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 ¥1500, and round-trip is ¥2700. 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.
- 1 Genbikei Gorge (厳美渓). Geibi-kei, which roughly translates to "Gorge of Harsh Beauty" is a scenic gorge known for the white water rushing over rocks, a few waterfalls, and the dango made in a shop across the river and sent to customers via overhead cable. The surrounding area is also home to many hot spring hotels and ryokan.
- 2 Ichinoseki City Museum (一関市博物館), ☏ . 09:00-17:00. 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.
- 3 Geibi-kei Gorge (猊鼻渓) (5 min walk from Geibikei Station on the JR Ofunato Line). Boat departures vary by month, no closing days excepting typhoon days. Tranlated as "Lion's Nose Gorge", Geibi-kei is listed as one of the "100 Landscapes of Japan". There are flat-bottomed boats that take you upstream past Buddhist rock carvings to a scenic part of the gorge where visitors can exit the boat for a time to enjoy the views, walk around, and purchase ceramic stones to try and throw in a hole in one of the rocks for good fortune. The round-trip ride, including the docking time, takes about 90 minutes. ¥1800.
- 4 Tsuriyama (釣り山). During the cherry blossom season in early spring, this large hill 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 provide an overview of the city and Ichinoseki Station 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.
- 5 Yugen-do Cave (幽玄洞), ☏ . Apr-Sep: 08:30-18:00, Oct-Nov: 08:30-17:00, Dec-Mar: 09:00-16:00. 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. The cave is also rumored to have been used as a hideout for Japanese Christians during the Edo period. ¥1000.
- 6 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.
- 7 Okago Christian Martyrdom Museum (大籠キリシタン資料館), 28-7 Unazawa Okago Fujisawa-cho, ☏ . 09:00-16:00, 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. See also Christian sites in Japan. ¥300.
- 8 Ashi Tozan Memorial Museum (芦東山記念館). Ashi Tozan wrote a criminal code while he was imprisoned that was published 100 years later (it was banned from publishing when he wrote it) and eventually used as a model for Japan's penal code. The museum is dedicated to his life and works.
- 9 Ichinoseki City Folk Museum (一関市民俗資料館). Located in a closed elementary school, the museum features exhibits of daily life among farmers, mountain dwellers, and in the river valleys. Free.
A couple of small izakaya (Iroha, Ne-Ne-Ya, and the like) style places in front of the train station, and Uotami is close-by as well, with a ¥1,000 nomihodai. And, if you like yakitori make sure to check out the Yakitori Dojo and Ippei, both of which are fairly famous locally. After that there are a couple of good unagi restaurants within a 10 minute walk of the station. For late night eats, there are ramen shops and typical chains like Yoshinoya and Sukiya, plus a McDonald's near SATY. Last edited - 7 October 2009 (John)
Paper Moon is a bar popular with the foreign crowd, though the 'foreign crowd' is almost non-existent in Ichinoseki. The master understands English too, which is nice for visitors. Occasionally visiting German businessmen will stop in with their Japanese counterparts. The master makes great pizza. It is located on the main street, O-machi Dori (大町通り). To get there, walk straight out of the station, down and up the underground walkway, turn right at the traffic lights, and look for a sign in a walkway on your right that will say Paper Moon. (The Snoopy sign is gone.)
Donque is similar, located on the edge of the downtown. It has a vaguely "Italian" feel to it, but has a wide variety of alcohol. To get there, turn right after exiting the station and walk straight until you can see the slope that allows cars to pass under the train bridge. The second-last block has Donque on the corner. Look for wine barrels and bottles.
Abanzale is the most popular bar for the youth of Ichinoseki, due to its bi-weekly events such as hip-hop night and small dance floor. The music is usually hip hop, but on quite nights you can hear jazz. The English-speaking owner is very friendly, plus he's a DJ. To get there, walk down O-machi to Top Wellness, and turn left. Abanzale is the only bar on the street, and will have a light out front on its sign. If you are younger and want to have fun in Ichinoseki, definitely go to Abanzale, it's your best shot.
Bothy is a very nice little bar. To get there, walk straight out of the station, down and up the underground walkway and it's on your right on the second floor, up some stairs. The food is great and the alcohol selection is nice. Plus, they usually play old rock and roll and the like (think Beatles).
Sugar Bar is another great place. To get there, walk straight out of the station, down and up the underground walkway, turn right at the traffic lights, walk for 3 or 4 minutes and it's on your left, up some stairs on the second floor. They have (probably) the best alcohol selection in Ichinoseki. The master and mama are very friendly, and the mama makes some of the best pasta and pizza in the city. Plus they serve delicious raw ham cut right at the counter. The music is almost always jazz. Lastly, you can get some nice cigars here, if you are interested.
After those places there are, of course, dozens of hostess bars and snacks all around the station. If you are a visitor who doesn't understand hostess bars, don't go. If you know the score, then have at it. Sone of the more popular places are Ageha, Cruise, and Ichigo. (Oct 2009)
There are a couple of hotels right in front of the station, west (main) exit.
- Ichinoseki Green Hotel. Clean, has a in-house restaurant. Single room ¥5,500.
- Sunroute Hotel. Clean, has a in-house restaurant and also comes with free high speed internet in the rooms. Single room for ¥7,500.
- Toyoko Inn (the blue neon sign is visible from Ichinoseki Station).
- 1 Itsukushien (いつくし園). Part of Geibikei Onsen, this hotel is located near the famous gorge. There are two types of rooms, both Japanese-style rooms; the Satsuki-tei with a bath and toilet in the rooms and the Yayoi-tei which have toilets but no bath. Both options give access to the hotel's onsen (and this is where those who stay in the Yayoi-tei must bathe).
There are also a number of other small hotels and ryokan located throughout the city, including one that is the exact same ryokan where Emperor Meiji stayed during his trip to the north, give or take a few fires, floods, and complete rebuildings.
|Routes through Ichinoseki
|Morioka ← Hanamaki ← Kitakami ← Mizusawa-Esashi ←
|→ Kurikoma-Kōgen → Furukawa → Sendai → Tokyo
|Morioka ← Hiraizumi ←
|→ Matsushima → Sendai
|Morioka ← Hiraizumi-Maesawa ←
|→ Furukawa → Sendai
|→ Kesennuma → Rikuzen Takata
|Yokote ← Higashinaruse ←