Monday, December 19, 2011

Iwate's Food Culture (1)

The local culinary specialties of Iwate were produced by the wisdom of rich natural blessing and predecessors.  The east touches the Pacific Ocean and the west obtains the Ōu mountain system which is rich in change of geographical feature.

In old time Iwate, the Sendai (Date) han governed the southern part and the Morioka(Nanbu) han was governing north. Therefore, the difference of each feudal clan system era produced the differences in the area of the food culture of Iwate. On the other hand, in prefecture south area, "the rice cake culture" which used rice spread  and "the grains culture" using Japanese barnyard millet, buckwheat, wheat and the soybean spread in prefecture north area.

Difference in the gastronomic culture by the area

The Northern area: In the northern part area of the prefecture which has fought with a repeated famine in the nature of severe climate and mountains, the foundations of food were cereals.

The typical food  Teuchi Soba (Hand-made Buckwheat Noodles )

Central area: The space of the central area of the prefecture where a paddy field zone spreads for many years is also comparatively large. This area which does not have much snow is cultivating barley and wheat.  And the people devised many way of eating from rice and wheat. 

The typical food Hittsumi (Hatto or Suiton): Hittsumi is the warm pot dishes.  It extends the flour by hand after kneaded thinly and tears it off. Then it puts chicken, burdocks, carrots, mushrooms and spring onions into the pot that boiled up with soy sauce flavor.

Ōu Mountain System area: This area of the Akita prefecture border is a deep heavy snowfall area. Thus local staple food which is not done of the wheat is foxtail millet and barnyard grass. The people often cook the miso soup which put fermented soybeans into mushroom soup stock.

The typical food ➡ Natto Jiru (Fermented Soybeans Soup) 

Sanriku Coast: In the sea of the Sanriku offing where the Oyashio Current and the Kuroshio Current crossed, the people brought about the coast food culture that they used fishery products and the seaweed for abundantly.

The typical food Donko and Tara Jiru (Dark Sleeper and Cod Stew)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Osayo of the Satetsu River

A long time ago, a young man called Santaro was born in the neighboring town of Nagasaka. 

When he was 13, their land, home and other assets were seized to pay debts incurred through his father's alcoholic affliction. Santaro worked hard without complaint serving the master of another house to bring food to their table. He was often allowed to take the leftovers from his master's home.

Santaro was a loyal son and even though he was tired from his day's work, he would endure it  to perform the lion dance throughout the late hours at his drunken father's request. The place of Shishi-ga-hana (Lion's Nose) where Santaro mastered the dance can be visited through our regular boat rides through the Geibikei Gorge.

When Santaro grew older, his maturity and looks adhered him to the hidden affections of a woman called Osayo. Though she was beautiful, she wanted to wash away her dark skin and regularly bathed in the Satetsu River on a daily basis believing her skin would whiten. 

As her skin never did, she kept her desires secret. Her love for Santaro remaining unknown to him and the love that could have been - forever unrequited.

The hardship, hard work, and loyalty to his drunken father commended respect with the locals and word of his piety reached the ears of the Daimyo lord of the time Date Yoshikuni
Santaro quickly became a favorite and was gifted his horse in 1854. This was later followed by a gift of money, and a family name which at that time would only normally be reserved for nobles and those of wealth. Then, in his 25th year, Santaro married in the spring to a young maiden called Tori introduced by the Daimyo lord.

When Osayo heard of his marriage, her only hope died with her. She threw herself into the Shishi-ga-hana and the iron sand that silts the basin of the Satetsu River is considered to be the dark skin that she tried to wash from her. From time to time, in the dusk light hours, a small bird called the Varied Tit is believed to be the reincarnation of Osayo. An embodiment of her love is also captured in "The One Cherry Tree of Osayo".

