Going North

Going North

New post after a long time! For anyone wondering, I’m still in Japan, still shooting photos, I’ve merely gotten a bit lazy posting updates over the past year 😬
In case you missed it, Japan is open for tourists again since last October and, thankfully, friends and family from both Germany and Korea are taking the opportunity to visit us in Tokyo during this spring. About time! After all, I’ve been living in Japan for almost 4 years now and really only had guests from abroad once, shortly before the pandemic. Finally, folks can come here again and get a glimpse of life in Tokyo, and I get to explore new places together with them.

With the friends currently staying with us, we decided to explore the Tohoku region. While we had visited the island of Hokkaido before, the northern parts of Japan’s main island Honshu were new to us as well. We chose Morioka in Iwate prefecture as a base and rented a car to go on a few day trips from there. Why Morioka? Well, for one thing, it’s easily accessible from Tokyo by Shinkansen. For another, Morioka is actually #2 on the New York Times list of 52 places to visit in 2023 – right after London!

Now, don’t expect Morioka to be as loaded with things to do as the usual tourist destinations, such as Kyoto, Osaka, or Tokyo. The NYT author will tell you as much himself. Rather, expect a mid-sized city in the Japanese countryside that is quite a bit more lifely than you would expect. Although we didn’t spend too much time in the city itself, we really enjoyed our time there thanks to the easily walkable downtown area and great restaurant options.

Our first trip outside of Morioka brought us to Kakunodate in Akita prefecture. Besides the well-preserved samurai houses that the city is known for, we loved how welcoming everyone was there. After having a coffee at a Showa-era style cafe that used to be a local dive bar, we asked the owner for a lunch recommendation. She asked whether we’d be fine with udon noodles, which we sure were. She picked up the phone and called a shop down the street to inform them that “important visitors” would be on their way. Important or not, the udon noodles were great! Before returning to Morioka, we stopped by Lake Tazawa (pictured below) on our way back.

The next day, our original plan was to visit Mt. Hachimantai northwest of Morioka. Apart from some walking routes at the top, Hachimantai also features one of those famous Japanese alpine routes (the ones where you can drive in between walls of meter-high snow). Little did we know that they only open that route in mid-April 🥲
So instead, we decided to drive to Fudo Falls, which turned out to be a hidden gem in the middle of nowhere. The path leading up to the waterfall is lined by beautiful Japanese lanterns, lots of statues and toriis. Well-worth the drive, if you ask me. Although we’ll have to come back to make it up that mountain.