Iwate prefecture is on the Pacific Ocean-side of the Tohoku region. Its capital city is Morioka. The gross area of the prefecture is the second largest in Japan following Hokkaido. Inland areas are mountainous while the coastal areas have intricate Rias coast lines. The shape of Iwate prefecture resembles a fist made with a left hand. In Hiraizumi-cho in the
south part of the prefecture, old temples and historical sites founded by the Fujiwara clan of Oshu about 1,000 years ago still remain, and part of these sites were added to the world heritage list in 2011 as “Hiraizumi-Temples, Gardens, and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land.” Current Hanamaki city in the central western part of the prefecture is known as the birthplace of Kenji Miyazawa who wrote famous children’s stories such as “Gingatetsudo no Yoru” (Night on the Galactic Road) and “Serohiki no Gauche” (Gauche the Cellist). Since Iwate is a large prefecture, different food cultures developed depending on the region. Off the coast of Sanriku where the Oyashio and Kuroshio currents come together, a unique coastal food culture developed since plenty of fish, shellfish and seaweed are available throughout the year. For example, the tradition of dedicating donko soup made with ezoisoainame (physiculus maximowiczi), a type of fish commonly called “donko,” to the alter on the day of Ebisuko festival on October 20th of the lunar calendar and pray for a good haul still remains. Also, in the heavy snowfall area surrounded by the Ou mountains, natto soup made with natto (fermented soy beans) and tofu are still eaten, and in the southern part of the prefecture where rice farming is thriving, over 20 different types of mochi dishes are offered. Wanko soba of Morioka is a unique style of eating soba. A mouthful of soba is served in a small bowl so that people can eat as many bowls of soba as they wish to. An annual competition is held to decide who can finish the most number of bowls. Wanko soba, Morioka cold noodles, and Jyajya noodles are popular as the three great noodle dishes of Morioka.
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