*This story is from the book called "The legend of Iwate(「岩手の伝説」)" by Hirano Tadashi(平野 直). I roughly translated the story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tategamori Ark Farm


Set in the heartland of Fujisawa, Ichinoseki, in North East Japan is a vast area of 100 hectares laced with lush green hedges, carefully pruned bushes, lavender and sweet smelling herbs.  Tategamori Ark Farm is not only a topiary wonder but as the name suggests it is also home to many animals such as red deer , sheep, pigs, ponies and rabbits. It is also graced by the elegant white peacock and many varieties of domesticated fowl.

The farm also has its own shop, restaurant and barbecue house that provides home reared pork, home made bread, tofu and many other culinary delights.

About the Pork: The pigs of the Tategamori highlands eat several kinds of herbs and tapioca which gives the pork its distinctive richness and chewy texture. They are reared in healthy and natural surroundings and are certified as a Babcock Pork.

The home reared pork provides excellent ham and sausages. The unique taste of the sausages are further enhanced by a technique adopted from Germany which involves integrating spices. This   extends the quality of the meat to a top drawer taste that is a favourite of the nation. Other than the added spices, the meat is sold with either very little or no additives.

Open days are on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday between the hours of 11:00 to 14:00.

Main Event : The "Ton-ton Derby" is held at the Ark Farm in May and October every year. Participants lead a baby pig and run together to the goal.

Around the farm, there are also the Iwate Safari Park and the Tategamori Kogen Hotel.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The world of Miyazawa Kenji

Kenji Miyazawa who was from Iwate was a poet, an author of children's literature and a social activist in the early Showa period of Japan. Among the works which he left are a peculiar view of his world. And they are loved by many people even now.

Moreover, he was also a geologist who had relation with Ichinoseki. Near by Geibikei, there is the Northeast Macadam Factory where he worked as a engineer later his life. The factory is registered tangible cultural properties of the country. And it is opened as a museum for general public. He must sometimes have visited Geibikei, while working in that factory.

Especially the poetry "Ame ni mo Makezu" that he made is famous. We can see his personality in this poetry.

-Ame ni mo Makezu-

ame ni mo makezu                                        
kaze ni mo makezu                                        
yuki ni mo natsuno atsusa ni mo makenu
jobu na karada wo mochi 
yoku wa naku
kesshite ikarazu
itsumo shizuka ni waratte iru
ichinichi ni genmai yon go to
miso to sukoshi no yasai wo tabe
arayuru koto wo jibun no kanjo ni irezu
yoku mikiki shi wakari
soshite wasurezu
nohara no matsu no hayashi no kage no
higashi ni byoki no kodomo areba, itte kanbyo shite yari
nishi ni tsukareta haha areba, itte sono ine no taba wo oi
minami ni shiniso na hito areba itte kowagaranakute mo ii to ii
kita ni kenka ya sosho ga areba, tsumaranai kara yamero to ii
hideri no toki wa namida wo nagashi
samusa no natsu wa oro-oro aruki
minna ni deku-no-bo to yobare 
homerare mo sezu
ku ni mo sarezu
so iu mono ni watashi wa naritai

His literature, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" was made an animation.


Friday, October 21, 2011

What is the Akakaki?

Geibikei whose colouring of autumn is increasing. Unfortunately, it was a rainy today but many tourists have visited here.

The above are the two photos which a boatman is doing the work called Akakaki; a dialect about here Agagagi.

The Akakaki means the work which drains off the water which collected into the boat. Our boatmen use the stick which collect the water called the Akakaki stick made of the wood. The Aka means the water.

I wish the rain would stop tomorrow...rain, rain go away!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Otsuki's Three Wise Men in Ichinoseki

In Ichinoseki,the historical character called three wise men that are deeply related to the opening of a country of Japan is in which we live. Their bust sculpture is put on the station square.

Otsuki Gentaku (1757~1827)
He studied Dutch medicine and Dutch. He also had published the primer "Rangaku Kaitei" of Dutch study book at the age of 26. He opened the first Dutch private cram school in our country. Then he contributed to a medical advance including the completion of "Jutei Kaitai Shinsho" for revised edition of "Kaitai Shinsho".

