Morioka and Tsunagi Onsen (Iwate Prefecture) | Tohoku Series

Morioka is the capital city of Iwate prefecture in Tohoku region of Japan. It is about a 2.5hr Shinkansen ride from Tokyo. There are plenty of Onsens in this area, but Morioka is also famous for their 3 Great noodles: Morioka Reimen, Morioka Jajamen, and Wanko-Soba. I planned my trip to Tohoku around the peak time for autumn leaves season, which is end of October and November, starting with Morioka as my first stop on this trip. Remember to make use of the JR East 5-day Rail pass to get up to 60% off on your transportation cost! 

Catching the Kissing Shinkansen - linking of Hayabusa and Komachi trains

One of the most famous scenes for lovers of Shinkansen is to watch the linking up of these two Shinkansen trains: the Hayabusa and Komachi. Hayabusa is a blue-green colored train operated by JR East which runs on the Tohoku Shinkansen line going from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Station. The Komachi is a pink train which operates on the Akita Shinkansen line and goes from Tokyo to Akita Station. They meet at Morioka Station and run jointly from the Morioka to Tokyo. 

The linking takes a mere few minutes, so here's some tips on how you can catch it at the right time: 

  • Look up the Akita Shinkansen, Komachi train arrival schedule (Tokyo bound)
  • Wait on platform 11 near Car 8 
Let me explain the linking a bit more. The Komachi and Hayabusa trains share their journey from Tokyo all the way up north to Morioka. From there they separate and the Komachi continues west towards Akita while the Hayabusa continues north to Aomori. This is why linking happens when Hayabusa come down south (Aomori > Morioka) and the Komachi comes in from the west (Akita > Morioka). The Hayabusa blue green train will come into platform 11 first, and about 5mins later the Komachi pink train will come after. 


By the way, Morioka Station has some super cool coin lockers. In case you need to store some luggage, learn about Iwate's specialties or both! 

Wanko Soba at Azumaya Honten 

If you're in Morioka, you must try Wanko Soba! It's once in a lifetime experience kind of thing. For ¥3,700/person, you get an all-you-can-eat course. 

How it works: 

  • One waitress will be assigned to you
  • A bunch of relishes will be brought out and laid out in front of you
  • Once you open the cap on one of the relish dishes, the eating starts
  • The waitress will stand by you with 15 bowls of Soba, and each bowl has bite size noodles. She will say "Hai, dozo" (here you go) and pour the soba into your bowl and stack it on the table.
  • Once you finish the soba in your bowl, she will pour the next bowl
  • This process keeps going until you put the lid back onto the relish dish
  • You get a certificate at the end with your name and number of bowls ate. If you surpass 100 bowls then you get a special wooden plaque. 
The whole thing about Wanko Soba is the atmosphere. All you hear while eating is everyone's bowls around you being stacked and the waitresses saying "here you go" or "Ganbatte, you can do it!". That's why it is more about the experience than anything else. 

Fun fact, the current record at this shop is a woman who ate 572 bowls! 


Sakurayama Shrine + Iwate Park

If you are in Morioka for autumn foliage, you especially have to visit Iwate Park. I would recommend to start with Sakurayama Shrine, and head into the park from the small moat on the left of the Shrine. (If you are here in Spring or summer, there's beautiful Cherry Blossoms and Hydrangeas as well!) 


(4 pics above: Sakurayama Shrine)

(8 pics below: inside Iwate Park)



Stay Here: Tsunagi Onsen's Hotel Shion

The main reason why I choose Hotel Shion is because of its accessibility from Morioka Station. There is a free shuttle bus that takes about 20mins and takes you directly to the Hotel. 

On top of that, the view is absolutely stunning, the rooms are gorgeous, and they have 5 different hot springs! Breakfast and dinner are also included in the stay. If you've never stayed at an Onsen hotel before, dinner is a big deal. It's usually by  courses and it fills you up. Follow that up with a dip in the onsen and you'll have the best sleep of your life. 

You can also rent Yukatas for ¥1,000, and there is a private onsen room for hourly rental. This is perfect for those who want a bit of privacy or couple's time together instead of being separated by genders. You can call or e-mail to book in advance (this is recommended because when I e-mailed to reserve 2 weeks in advance, the time slot I wanted was gone already). 



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