Japanese Culture and Food: Iwate

Last month we looked at the culture and food of Akita, but today we’re travelling slightly to the east to reach the Iwate prefecture.  With this blog, we will have covered half of the Tohoku region, but there’s still so much of Japan left to discuss and we look forward to sharing it with you.

Japan administrative map. Regions and prefectures. Vector illustration

Iwate Culture

We’re still in the north of Japan so you can expect a lot of mild climates in this region; a fact that is sure to inform their culinary produce. Iwate, much like Miyagi and Fukushima, faces the Pacific Ocean in the Tohoku region.  This meant that in 2011, Iwate was one of the worst-hit prefectures in the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami disasters. In Iwate, the Sanriku coast was one of the worst-hit areas. It was previously a popular tourist destination for its beauty and eight years following the catastrophe this is true once more, though many visit this area to take in the extent of the ongoing recovery process.

The highest waves of the tsunami were in fact recorded in Iwate, and they reached heights of up to 40.5 metres. On top of the horrors experienced across Japan, the earthquake shifted the whole area of Honshu 2.4 metres east and disturbed the entire planet off its axis somewhere in the region of 10 cm-25 cm.

Since the 2011 disaster, Iwate has undertaken lengthy reparations to restore the region to its former glory. Luckily, there was no damage to the Historic Monuments and Sites of Hiraizumi which is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Hiraizumi holds a lot of cultural significance for the people of Iwate, but it is also a popular tourist destination.

Hiraizumi gardens in Iwate Prefecture

Hiraizumi contains beautiful traditional gardens, ruins and temples. The most famous of which is the Chusonji temple which has a golden hall. Other hotspots around Hiraizumi include a journey up to Ryusendo, from which you can see an ancient limestone cave with a glorious underground lake.

Another important tourist spot is the Shiogama Fish Market that has 140 stalls selling all kinds of seafood. Shiogama also contains the highest number of sushi restaurants per capita, so expect to see sushi everywhere you turn.


Food from Iwate

The Tohoku region overall is famous for its huge walnuts, but the Iwate prefecture, in particular, is known to use these famous walnuts in many of its recipes. The dishes we discuss in this section are quite homely, simple dishes, but perhaps you’ll still think of Iwate the next time you eat a walnut.

Glass bowl with walnuts on rustic homespun napkin. Healthy snack on old wooden background.

Wanko Soba

Gobsmacking eating challenges can be enough to make any place infamous, but Iwate’s prefectural capital, Morioka, is unique in its wanko soba challenge. This challenge requires you to consume as many bite-size portions of soba while diners are challenged to eat as many as possible. There is no time limit here, so the diner with the greatest stomach wins, rather than the fastest eater.

Wanko soba literally means ‘bowl noodles’, and the experience is best understood by watching this minute-long video below:

If you’re a fan of noodles, you should try out yakisoba noodles at one of our restaurants in the UK. We fry our egg noodles on the grill, mixed with vegetables, sauce, and a filling of your choosing: king prawns, chicken, beef fillet, seafood or mixed vegetables.



Hittsumi is a local dish constructed from chicken, root crops and wheat dough. The name means ‘pull and tear’, which refers to the way the dough is torn into oval pieces before it is cooked. This dish has also gained popularity in the Aomori prefecture for its soothing warmth and homely taste.


Shiogama Sushi

There are so many sushi restaurants in this district, which also means that competition and rivalries abound amongst the shops, stalls and restaurants. Naturally, this also means that you can find a lot of high-quality sushi in the area, as master chefs are pushed to deliver better sushi than their rivals in order to stay in the business. In Shiogama, you could enjoy a breakfast, lunch and dinner of sushi.

Colleagues ordering four course lunch on special offer. Friends coming to oriental luxury restaurant and enjoying Japanese food. Two elegant women eating sushi set with wasabi and marinated ginger.

Luckily for you, you don’t have to travel as far as Shiogama in Iwate to enjoy a luxurious sushi meal. You can go to our sushi bar in Manchester, or our sushi bar in Liverpool, to sample some choice Japanese cuisine.