Most visitors to Japan don’t stray far north of Tokyo, which is a shame, because not only is there a bounty of natural wonder to be enjoyed, but there is also a rich history to soak up. History lives on even more vividly in the northern part of this “Tohoku” region (everything north of the Tokyo region to the tip of the island), and Morioka City is the center of it all. It is here that the Morioka History and Culture Museum. Less that five years old, the museum is of modern, engaging design, and a must-see when in the neighborhood.
A museum situated in a parkYou’ll find the grand, but somewhat understated museum building in Morioka Castle Park (don’t look too hard for the castle, as it’s nothing but remains nowadays). The gray may blend in with the snow and blustery weather if it is winter, but this is by no means a portent of things to come. The surrounding areas have a number of sights to see in the here and now, so once you have had your fill, head on into the museum for your trip back in time.
The horses came runningHorses in Morioka have always played a vital role not just in commerce, but also as celebrated heroes in village and regional festivals across the land. The horses are elaborately dressed and adorned, with some of the outfits on display taking weeks of painstaking labor to create. Even today, these festivals continue, keeping the tradition and distinctions of the region alive.
Distinctive styles for your considerationYou may recognize this face as being something in the Kabuki style, but the cultural representations here are unique to Iwate Prefecture, the de facto center of the northern Tohoku region (and the prefecture that Morioka City itself lies). Around the museum, you will find superb examples of clothing and costume from the day. Bear in mind that this part of Japan experiences some of the coldest weather in the country, and was also very isolated from western and southern parts of the country, thus creating a style indisputably distinctive from their distant brethren.
Lacquerware, paintings, scrolls, and more!Once you’ve had your fill of fabrics and reenactments, there’s a shogun’s ransom of arts and crafts to breathe in. Lacquerware displays are noteworthy for both their beauty and their expression of functionality, with everything from small chests to vanity mirrors on display. Paintings superbly illustrate the beauty of the natural and built worlds of days long ago, and scrolls roll out before you, their masterful calligraphy recounting events and stories of the day.
A museum that gives you beauty and a sense of place
The Morioka History and Culture Museum is conveniently located in the center of the city, which makes it even easier to experience the culture and history of the region. While the English guidance may be a little on the light side, the visuals more than make up for it. And more than make it a very nice day in this capital of the northern Tohoku region.
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