Tono

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"By telling these tales, I wish that people continue to pass down these stories - passing a shiver down the spine of the plain-dwellers" - Kunio Yanagita, Tales of Tono.

Tono (遠野) is a small city in Iwate famous for its folk tales.

Tono with the morning fog clearing

Understand[edit]

Tono is a historical and rustic town surrounded by mountains. From classical times, it served as a hub between the cities between the settlements in what is now inland Iwate (like Hanamaki and Morioka) to the coast (like Kamaishi).

Tono is also the setting of the Tono Monogatari (遠野物語, "Tales of Tono" or "Legends of Tono") - a collection of 119 folk stories from the area and published in 1910 by Kunio Yanagita. Many of the yokai which appear in the tales, such as the Kappa and Zashiki Warashi are known throughout Japan and Tono continues to attract many visitors interested in the origins of the Tales.

Tono has also taken the Kappa as its city symbol - locations, carvings, statues and even some foods are based off the Kappa. The city even issues "Kappa Hunting Licenses" to tourists and it isn't uncommon to see cucumbers strapped to fishing rods hanging over a river, the traditional way to catch a Kappa.


Get in[edit]

JR / JR East Pass holders can take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Hanamaki (新花巻) and transfer to the Kamaishi (釜石線) line. Travelers not using the JR pass may alight at Hanamaki (花巻) station instead to transfer.

Tono is on the JR Kamaishi Line from Hanamaki. It takes about an hour and costs ¥820 if you are not covered by a Rail Pass. Do check the availability of the trains as trains on the Kamaishi line come on average every hour or so.

Alternatively, for people who prefer a direct bus without transfers, Willer Express [1] runs an overnight bus directly from Tokyo to Tono. There is also a bus [2](link in Japanese), from Sendai which takes around 3 hours.

Get around[edit]

Kappa statue to pray to for safety on the road

Most independent travelers to Tono travel around by bicycle. Cycling around the local sights surrounded by the mountains draped in seasonal colors is one of the key reasons to visit the town.

Buses tend to be very scarce, though they do have both sightseeing and regular buses that go to the major attractions. If you go to some of the more outlying sights, such as Fukusenji Temple, the bus going back to the station might not come for two hours. The only reliable form of transportation is by car.

Alternatively you may hire a taxi which will bring you around to the main sights. The rate is roughly 8000 yen for 3 hours, which may be worth it if you are traveling in a group.

See[edit][add listing]

The tourist office located at Tono Station sells coupons offering admission to five attractions for the price of approximately three attractions. You can choose the five attractions you wish to visit from among eight choices. If you're looking to do even three of the sights, the coupons are worth buying.

  • Tono is perhaps most famous for its Folk Villages, and there are four within cycling/driving distance of the town. Folk Villages feature traditionally built houses and local artisans making crafts. Most have workshops for children (and anyone else interested), although many workshops most must be reserved in advance.

- The largest and newest is Tono Furusato Village (http://www.tonotv.com/members/furusatomura). Admission is ¥510 for adults. Opening hours: 9:00-5:00.

- Denshoen is smaller, cozier and closer to town, and features an exhibit dedicated to the legend of Oshirasama, the girl who married a horse. Admission is ¥310.

- Tono Folk Village is located near the town center. Admission is ¥310 for adults.

- Takamuro Suikoen Park, is located at the top of a steep hill, and is a challenging bike ride from town. Admission is ¥310 for the park. The park is located next to a hotel with an indoor onsen. Non-guests can pay to use the onsen and can either bring or rent a towel.

  • Tono has two main museums: Tono Municipal Museum, which details the cultural history and traditional crafts/folktales of the region, and the Tono Castle Town Materials Museum, which details Tono's history as a castle town. Both museums are located right near Tono Station. Both feature presentations almost exclusively in Japanese. Entry for adults is ¥310 and hours are 9:00am to 5:00pm. Both museums close for the New Year's holiday from December 29-January 3. The Municipal Museum is also closed on the last day of every month, January 28-31, November 24-30 and wintertime Mondays.
  • Fukusenji Temple (福泉寺) has a beautiful five-story pagoda, as well as a smaller pagoda and other temples. It isn't worth going out of your way to see, but if you're already in the area it's worth a visit. Entry is ¥300. 20 minutes by bus or about an hour by foot from the station.
  • Located right near Denshoen is a Kappa pool (かっぱ淵), with a shrine dedicated to the mischievous water spirits that saved a nearby temple. No fee.
  • The Five Hundred Disciples looks like an ordinary grove of trees and rocks until you look at the rocks more closely. No fee.

Do[edit][add listing]

Get a fishing pole, some cucumbers and sit by the riverside to "fish" for Kappa!

See the sights by bike!

You may also choose to try your hand at living the rustic life at a farm stay. Many farmers in the city provide farm stays where visitors get to experience home-made food, home-harvested food and harvesting the food themselves.

Buy[edit][add listing]

The symbol of Tono is the water spirit known as the kappa and there are plenty of souvenirs featuring them, ranging from candies and cookies to mugs, t-shirts, dolls and sake.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Hittsumi meal
  • Tono has multiple dishes which are unique to the area. Try the Hittsumi (ひっつみ), a type of "Japanese Pasta".
  • Tono also has the highest consumption rate in Japan for Genghis Khan (ジンギスカン, a type of grilled mutton dish), surpassing Hokkaido which is often associated with it.
  • Another local snack is Gandzuki (がんづき), a type of cake made with chestnut and sesame.

Before you go cycling or hiking, stock up on provisions at the giant Topia Supermarket, located a few minutes walk from Tono Station.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Tono is famous for Dobukuro a form of cloudy rice wine which is brewed locally by the farmers.
  • Aside from Dobukuro, there are also many other types of brews of sake brewed and sold locally.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

As mentioned earlier in the article, you may opt for a home-stay / farm stay. Prices vary with the establishment.

  • Aguriturismo Bigwoods, [3]. Very warm and cozy home run by Ms. Omori. Offers opportunity to not only stay with her, but try out farming yourself. Apply through the website (in Japanese) 7000 yen for lodging and two meals, 8000 yen for lodging and three meals.  edit
  • Minshuku Tono, (A 10 minute walk from Tono Station.). This is a family-run establishment with simple tatami rooms including TV. Room and 2 meals ¥14,000.  edit
  • Tono Aeria, (Around 10 minutes away on foot from the station. Just follow the large road south from the station and you'll get there in no time.), 0198-60-1700, [4]. Large and modern hotel with comfy beds. Breakfast is buffet style. Rooms start from 6000 yen per person, meal plans available.  edit

Get out[edit]

Other locations on the Kamaishi Line:




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