲を再生して想像しましょう。映画の冒頭のシーンで、ドラムやトランペットが響く「ツァラトゥストラはこう語った 」が再生される中、旧石器時代の原人が舞台に出ます。ストーリーの推進役である「モノリス」が現れた後、日の出、道具の初発明、人類の成長欲求がこのシーンに描かれます。







夏油高原スキー場 ~雪がお迎えします。