Otsuki Bankei (1801~1878)
He was the second son of Otsuki Gentaku and played an active part as a Confucian scholar of Japanese spirit and Western Learning who appealed for the opening of a country to foreign trade and diplomatic relations.

Otsuki Fumihiko (1847~1928)
He was born as the third son of Otsuki Bankei at the Edo age. He completed the first dictionary "Genkai(言海)" in our country. It was reorganized by "Dai Genkai(大言海)" later.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yugendo Cave

There is the cave called Yugendo where it takes about 5 minutes from Geibikei Gorge by car.


Yugendo cave with the stratum in middle period of the Paleozoic is also a treasure of a leading fossil in Japan. The full length of a cave is 500 meters and average temperature is 13 degrees. The fossil of the sea lily used as the data of a theory of Seafloor spreading was discovered for the first time on a Japanese bedrock. Moreover, many precious elucidation data on biology, such as a perfect of the fossil of a trilobite, Fusulinida, and ancient coral, are discovered. Yugendo cave discovered in 1980 belongs to the stratum of 350 million years ago, and is called oldest limestone cave in Japan.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Murone Mountain

Area of Murone Mountain

At 895 metres above sea level, Murone Mountain is about 30 minutes drive from Geibikei Gorge. Its prime location in Iwate prefecture enjoys panoramic views of the other neighboring mountains of Hayachine and Kinkasan and the horizon expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

The seasonal scenic changes induce a variety of activities ranging from hiking through to birdwatching, the intellectual pursuit of astronomy, mountain biking and the adrenalin seeking sport of paragliding.

Azalea Festival
 Azalea flowers grow in abundance on the mountain. The swathes of pink and red with the subtle scent of fragrance are celebrated with a festival in the last week of May and continues through to the following month June.

Kirara Mount Murone Astronomical Observatory
 Near the peak of Murone Mountain lies the dome of Kirara Mount Murone Astronomical Observatory. It houses a 50cm caliber telescope which probes deeply into the reach of space.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Boat Wedding

On Sunday October 2, a boat wedding was held in Geibikei Gorge. It was sunny, the weather was calm and everybody enjoyed it regardless of the cold wind that blew. The bridal couple arrived by jinrikisha and alongside the many guests they boarded the boats. They then proceeded through the River Satetsu aided by the long poles of the boatmen .

The boat stops at the front of *Bishamon-kutsu where a couple of Shinto priests dressed in traditional manner oversee the ceremony.
*Bishamon-kutsu: At the base of the rock is a cave, inside which stands a shrine to Bishamon-ten, the god of treasure. The cave also provides a fine home for bats.

The Shinto Wedding Ceremony
This ceremony became very popular after the wedding of the Crown Prince who became the Taisho Emperor  on March 10, in the year 1900. Since then it has grown even bigger with many Japanese people choosing the Shinto style of getting married.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sukawa Kogen (Mt Kurikoma)

 About two hours drive from the pleasurable river trip through Geibikei Gorge lies a mountain that rises a significant height of 1, 628 metres above sea level. It also stretches out its prominent girth over three prefectures: Iwate; Akita; and Miyagi. In the latter two, the mountain is also known as Dainichi-dake and Kurikoma-yama respectively. Clouds of mist emanate from the hot spring water that are heated from the volcanic core. The steam as it makes contact with the colder air from the higher altitude sometimes enshrouds the peaks from view - adding mystery.

The peaks attract many hikers and the more adventurous who like the challenge of a climb. It is open to the public from the middle of May through to November when public access is restricted due to the colder season making the area more precarious.

This is a lake formed by a crater of Sukawa from a small eruption during the Showa dynasty in 1944. The surface of the lake shines an emerald green, rich in intensity with the smell of sulphur . The autumn attracts many visitors with the forested trees, fauna and the lake lending to the impressed sense of its seasonal hue.

