This year and last a secret tour was held among a small group in Hachimantai organized by The Hachimantai Farm Stay Council. We were testing and refining the content that is now emerging into the light of day. Allow me to introduce “Hachimantai Auberge Washinooo & Onsen” – a sake-lover’s dream tour of Hachimantai!
The tour starts before lunch with a tour of the Washinoo Sake Brewery in Hachimantai. The building itself dates back about 250 years, though the current Washinoo was founded in 1829. The brewmaster himself guides you through the facility, explaining the fascinating details of how sake is made. His enthusiasm and extensive knowledge make this an exceptional brewery tour. Even if you’ve visited a few other sake breweries in Japan, you’ll find something new this time!
This brewery tour is held at the same time as a special yearly event introducing various lacquer, glass, and ceramic drinking implements at the brewery. The shape and texture of the glass really makes a difference in the aroma and thus flavor. Doing tasting with various glasses really demonstrates this, opening up an entire other aspect of drinking sake! (They also offer a number of other tasty items during the event, including the sweet warm non-alcoholic beverage amazake, and crackers made with sake kasu.)
Next is a late lunch at the Sawaguchi Liquor Store. This local shop carries the full line of Washinoo sake, including limited edition items not sold elsewhere. Enjoy trying three different types of Washinoo sake while eating lunch seated around an irori open hearth. During this year’s tour, a Hachimantai photo exhibition by THE BLURRED PHOTO was held on the second floor, displaying the best of the natural beauty that Hachimantai has to offer.
After lunch, it’s off to the Hachimantai Mountain Hotel. Just before dinner around 6pm there is a fascinating event called Tama-wari held in the hotel dining room just for the tour group. During this activity, the owner of Washinoo demonstrates how very small adjustments in the amount of spring water added to sake has a drastic impact on the flavor. This activity is actually my favorite part of the tour, but I won’t spoil any of the surprises. You’ll have to go next year to discover more.
Dinner served at the Hachimantai Mountain Hotel is a course meal with sake pairings in addition to the already excellent buffet. Breakfast the next morning also features the Mountain Hotel’s luxurious buffet.
On the second day, you are treated to something many people have seen in movies or photos but never had the chance to experience. We take a traditional bonnet bus deep into the mountains to Matsukawa Hot Springs. There, we bathe in the mixed outdoor hot spring bath with a platter floating in the water with us. And what is on this platter but a pitcher (or two!) of sake and some little cups. That’s right – you can sit in a traditional outdoor hot spring bath, gazing out at the mountainside covered in snow, while sipping sake. It doesn’t get much better than that.
After a bath, a delicious lunch awaits in the Matsukawaso building, which is a delicious mix of local traditional Japanese dishes. Lunch then concludes this deeply satisfying tour, and visitors are taken back to Morioka by bus.
This tour is by reservation only, so be sure to book in advance!
As a result of COVID-19, numerous flights in and out of Hanamaki Airport have been cancelled.
IT258/IT259 between Hanamaki and Taiwan will not be in operation from March 4th through March 28th. (What will happen after this period is as of yet undecided.)
MU229/MU230 between Hanamaki and Shanghai will not be in operation until July 11th. (What will happen after this period is as of yet undecided.
We’ll update here with further information as it becomes available.
The Nanataki Waterfall in Hachimantai is about 80% frozen now! Hopefully in another few days it will be completely solid!
I was able to hike out there today to check on its progress. Another beautiful day with fresh powder snow covering the forest. It took about 40 minutes to walk to the waterfall without snowshoes, but probably will take an hour if you wear snowshoes.
This weekend and the following weekend will probably be the peak season for people visiting the falls. Don’t miss this stunning natural work of art!
In fast, you can visit this frozen waterfall with a guide that will explain other interesting stories about this natural area here!
Have you explored the nightlife around Obuke station in Hachimantai? You should! And now it’s all much more convenient!
We’ve published a convenient guide in English for using the night bus service that runs from December 24th through March 8th. Now, if you’re staying near Appi, you can still go out to eat and explore that Obuke station area with all the great places to eat and drink at night.
See the new guide here!
