The History of Hachimantai

The first place in Japan to build a geothermal power plant.
A geothermal town, making use of the blessings of volcanos: Hachimantai

 

The name Hachimantai goes back to the 9th century. Kanmu, the 50th Emperor of Japan, sent Sakanoue no Tamuramaro to rule the Tohoku region. Tamuramaro passed this area during his journey and was struck by the beauty of the scenery. According to legend, he then built a shrine to Hachimantai, the God of War, to pray for victory in battle, and gave this place the name Hachimantai.

Visitors have been captivated by its beauty since more than 1,000 years ago.

Mt. Hachimantai (1,614m) is a collection of several volcanoes that erupted about a million years ago and is known as one of the “Japan’s 100 Great Mountains.” Another of “Japan’s 100 Great Mountains” is located here, namely Mt. Iwate (2,038 meters). Mt. Iwate erupted in the 19th century, and you can visit the Yakehashiri Lava flow to see this area covered in magma rocks. Both the Hachimantai and Mt. Iwate are part of the Towada Hachimantai National Park. The history and landscape of this area is closely linked to its volcanic geothermal nature.

The effects of an eruption during the Edo period still remain on Mt. Iwate here at the Yakehashiri Lava Flow.

The city of Hachimantai was established in 2005 as a result of the merger of three municipalities, Nishine, Matsuo, and Ashiro. The discovery of sulfur here during the late 19th century became a major factor in the economic development of the region. The village of Matsuo, at the foot of Mt. Hachimantai, became home to the Matsuo Mine, which prospered as the largest sulfur mine in Asia. However, as the times changed, the demand for sulfur mines disappeared, and the local industry shifted to tourism and leisure.

Ruins of the Matsuo mine apartment complex. Now it is forbidden to enter.

Hachimantai has been well-known for its natural sulfur springs, including the Matsukawa and Toshichi hot springs. The village set out to develop their hot springs baths, but only geothermal steam erupted out of the wells they dug then. On October 8, 1966, the Matsukawa Geothermal Power Plant was opened, utilizing clean domestic renewable energy. The Matsukawa Geothermal Power Plant is known as Japan’s first commercial geothermal power plant and it continues to generate electricity today. The Matsuo Hachimantai Geothermal Power Plant was opened in 2019, and in 2024 there are plans to open the Appi Geothermal Power Plant as the region continues as a base for renewable energy.

October 8th, the day that the Matsukawa Geothermal Power Plant started operations, has been designated as Geothermal Power Day.

Hachimantai continues to produce safe energy by utilizing the blessings of volcanoes and geothermal power generation, which has less impact on the earth than other methods of power generation. In addition, smart agriculture, which combines geothermal energy and the Internet of Things, has begun and is attracting attention as a sustainable approach that is environmentally friendly.

At present, Hachimantai is one of the major tourist destinations in Tohoku known as a scenic mountain sightseeing resort with hot springs and one of Japan’s finest ski resorts during the winter. This history was born of the volcanic activity, and is still supported by the geothermal energy that is unique to volcanic regions.