Historical and cultural tour of the Jomon and Heian periods (2 days)

Area Map 青森県 岩手県 宮城県 秋田県 山形県 福島県 新潟県

Historical and cultural tour of the Jomon and Heian periods (2 days)


Sannai-Maruyama Ruins

Travel back 5,500 years at Japan’s largest prehistoric Jomon village archaeological site!

Sannai-Maruyama Ruins
Sannai Maruyama Ruins is Japan’s largest archaeological site of a Jomon period village (15,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.) and is designated a national historic site. The site is known by the motto “large, long and many” derived from the large scale of the ruins, the long 1,500 years of village life and its many archaeological discoveries.
During the 1992 excavation of the site a large number of relics were found including pit dwellings, tombs of people of all ages and storage caves. About 2,000 archaeological finds are designated Important Cultural Properties. Visitors can learn about the life of the Jomon villagers through hands-on displays at the on-site Jomon Jiyukan museum. Several Jomon art-making experiences are available in which visitors can try their hands at making comma-shaped beads and clay figurines. Highlights of the site are the 15 pit dwellings, the huge residences known as longhouses, three stilted buildings and a large six-pillared building.
The free and entertaining guided tours on offer bring the ancient Jomon village to life! The one-hour tour starts at the entrance hall or the exit of the Jiyu Tunnel. Reservations are required for groups and English language tours.
The adjoining Aomori Museum of Art was designed to mimic the excavation site. In addition to the artworks on display visitors can enjoy the museum’s unique architecture of geometrical cuts into the ground resembling the trenches of the excavated ruins!

Aomori Museum of Art

A must-visit for art lovers! The museum is a hub for the local Aomori art scene.

Aomori Museum of Art
The Aomori Museum of Art is an eye-catching chalk-white building standing unobstructed in its vast grounds. The exquisite modern architecture was designed to mimic the excavation site of the adjoining Jomon-period Sannai Maruyama Ruins. The museum creates a unique space inspiring visitors by the harmony of the modern and prehistoric Jomon designs. Visitors will be struck by the dynamic geometrical cuts on the museum’s grounds resembling the trenches of the neighbouring excavation. The small tree motifs of the museum logo on the entrance wall represent “Aomori” (grove of blue trees) and are illuminated in blue at dusk. The elaborately designed architecture is an impressive artwork in itself!
The gigantic 8.5m statue of “Aomori Dog” is a popular work of Yoshitomo Nara, an internationally acclaimed artist from Aomori. The pure white dog with its serene expression stands motionless under the open sky in its Octagonal Chamber. In addition to works by Yoshitomo Nara, visitors can enjoy a range of eccentric works by more of Aomori’s native artists including the great woodblock printmaker Shiko Munakata and Toru Narita, a famous sculptor who designed monsters for the Ultraman series. The museum also features three of the four ballet stage backdrops (from acts 1, 2 and 4) of “Aleko” by the great master Marc Chagall. The huge 9m X 15m works in the four-storey space are nothing short of overwhelming.
The on-site Four Cats café offers a selection of lunch and sweets made with local produce in a bright atmosphere and features an entertaining, artfully illustrated book-style menu.
The museum shop is accessible without entering the museum itself. Enjoy taking a look around the shop while looking for some perfect arty gifts!

Aomori Gyosai Center Nokkedon

Aomori Gyosai Center Nokkedon

Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse

Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse

Asamushi Onsen

Enjoy stunning sunset views at this hot spring resort on Mutsu Bay!

Asamushi Onsen
The scenic local “Aoimori Railway” line connects Aomori and the hot spring town of Asamushi Onsen. The free foot bath outside Asamushi Onsen station welcomes visitors with an exhilarating introduction to their Onsen experience. The Onsen town consists of two areas: the east side is a traditional hot spring town while the west side is a beach resort facing the sea.
With its narrow alleys lined with traditional hot spring inns and eateries, the eastern part of town displays the unchanged scenery of the old hot spring town. Here visitors can poach their own eggs in the hot spring waters at the “Onsen egg place” and the nearby drinking fountain is said to be beneficial for digestion. Other attractions on the east side are Asamushi Onsen Forest Park, recognised as one of Japan’s best 100 forest bathing locations and Asamushi Aquarium known for its popular dolphin performances.
Ocean lovers can enjoy bathing, windsurfing, yachting and fishing at the artificial sandy beach “Sunset Beach Asamushi” on the west side of town. The nearby Michi-no-Eki “Yusa Asamushi” is a roadside station offering a large hot spring bath with a panoramic view of Mutsu Bay. The luxury hotels lined along the Mutsu Bay coast offer popular modern hot spring resort experiences, the perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset view!
The clear hot spring water is pure, odourless, smooth to touch and moisturising on the skin. Along with promoting beautiful skin, the water is said to be beneficial for neuralgia, rheumatism, backache and a range of other ailments.

Lunch at around JR Ichinoseki station

Ichinoseki’s Historic Mochi Cuisine

Lunch at around JR Ichinoseki station
Ichinoseki city in Iwate and the surrounding area has a long history of Mochi (sticky rice cake) thanks to the region’s crops of excellent sticky rice. The locals say that over 300 varieties of Mochi dishes are available in the region including “Mochi Honzen” dating back to the Edo period when the Date clan ruled the region. Honzen cuisine is a formal meal served on a personal tray and “Mochi Honzen” is a multi-course meal with a variety of Mochi dishes prepared in a ritualised style. A wide range of Mochi dishes are available including sweets, savoury side dishes and fusion dishes combining Mochi with international cuisine.  

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Motsuji Temple

Free your mind in this temple’s peaceful garden known as Buddha’s Paradise

Motsuji Temple
Motsuji Temple is a designated UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site along with nearby Chusonji Temple in Hiraizumi. The beautiful Japanese garden and ancient religious buildings are officially recognised both as a historic site and as a place of exceptional scenic beauty.
The priest Ennin originally founded the temple and the construction of the temple complex was done during the 2nd and 3rd generations of Oshu Fujiwara clan.
The beautiful Japanese garden representing Buddha’s Paradise is breath-taking. Visitors can enjoy the Pure Land Garden, a popular garden style of the Heian period with its unique landscape design techniques, surrounding the central Oizumi-ga-ike pond.
The peaceful garden fascinates visitors with its beautiful seasonal flowers and is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Many people come here during the Iris Festival in early summer and the “Hagi” Japanese Bush Clover Festival in early autumn. For those wanting a deeper Buddhist experience, the temple offers Zen meditation sessions and Buddhist sutra transcription courses introducing participants to Japanese Buddhism.

Thanks to the flat nature of the location the temple is easily accessible. Lifts and accessible toilets are available in the temple buildings for the seniors and families with children.

Chuson-ji Temple

A World Heritage temple complex featuring a dazzling golden hall

Chuson-ji Temple
Chuson-ji Temple in Hiraizumi was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 as an important location of Pure Land Buddhism. Along with the renowned golden hall “Konjikido”, the temple offers many highlights including Benkeido Hall, Yakushido Hall and Hondo (Main) Hall.
The great priest Ennin originally founded Chuson-ji Temple in 850. From the early 12th century the founder of the Oshu Fujiwara clan, Kiyohira, began construction of the temple complex with halls and pagodas calling for peace through the teachings of Buddha. Kiyohira undertook the construction to honour the family he lost during the local wars of the period. Thanks to the abundance of locally mined gold, Hiraizumi flourished for 100 years during the reign of the four generations of Fujiwara clan. One of the earliest designated National Treasures, Konjikido demonstrates the craftsmanship of that period including mother-of-pearl inlay work, openwork and lacquer work. Visitors can learn about the local history and prosperity of the Oshu Fujiwara clan at the Sankozo Museum, a treasure house of precious cultural properties representing Eastern Japan’s Buddhist arts.
The temple is enchanting throughout the year in harmony with springtime cherry blossoms, verdant summer greens, colourful autumn leaves and snowy winter scenes.
The town offers several services to get around Hiraizumi. The sightseeing bus “Run-Run” travels between Hiraizumi’s popular sights including Chuson-ji and Motsuji Temples, both 20 minutes from JR Hiraizumi station. Bike rentals are available at the cycling station “Rin-Rin” located near the station. Contact the tourism centre at the station for further information.
  • Sannai-Maruyama Ruins
  • Aomori Museum of Art
  • Aomori Gyosai Center Nokkedon
  • Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse
  • Asamushi Onsen
  • Motsuji Temple
  • Chuson-ji Temple

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