"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 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.
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  runs an overnight bus directly from Tokyo to Tono. There is also a bus (link in Japanese), from Sendai which takes around 3 hours.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Before you go cycling or hiking, stock up on provisions at the giant Topia Supermarket, located a few minutes walk from Tono Station.
As mentioned earlier in the article, you may opt for a home-stay / farm stay. Prices vary with the establishment.
Other locations on the Kamaishi Line: