Japan is a country blessed with a large diversity of cities that offer different types of entertainment and attractions to both locals and tourists. The main cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are commonly more frequently visited by people but knowing about the other gems that hide in this country might give travelers more options for their trip to Japan. If you are looking for a place that can easily be considered a hidden gem in Japan, look no further than the city of Kitakami found in the Iwate Prefecture.
Information on Kitakami Iwate in Japan
The city of Kitakami is found near the river valley that it is named after, which is the Kitakami River Valley. It is directly south of Hanamaki and west of the Kitakami Mountains coast. The zip codes in this vicinity of Japan start off with 024 followed by 4 digits that specify one of the 68 registered areas in Kitakami or Kitakami-shi. It might be more popularly known because of the earthquake in the year of 2008 that shook the Tohoku region of Honshu which includes the whole Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. The recorded location of the earthquake’s epicenter was about 240 miles northeast of Tokyo. The magnitude of this earthquake reached readings of 7.2 based on the JMA scale and 6.9 based on the USGS. The depth of the earthquake, on the other hand, reached readings of 8 kilometers or 5 miles based on the JMA and 10 kilometers or 6 miles based on the USGS. Luckily, the moment reports came in about the damaged northeastern area of Japan, the damage was easily and quickly repaired with the help of the efficiency of Japanese engineering.
Aside from this natural disaster that made this city reach the news, there are a lot of other attractive things that this location holds and having very comfortable weather is one of them. This place rises to altitudes as high as 400 meters above sea level which is why Kitakami is a place where you can enjoy a colder climate compared to the other areas of Japan. If the climate were to be described in a more technical sense, it would be considered as a city having humid climate because of the mild summers and cold winters. The summers are mild because the hottest it gets during the year is when the temperatures reach 24.3 °C, which is usually in the month of August. Winter time here is seen as cold because the temperatures drop as low as -2.4 °C, usually in the month of January. Knowing these drops and peaks of the weather can be very beneficial because this will dictate what kind of environment you will see when you get to visit this city.
As for the demographics in this area, you will notice something that isn’t common in cities nowadays. The trend of demographics in most places around the world usually shows a directly proportional relationship between time and population. This means that as time passes, the population grows. In the city of Kitakami, this trend was recently broken. In 2010, the demographics study done in the area shows that the population was at 93,147. A more recent study was conducted during March of 2017 and the results showed that the population decreased to 92,945. It might not be a large drop in population but it is a notable change in trend because from the 70’s until 2010, the population continuously grew. With all this being said, the density of the Kitakami as of March 2017 is 550 per sq. mile. Knowing this may add to the appeal of going to Kitakami because having values of density like they do means that their area is less crowded.
If the information mentioned earlier was not enough to peak your interest, the history of this city might do a better job at doing so. A majority of Japanese cities have histories that revolve around the wars that took place in Japan in its early years. Kitakami is one of those cities. It was originally part of the ancient Mutsu Province and in the Jomon period, it was mainly occupied by the Emishi people. It served as a stronghold for the Emishi chieftain known as Aterui during those times.
By the time of the Heian period, Kitakami was under the control of the Abe clan. During this period, the area became the battleground for the war known as the Former Nine Years War. Powers shifted again and in the Sengoku period, the area fell into the hands of the Nanbu clan. By the time the Edo period came, Kitakami had portions of it that were part of two different domains. A majority of its area was part of the Morioka Domain while two villages found on its southeastern border were considered to be part of the Sendai Domain.
Things changed again during the Meiji period because it was at this point in time that the town of Kurosawajiri was established. This is related to the city of Kitakami because the city was founded due to the merging of Kuroswajiri with villages like Iitoyo, Futako, Saraki, Aisari, Fukuoka, and Oniyanai on April 1, 1954. On that same day, in the year of 1991, Kitakami’s area grew larger having absorbed places like the town of Waga and the village of Ezuriko.
The businesses that thrive here used to solely be just the traditional agricultural businesses. It was able to grow with regards to opportunities here due to the access provided by the Tohoku Expressway and the creation of industrial parks which made it possible for Kitakami to become a light manufacturing and transshipment center. Aside from the Tohoku Expressway though, this city can be reached through the use of the JR East. The city of Kitakami is connected to the JR East via Tohoku Shinkansen, Tohoku Main Line, Murasakino, Yanagihara, Ezuriko, Fujine, Tatekawame, and many others stations and lines that are found in the surrounding areas.
A Guide to the River, Mountains and Festivities of Kitakami Japan
The festivities and attractions found in Kitakami go well with its cool climate because these attractions and festivities is the kind to make you stay outside and walk around. There are many notable places and festivals. Also, there are attractions that are considered to be a cut above the rest. These attractions are the likes of the Tenshochi, Michinoku Folklore Village, and a couple of festivals like the Onikenbai and Shishi Odori.
The Tenshochi is the most visited place in Kitakami and this comes as no surprise considering the things you get to see there. This is actually Kitakami’s city park that is found right beside the serene Kitakami River. The river gives the place a very natural vibe but the thing that really draws people to the Tenshochi are the cherry blossom trees that stretch out 2 kilometers from the Sangobashi Bridge.
When in full bloom, these cherry blossom trees create a tunnel that tourists love to walk through and take pictures in. This particular view is so beautiful that it has been ranked as one of Japan’s best spots to view cherry blossoms. It fully blooms in April, during the spring time, but it is just as beautiful to look at during the other seasons because the white from the cherry blossoms become green and then eventually becomes golden red and yellow during the autumn season. It is for this reason that this place is not only visited during the full bloom of the cherry blossoms but practically all year round as well. You should also know that there is no admission fee to be paid to enjoy these views so this should definitely be a place you go to.
Another elite destination people go to in Kitakami is the Michinoku Folklore Village. Coincidentally, this attraction is very near the Tenshochi which means that you also get a glimpse of the cherry blossoms in Tenshochi from this village. The Michinoku Folklore Village is actually a historical open-air museum that is comprised of several structures that showcase how the life of the locals was during the Edo period up to the Taisho Era. There are several buildings here that give you an idea of how different people lived during those times. Some buildings are former households of samurais, other buildings were typical private homes. These historic establishments are complemented by the beautiful nature that surrounds it and it is truly what makes walking through this open-air museum worth the while.
It is able to mix history and nature in a way that both tourists and locals can learn from and enjoy the experience. It is open from 9 AM to 5 PM and the only days this attraction is closed are the Mondays from the start of December until the end of March. There is an admission fee to be paid and it varies depending on the age and status of whoever wants to enter. For adults, it would cost 500 yen. For high school students, it would cost 240 yen while children in elementary and junior high students get in for 170 yen. There are also packages you can avail of if you are traveling in groups. A group of 20 or more adults only has to pay 400 yen each. A group of 20 or more high school students only has to pay 180 yen each and so on.
A Map of the Notable Hotels Found in Kitakami Japan
An adventure to anywhere entails rest and for a trip to somewhere foreign, you would always want your resting place to be in an ideal location. Luckily, there are a couple of great hotels that have these ideal locations which will make going around a bit easier to do because of the access you get to things like train stations and such alike.
Among the many hotels, the Family Lodge Hatagoya Kitakami should be one of the first hotels to look into. This place is located just 10 minutes from the Kitakami station via driving. It is also 500 meters away from the Kitakami Ezuriko I.C. of the Tohoku expressway. Being this close to establishments like this make it possible to get around via train or car. It can be found on Kitaoniyanagi, Kitakami-shi, Iwate and it accommodates guide dogs for the handicapped. Sadly, this hotel isn’t too equipped with staff who can speak English so unless you have someone with you who can translate, you might need to brush up on your basic Japanese.
If you can’t be bothered to do so, you can also opt to look into the Montain Hotel. It is even closer to the Kitakami station because it is only a 7-minute drive from it. This place offers a free bus service that would take you from the station to the hotel and vice versa so it would be very convenient for you to book here. It is also found in Kitaoniyagi and if it wasn’t made clear enough earlier, unlike the Family Lodge, the Montain Hotel is a hotel that has staff members who can speak both Japanese and English fluently so communication will not be a problem here. You should also know that for both Family Lodge and Montain Hotel, the rooms you can get are spacious and clean which is something you can expect from most Japanese hotels.
As stated over and over again earlier, Kitakami has a lot to offer to tourists and locals. Its top attractions were mentioned but there several other locations that will be worth the time to see and visit. There are also the festivities that give Kitakami the cultural color that some tourists look for on an adventure.