Have you ever seen a frozen waterfall? Did you know that because of the way it freezes that the ice swells to more than 10 times the size of the waterfall during the warmer months?
Nanataki Falls is amazing all year round, but in the winter it really is magical. There’s a new tour from the Hachimantai Resort Panorama Ski Area to snowshoe out through the pristine winter forest to see this stunning tower of ice.
Fantastic article from Hachimantai’s own Nick Carmon! He’s composed what I believe is currently the best, most detailed article on the Yakehashiri Lava Flow in Hachimantai. This area is just one example of the amazing volcanic geographical nature of the Hachimantai. Mt. Iwate – the immense volcano that it is – has given so much to this area both in the rich volcanic soil for agiculture and in filtering pristine water to springs such as the Kanazawa Spring area where some of the most delicious salmon in Japan are being raised. We owe so much to this beautiful volcano.
Take a minute to read this great article about the fascinating volcanic history of this area:
A well-known Thai blogger recently wrote an extensive article featuring their favorite areas of Hachimantai and Kazuno. They listed 16 areas they found impressive. I don’t read any Thai, but in this era of Google Translate it’s actually possible to see what it is that stuck out to them about our beloved Hachimantai. There are also some rather excellent photographs included as well.
The Matsuo Mine was once the most productive sulfur mine in all of Asia, and the apartment buildings for the workers were hailed as a model of community living. It was founded 1914 and at it’s peak in the 1950s employed 4,900 workers and housed a total of 15,000 people in these four-story concrete apartments. However, new technologies allowed sulfur to be extracted as a byproduct of oil refinement so extracting sulfur from volcanic regions became obsolete. The mine closed down in 1969, but these concrete housing units where the workers and their families once lived remain. Entrance is forbidden, but you’re welcome to drive down the little road that goes next to the apartments. It’s beautiful to gaze upon these structures as they are gradually reclaimed by nature, and ponder the fate of all human civilization.
Located right along the Hachimantai Aspite Line – this is a must-see spot if you’re heading up to the summit! Don’t miss it!
When you here the word Appi, the image that comes to mind is the Appi Kogen Ski Resort. But this area is also host to a vast beech forest area called Naka no Makiba. It was even voted as one of the top places in Japan for “forest bathing.” When we visited in November there were also a few horses put out to pasture here, adding to the mystique of this area. In fact, the trails around here are open for horseback riding during the warm seasons. (We’ll post more information on that here on the site soon! Imagine- horseback riding through this breathtaking natural environment in the expanse of wilderness past the Appi Kogen Ski Resort.)
This is also where you’ll find the trailhead to the 50km trail that leads up to the summit of Mt. Hachimantai, across to Mt. Mitsuishi,and the goes along the ridges all the way to Mt. Iwate! We’re dying to try that trail out and give you a more detailed report. Next year!
We recently had the opportunity to spend a day at the house of Hitomi, a Hachimantai local, in the Ashiro neighborhood. She is not only a master of local cuisine, but also the wife of a retired “matagi” – or bear hunter. A group of us got to spend the day here, learning to make soba noodles and feasting up other traditional dishes that she made for us. But beyond the food, just exploring her house was a treat. It felt like it was a time capsule from 100 years ago. The soba and wild veggie dishes were both healthy and tasty. Hitomi-san is opening up her house to tourists to share the best parts of traditional Hachimantai culture. Take advantage of this great opportunity if you can!
Bear hunting in Japan is a long tradition in the north, and no parts of the bear are wasted. Besides the delicious meat, there are various items that can be made from all parts of bears. In modern Japan, however, the number of bear hunters is dwindling. In fact, I was invited to learn bear hunting by the family, though sadly my work schedule won’t allow for the addition of that very exciting hobby.
The Hachimantai Aspite and Jukai Lines are closing for the winter from 5pm on Tuesday, November 5th. The Hachimantai Aspite Line will reopen at 10 a.m. on April 15th and the Hachimantai Jukai Line will reopen at 10 a.m. on April 24th.
In April when it reopens we’ll again be able to enjoy the Hachimantai Snow Corridor at the same time as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom, all along the same road!
But first, winter is coming! It’s almost time for us to start enjoying the dreamy powder snow that some have started calling, Hachipow!