Relax in the beautiful countryside scenery in Hanamaki and Tono

Enjoy rich nature and the world of folktales to the fullest

Hanamaki, located in the midwestern part of Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku region, is a town surrounded by nature including mountains, mountain streams and fields. Kenji Miyazawa, a famous Japanese writer of children’s stories, used this place as inspiration when he wrote ‘The Night of the Milky Way Train’, a story about travelling on a galactic train, and ‘Matasaburo of the Wind’ whose main character is a wind spirit.

Zashiki-warashi, Tengu, Kappa
(Left) A doll duplicating Zashiki-warashi. (Middle) Tengu being performed in a traditional dance. (Right) A duplicated Kappa. (C)Sueo Sugimoto/Tono Kappa Festival

Tono, located to the east of Hanamaki, has a lot of folktales that have been passed on in the Tohoku region since old times. For instance, there is a story handed down orally where “Zashiki-warashi”, a boy or a girl in a kimono, brings fortune to the house he or she settles in and the house deteriorates when he or she leaves. Folktales related to “Tengu”, a goblin who lives in a mountain, and “Kappa” who lives in a river have also been passed on. Ancient scenery, which looks as if creatures in the folktales appear right in front of you, still remains in Tono.

Map of Hanamaki and Tono

Hanamaki is easily accessible from Tokyo and it is about 3 hours by Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hanamaki Station. It takes about 10 minutes to Hanamaki Station in the central area of the town by JR Kamaishi Line from Shin-Hanamaki Station. Use Hanamaki Airport from Osaka and Fukuoka. You can reach Hanamaki Station in about 15 min. by bus from the airport.

The SL Ginga
The inside of the SL Ginga was designed to resemble a train from the literary works of Kenji Miyazawa entitled ‘The Night of the Milky Way Train’.

It takes about an hour to Tono Station from Hanamaki Station by JR Kamaishi Line. The Kamaishi Line operates the “SL Ginga”, equipped with a planetarium and a gallery, mainly on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from late April to late August. (After September,an operation is uncertain) All seats are assigned and you can purchase a ticket, which is 820 yen for an adult (over age 12), 410yen for a child (6 -11years of age) and 5 years or less needs to confirm at the ticket window of JR East stations. You can also use Japan Rail Pass.

Immerse yourself in the world of children’s stories and relax in the hot spring in Hanamaki

Scenery of the countryside
The scenery of the countryside seen from Mt. Enmanji-Kannon located in the west part of Hanamaki City
Kuzumaru mountain stream
Kuzumaru mountain stream, where the children’s story “Naranoki Daigakushino Nojuku” written by Kenji Miyazaki takes place

Kenji Miyazawa is an author of children’s stories who actively wrote stories during the early 20th century and was also an agricultural advisor. Ancient scenery where his stories took place still remains in Hanamaki.

Miyazawa Kenji Dowa Mura, Kenji's School
Animals and plants seen from an ants’ perspective are displayed at Miyazawa Kenji Dowa Mura

There is a facility in Hanamaki where you can experience the world as seen by Kenji. “Miyazawa Kenji Dowa Mura” displays fictional animals and plants that Kenji created and portrays the world of children’s stories. The exhibition is like a theme park and can be enjoyable for children, too. At “Miyazawa Kenji Memorial Museum”, you can trace the path of his life with a video.

Miyazawa Kenji Dowa Mura, Kenji’s School

Address: 26-19 Takamatsu, Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: Take Iwate-Ken Kotsu Bus from JR Hanamaki Station, get off at “Miyazawa Kenji Kinenkan” bus stop, walk for 3 min.

Open: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, closed Dec. 28 – Jan. 1

Admission: 350 yen, 250 yen for age 22 and under, 150 yen for age 12 and under

Miyazawa Kenji Memorial Museum

Address: 1-1-36 Yasawa, Hanamaki city, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: Take Iwate-Ken Kotsu Bus from JR Hanamaki Station, get off at “Miyazawa Kenji Kinenkan” bus stop, walk for 5 min.

