Ichinoseki (一関) is a city in Iwate Prefecture in the north eastern part of the main island (Honshu) in Japan. While the city merged in 2006 with surrounding municipalities, it is still not a very large town, and the downtown area which contains most entertainment facilities is compact. NEC, Sony and Fujitsu General Electronics are the main employers, with their factories providing work for mostly Brazilian migrants. The city has warm summers and cold winters, so dress appropriately for the season.
Take the Yamabiko Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno station; this journey takes about 3 hours with stops at Sendai and more on the way up. From Sendai, the Shinkansen takes about half an hour, while there are also local trains and a highway bus for those on a budget.
From Sendai, there is a bus that goes to Ichinoseki on the hour. One-way is Y1500, and round-trip is Y2700. 80 minutes. Board in front of Sakurano department store on Aoba street, near the station's west exit.
The downtown is accessible on foot, but bicycles are available for rent at the bicycle parking lot to the left of the station's west exit. Look for the Rentakun (レン太君) sign next to the office. The station also has a taxi pool and is a hub for the city's buses. Trains on the Ofunato Line access the more rural areas of Ichinoseki.
One popular sight is Genbikei (厳美渓, Gorge of Harsh Beauty), a gorge which has white water rushing over rocks, a few waterfalls, hot spring hotels, and dango which is made in a shop across the river and sent to customers via an overhead cable.
During the cherry blossom season in early spring, Tsuriyama (釣り山), a large hill located on almost a straight path west of the station, is lit by lanterns at night and is beautiful during the day as the trees bloom. Outside of cherry blossom season, the paths up the hill and the small park at the summit offer a pleasant place to explore and look at the city from above. According to local legend, the outcropping of rock and earth at the top of the hill was once a signal fire tower during the era when Ichinoseki had just been brought under Kyoto rule.
Haishiwa Shrine (配志和神社) is a shrine located northwest of the station, in the Nakasato area of town. Situated at the top of a densely wooded hill, it is truly breathtaking, not only due to the giant, thousand-year-old trees at the top, but the incredibly long flight of stairs you must climb to get there.
The town of Higashiyama, technically a subdistrict of Ichinoseki since the merger, offers Geibikei (猊鼻渓, Lion's Nose Gorge). A ten minute walk from Geibikei Station on the Ofunato Line brings you to the gorge, where flat-bottomed boats take you upstream past Buddhist rock carvings. The Yuugendou (幽玄洞, Mysterious Caves) Caves are also located in Higashiyama, and according to legend were a hideout for Japanese Christians during the Edo period.
A couple of small izakaya (Iroha, Ne-Ne-Ya, and the like) style places in front of the train station, and Uotami is close-by as well, with a 1,000 yen nomihodai. And, if you like yakitori make sure to check out the Yakitori Dojo and Ippei, both of which are fairly famous locally. After that there are a couple of good unagi restaurants within a 10 minute walk of the station. For late night eats, there are ramen shops and typical chains like Yoshinoya and Sukiya, plus a McDonald's near SATY. Last edited - 7 October 2009 (John)
Paper Moon is a bar popular with the foreign crowd, though the 'foreign crowd' is almost non-existent in Ichinoseki. The master understands English too, which is nice for visitors. Occasionally visiting German businessmen will stop in with their Japanese counterparts. The master makes great pizza. It is located on the main street, O-machi Dori (大町通り). To get there, walk straight out of the station, down and up the underground walkway, turn right at the traffic lights, and look for a sign in a walkway on your right that will say Paper Moon. CLOSED (The Snoopy sign is gone.)
Donque is similar, located on the edge of the downtown. It has a vaguely "Italian" feel to it, but has a wide variety of alcohol. To get there, turn right after exiting the station and walk straight until you can see the slope that allows cars to pass under the train bridge. The second-last block has Donque on the corner. Look for wine barrels and bottles.
Abanzale is the most popular bar for the youth of Ichinoseki, due to its bi-weekly events such as hip-hop night and small dance floor. The music is usually hip hop, but on quite nights you can hear jazz. The English-speaking owner is very friendly, plus he's a DJ. To get there, walk down O-machi to Top Wellness, and turn left. Abanzale is the only bar on the street, and will have a light out front on it's sign. If you are younger and want to have fun in Ichinoseki, definitely go to Abanzale, its your best shot.
Bothy is a very nice little bar. To get there, walk straight out of the station, down and up the underground walkway and it's on your right on the second floor, up some stairs. The food is great and the alcohol selection is nice. Plus, they usually play old rock and roll and the like (think Beatles).
Sugar Bar is another great place. To get there, walk straight out of the station, down and up the underground walkway, turn right at the traffic lights, walk for 3 or 4 minutes and it's on your left, up some stairs on the second floor. They have (probably) the best alcohol selection in Ichinoseki. The master and mama are very friendly, and the mama makes some of the best pasta and pizza in the city. Plus they serve delicious raw ham cut right at the counter. The music is almost always jazz. Lastly, you can get some nice cigars here, if you are interested.
After those places there are, of course, dozens of hostess bars and snacks all around the station. The prices vary, but they typically start at 3,000 yen per and will run up to 8,000 yen at at least one place. If you are a visitor who doesn't understand hostess bars, don't go. If you know the score, then have at it. Sone of the more popular places are Ageha, Cruise, and Ichigo. Last edited - 7 October 2009 (John)
There are a couple of hotels right in front of the station, west (main) exit.
There are also a number of other small hotels and ryokan located throughout the city, including one that is the exact same ryokan where Emperor Meiji stayed during his trip to the north, give or take a few fires, floods, and complete rebuildings.