Located at the foot of Sukawa mountain, at a thousand metres above sea level, lies this famous hot spring. It is highly prized for its natural properties that are known to help support the symptoms of rheumatism and chronic toxicosis. It is milky white in colour with a blue tint and is known to give a mild stinging sensation when submerging into its health giving waters.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Around the Geibikei...Hiraizumi

Nearby the beautiful sightseeing area of Geibikei is the recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi. The Fujiwara clan during their rule of the area in the 12th and 13th centuries built many buildings and temples. Those that remain today are 'The Golden Hall of the Chusonji' and 'The Garden of  Pure Land in the Motsuji'.

  Front of the Golden Hall

  The garden of the Motsuji

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Genbikei is not Geibikei...


There are some visitors who mistakenly come to Geibikei gorge instead of Genbikei gorge. However, unlike the erosion that forms the Lion's Snout at Geibikei gorge: Genbikei gorge is forged from the water flowing from Kurikoma mountain into the Iwai River.
Two kilometres of dynamic scenery lashes over water beaten rock, intruding potholes, and shallow waterfalls. The natural erosion and savagery of the rainlaced river twists the rocks and the sides of the gorge into many interesting shapes. The gorge attracts many visitors who enjoy the walk that overlooks this stunning waterscape.

Cuckoo Dango

The flying “Cuckoo Dango” (rice cake dumpling) is a famous product of the Genbikei gorge. It has been enjoyed at the teahouse since 1878. Traditionally customers put money into the bamboo basket for the dumpling and knock on the board with a wooden hammer: it is then conveyed by a rope from the teahouse on the opposite bank. This is commonly known as the "flying dumpling”. 


The dumplings are sold in three traditional flavours: goma (black sesame paste); anko (red bean paste); and mitarashi (sweet soy sauce). 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Song of Geibi

 As the boatman returns from the trip along the river, he or she sings this song that has been translated into English below:

 (前歌)   清き流れの砂鉄の川に ヤンサノエ
Through the clear flowing water of the
Satetsu River  

I float along and row with pole

Clouded mind disperses

Dispelled by the Lion's Snout

(本歌)   探ね来て見よ、岩手の里に
A visit to Iwate sees
     A pedestal of rare scenery

(後歌)    大船渡線に乗り換えしやんせネ
 Travel on the Ofunato line

    From nearby Ichinoseki


Monday, September 12, 2011

Do you know Geibikei?

Gei-bi-kei (猊鼻渓) is the gorge that is depicted as one of the One-Hundred Views of Japan. It’s also one of Japan's three biggest gorges (Geibikei, Sagakei and Yabakei). It is located in the southern part of Iwate prefecture in the north of Japan.

The name of Geibikei -Lion Nose Gorge- was so called from the eroded stalactite which looks like a lion's nose.

猊=lion 鼻=nose 渓=gorge

The 2km gorge runs alongside the Satetsu River, a tributary that  feeds on the waters supplied by the Kitakimi River. The strange limestoned precipice looms upwards for approximately 100 metres. Our gondoliers can row you through this stretch of fascinating river and its limestoned gorge. The boat trip takes about 90 minutes returning to our start point.

The flora and fauna changes with each passing season adding its own distinctive touch to memories that will not be forgotten.

And from December through to February we will also be offering our famous 'cook all in one pot' Japanese recipe called 'kinagashi nabe' on our kotatsu boats. All you need to do to enjoy this speciality is to book it the morning before the day you travel with us.

How to get here from Ichinoseki:
By car, take road 19. It will take approximately 30 minutes. 
By bus , it will take about 40 minutes. 
By train, it will take 30 minutes via the JR Ofunato line.

To get in touch with us and reserve the boat ride, please call:
                  +81(0)191-47-2341 or +81(0)191-47-3288 Fax

Or you can also visit our website: