Iwate

by Buddy Lindsey

Iwate

Note/Disclaimer: This is a post that is meant to give a quick overview of some of Iwate and not full detail of everything. Iwate is much like a state in the US with a rich past, present, and future to come. I can’t possibly cover everything and getting the tip of everything would be a book.

Name: Iwate
Island: Honshū
Population: 1,374,530
Capital: Morioka
Major Cities: Hachimantai, Hanamaki, Ichinoseki, Kamaishi, Kitakami, Kuji, Miyako, Ninohe, Ōfunato, Ōshū, Rikuzentakata

History

Iwate was historically part of Mutsu Province. It was brought into the empire around 800. In the Jōmon period it was an area abundant in fishing and hunting. There were also Emishi settlements in the Kitakami Basin until the end of the eighth century when the Nara authorities penetrated deeply into Iwate, with Fort Shiwa, to the north of present day Morioka, constructed in 803.

Culture

Of the several theories about the origin of the name ‘Iwate’, the most well known tale, ‘Oni no tegata,’ is that associated with Mitsuishi Shrine in Morioka. (The Mitsuishi, literally ‘three rocks’, are said to have been thrown down into Morioka by an eruption of Mt Iwate.) According to the legend, there was once a devil who often tormented and harassed the local people. When the people prayed to the spirits of Mitsuishi for protection, the devil was immediately shackled to the rocks and made to promise never to trouble the people again. As a sign of this promise the devil left a handprint on one of the rocks, thus giving rise to the name Iwate, literally meaning ‘rock hand’. Even now after a rainfall it is said that the devil’s hand print can still be seen.

Climate

Iwate has a generally cool climate. Although summer temperatures sometimes exceed 30ºC this does not last long. The northern coastal region is frequently plagued by a dense fog, called yamase, so that even in the summer there are some days where the temperature hardly rises at all. The snow season usually runs from November to March, but apart from areas close to the Ou Mountain Range, the snow is not generally very heavy. However, the temperature frequently drops below 0ºC

Interesting Facts

Poet and author Kenji Miyazawa was born in Iwate and lived much of his life there.

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