Open: 8:30 am – 5:00pm, closed Dec 28 – Jan 1

Admission: 350 yen, 250 yen for age 22 and under, 150 yen for age 12 and under

Dai Onsen
(Left) Dai Onsen with a beautiful ancient townscape (Nakashima Ryokan) (Right) A quaint inn of Osawa Onsen (Kikusuikan)
Shidodaira Onsen
Open-air bath of Shidodaira Onsen (Hotel Shidotaira)

You should definitely enjoy Onsen (hot springs) in Hanamaki. In the Hanamaki Onsen resort, there are 12 Onsen towns including Dai Onsen with almost 1,200 years of history, Osawa Onsen loved by Japanese writers and Shidodaira Onsen where you can see beautiful mountain streams. There are many Onsen where you can take a bath without staying overnight, but some hot springs in Dai Onsen and Osawa Onsen are for mixed bathing (men and women bathe together), so it is recommended that you check with each Onsen in advance.

Take the Iwate-Ken Kotsu Bus to Hanamaki Onsen resort from JR Hanamaki Station. There is a free shuttle bus service for the guests staying in Hanamaki Onsen resort, so you should ask your hotel or ryokan in advance.

Run across the original Japanese landscape in Tono, the homeland of folktales

Tono is a place where many old folktales still remain. Kunio Yanagida, a distinguished folklorist in Japan, compiled folktales of Tono into “The Legends of Tono” in 1910 and the characters in the stories including goblins became widely known. Places where such stories took place still remain in Tono.

Row of cherry blossom trees
Cherry blossom trees standing along the streets are beautiful in spring. Shown in the photo is the street along Route 283 in Ayaori region, about 15 min. walk from JR Ayaori Station.

Points of interest in Tono require a lot of walking, so using a rental bike is recommended (during the period of April – November). You can rent one for a fee starting from 620 yen for 3 hours at “Tabinokura Tono” in front of JR Tono Station, which also has a tourist information center.

Kappa-Buchi
Kappa-Buchi

One of the folktales remaining in Tono is the story of Kappa, a goblin living in the water who surprises people. A story in the creek called “Kappa-Buchi” where Kappa tried to pull a horse that came for a drink into the water remains.

Kappa-Buchi

Address: Tsuchibuchi, Tsuchibuchi-cho, Tono City, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: About 25 min. by Hayachine Bus from JR Tono Station, get off at “Densyoen-mae” bus stop, walk for 5 min.

Yamaguchi Watermill
Yamaguchi Watermill
Aragami Shrine
Aragami Shrine

Beautiful scenery of the countryside is also a highlight of Tono. The pastoral scenery including the “Yamaguchi Watermill”, which was used for threshing crops and flour milling, and the “Aragami Shrine”, whose small thatched sanctuary stands in the middle of rice fields, is relaxing to see.

Yamaguchi Watermill

Address: Yamaguchi, Tsuchibuchi-cho, Tono City, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: About 25 min. by taxi from JR Tono Station

Aragami Shrine

Address: 21 Nakazawa, Aozasa-cho, Tono City, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: About 10 min. by taxi from JR Tono Station

Tono Furusato Mura
Tono Furusato Mura

You can learn about the life of Japanese people in the old days at places including “Densho-en” that recreates the lifestyle of farmers of old times in Tono and “Tono Furusato Mura” where houses built between late 17th century and the end of 19th century were transported and reconstructed.

Densho-en

Address: 6-5-1 Tsuchibuchi, Tsuchibuchi-cho, Tono City, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: About 25 min. by Hayachine Bus from JR Tono Station, near “Densho-en” bus stop

Open: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Open 365 days

Admission: 320 yen, 220 yen for age 18 and under

Tono Furusato Mura

Address: 5-89-1 Kami-Tsukimoushi, Tsukimoushi-cho, Tono City, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: 26 min. by Hayachine Bus from JR Tono Station, near “Furusato Mura” bus stop

Open: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (- 4:00 pm in Nov. – Feb.), Open all year around

Admission: 540 yen, 320 yen for age 18 and under

Tono Monogatarino Yakata
Tono Monogatarino Yakata

The world of folktales are portrayed with sound, videos and silhouettes at “Tono Monogatarino Yakata” and you can learn about folktales in a fun way with your kid.

Tono Monogatarino Yakata

Address: 2-11 Chuo-dori, Tono City, Iwate Prefecture

Directions: 7 min. walk from JR Tono Station

Open: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Irregular holidays

Admission: 500 yen, 200 yen for age 18 and under

The beautiful scenery of the Japanese countryside can be found here. If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a relaxing trip, you should definitely visit Hanamaki and Tono.