Ichinoseki (一関) is a city in Iwate Prefecture in the north eastern part of the main island (Honshu) in Japan. While the city merged in 2006 with surrounding municipalities, it is still not a very large town, and the downtown area which contains most entertainment facilities is compact. NEC, Sony and Fujitsu General Electronics are the main employers, with their factories providing work for mostly Brazilian migrants. The city has warm summers and cold winters, so dress appropriately for the season.
Take the Yamabiko Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno station; this journey takes about 3 hours with stops at Sendai and more on the way up. From Sendai, the Shinkansen takes about half an hour, while there are also local trains and a highway bus for those on a budget.
From Sendai, there is a bus that goes to Ichinoseki on the hour. One-way is Y1500, and round-trip is Y2700. 80 minutes. Board in front of Sakurano department store on Aoba street, near the station’s west exit.
The downtown is accessible on foot, but bicycles are available for rent at the bicycle parking lot to the left of the station’s west exit. Look for the Rentakun (レン太君) sign next to the office. The station also has a taxi pool and is a hub for the city’s buses. Trains on the Ofunato Line access the more rural areas of Ichinoseki.
One popular sight is Genbikei (厳美渓, Gorge of Harsh Beauty), a gorge which has white water rushing over rocks, a few waterfalls, hot spring hotels, and dango which is made in a shop across the river and sent to customers via an overhead cable.
During the cherry blossom season in early spring, Tsuriyama (釣り山), a large hill located on almost a straight path west of the station, is lit by lanterns at night and is beautiful during the day as the trees bloom. Outside of cherry blossom season, the paths up the hill and the small park at the summit offer a pleasant place to explore and look at the city from above. According to local legend, the outcropping of rock and earth at the top of the hill was once a signal fire tower during the era when Ichinoseki had just been brought under Kyoto rule.
The town of Higashiyama, technically a subdistrict of Ichinoseki since the merger, offers Geibikei (猊鼻渓, Lion’s Nose Gorge). A ten minute walk from Geibikei Station on the Ofunato Line brings you to the gorge, where flat-bottomed boats take you upstream past Buddhist rock carvings. Caves are located in Higashiyama, and according to legend were a hideout for Japanese Christians during the Edo period.
- 1 Ichinoseki City Museum (一関市博物館), ☎+81 191-29-3180. 9AM-5PM. The permanent collection features a wide variety of objects and artifacts from around the city and prefecture, including a katana exhibit. They also feature special exhibits. ¥200. (updated Jul 2017)
- 1 Yugen-do Cave (幽玄洞), ☎+81 191-47-3303. Apr-Sept 8:30AM-6PM, Oct-Nov 8:30AM-5PM, Dec-Mar 9AM-4PM. A 350 million year old cave (formed in the Paleozoic Era), said to be one of the oldest caves in Japan. It was discovered in 1980 and contains many interesting rock formations and fossils. ¥1000. (updated Jul 2017)
- 1 Haishiwa Shrine (配志和神社) (Northwest of Ichinoseki Station). Situated at the top of a densely wooded hill, it is truly breathtaking, not only due to the giant, thousand-year-old trees at the top, but the incredibly long flight of stairs you must climb to get there. (updated Jul 2017)
- 1 Okago Christian Martyrdom Museum (大籠キリシタン資料館), 28-7 Unazawa Okago Fujisawa-cho, ☎+81 191-62-2255. 9AM-4PM (closed Mondays). During the days when Christianity was banned, 300 Christians and missionaries were brought here and killed here where the Memorial Park is located. The small museum displays the history of Christianity in Okago and in the greater Tohoku Region. Other features of the park include the Okago Christian Martyrdom Memorial Kurusu Museum housing three Crucifixion statues (closed in winter), History Trail with quotes and letters along the path from various Christian religious figures, and Okago Church. ¥300. (updated Jul 2017)