Iwate, home to the Kitakami mountain candidate site for the ILC, is blessed with immense natural resources – mountains, lakes, and a rias coastline, along with abundant food from both land and sea.


Since Iwate is the largest prefecture on Japan’s island of Honshu, it takes around 2 hours by car to traverse from its westernmost town Nishiwaga to Miyako City on the east coast.

Speaking of that east-west route, we’d like to showcase a project that seeks to sustainably develop the region through increasing exchange and the trade of goods.


That project is called the Iwate Hometown Connection Bus Helper Project.


This project was started last year, and uses passenger/freight buses to deliver and sell local goods – revitalizing the local economy, aid the transportation network, and increase the exchange of people following the pandemic. *Passenger/freight buses are mixed use buses that can be used to transport both people and things in order to reduce costs and support distribution networks.


In Nishiwaga Town, COVID-19 led to a reduction in visitors to the town and even caused the closing of a major transportation route. A slowdown in the sale of local goods led to stagnation in Nishiwaga’s economy. Miyako City has also seen a slowdown due to the pandemic.


In order to rev up their economies, Nishiwaga and Miyako started this project by coordinating with Northern Iwate Transportation Inc. (which already runs a passenger/freight bus on this route) and a partner company, East Japan Transportation Inc.


In Japanese, the project is called “BUS助っ人 (Bus Helper)” which is pronounced “basuketto”. This sounds a lot like the English word “basket”, so there is a bit of a wordplay in that it could mean a thing that can carry things and people (a basket), a goal for the region (a goal in basketball), and an ally (a basuketto (Bus-Helper)).

From December 2021 to March 2022, this passenger/freight bus ran every Friday to sell Nishiwaga goods at Miyako’s roadside stations “Yamabiko-kan” and “Miyako.” It also took Miyako goods to Nishiwaga to sell at its farmers’ market “Yume Plaza.”


There were also numerous commerce/exchange events held to showcase the goods of Nishiwaga and Miyako. The Nishiwaga/Miyako Hometown Bus Helper Market was held at Morioka Station in Iwate’s capital, and even Kerohira, the frog mascot of our world heritage site Hiraizumi, was there to bring the party.

It was so nice to be able to make a quick stop in Morioka and be able to buy special goods from both ends of Iwate.

Miyako and Nishiwaga also worked together to develop and sell new products, and came up with two collaborations.

The first was a sweet black bean danish filled with warabi mochi – this is a type of gelatinous dumpling made from warabi, a type of wild vegetable. This particular warabi is sourced from Nishiwaga, with the sweet black beans from Miyako. It’s a nice little collaboration with fun variations in taste and texture.

The second is a parfait made with the same ingredients – a great treat for the summer.

We hope you get a chance to try it!

As you can see, this Hometown Bus Helper Project was a chance for people to rediscover the things that make their own regions so special as well as find successes in product development and expanding sales channels. Through this, there was an increase of visitors and experiential tours, further increasing the exchange of people as well as the amount of profit and passengers on bus routes.

Tourism in the region has greatly declined due to COVID-19, but there is still so much to enjoy in Iwate. The Project will be held again this year to even further improve the local economy. We’d love it if you’d also take a chance to visit Iwate and find your own treasure.

Here’s hoping you’ll be a Bus Helper one day too!



また、西和賀町と宮古市の商品を紹介する物産・交流イベントを複数回開催しました。県庁所在地にある盛岡駅で開催した「西和賀・宮古 ふるさとバスケットマルシェ」には、世界遺産平泉をPRするキャラクター「ケロ平」も飛び入り参加し、会場を盛り上げました。