Travel Postcard: 48 Hours in Morioka, capital of "Japan's Tibet"

Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:56am EST
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By Elaine Lies

MORIOKA, Japan (Reuters) - Once viewed as a backward part of northeast Japan, so snowy it was known as "Japan's Tibet," the city of Morioka and surrounding Iwate prefecture came into their own 30 years ago, when the superfast Shinkansen train began running up north.

Just 2.5 hours from Tokyo, Morioka and its laid-back lifestyle, surrounded by mountains ideal for hiking in summer and skiing in winter, makes a good weekend getaway for anyone tired of the bustle of Tokyo.

Laced with rivers that in autumn are filled with spawning salmon, the city has lots of narrow, twisting roads perfect for strolling, with cafes and idiosyncratic restaurants - some featuring just a single item. Looming over the city is the conical Mt. Iwate (2,039 meters/6,686 feet).

Though Iwate was one of the areas hit hard by the 2011 quake and tsunami, the devastation was confined to the coast two hours east. Visitors can have the satisfaction of knowing the yen they spend is helping with reconstruction.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you make the most of a 48-hour stay.


7 p.m. - Dinner options abound. Restaurants are concentrated in the street running down to the Hachiman Shrine on the city's eastern side, the center of town where Odori and Eigakan-dori (Main Street and Movie Street, respectively) intersect, and the Sakurayama area, a few narrow streets clustered together between the Iwate Prefectural Government building and Sakurayama Shrine.

Try "Mass," in Sakurayama, a Japanese-style pub that features locally produced, organic ingredients and some creative twists on traditional foods. The sashimi, or raw fish, is fresh and the assorted steamed vegetables simple but satisfying. A wide array of sake is available, and the owner's ties to local brewers mean some of the people who made the sake could be in the restaurant. (019-651-1510)   Continued...