|Map of Japan with Iwate highlighted|
|Area (rank)||15,278.40 km² (2nd)|
|- % water||0.1%|
|- Population||1,330,530 (30th)|
|- Density||90 /km²|
|- Flower||Paulownia tree (Paulownia tomentosa)|
|- Tree||Nanbu red pine (Pinus densiflora)|
|- Bird||Green pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)|
|Symbol of Iwate Prefecture
Symbol of Iwate Prefecture
|Template ■ Discussion ■ WikiProject Japan|
Iwate Prefecture (岩手県 Iwate-ken ) is the second largest prefecture of Japan after Hokkaidō. It is located in the Tōhoku region of Honshū island and contains the island's easternmost point. The capital is Morioka. Iwate is known for its abundant nature since it has the lowest population density of any prefecture outside Hokkaidō. Hunting, fishing, hiking, boating and camping are all popular activities along with skiing and skating in Winter. Famous attractions include the Buddhist temples of Hiraizumi, including Chūson-ji and Mōtsū-ji with their treasures, Fujiwara no Sato, a movie lot and theme park in Esashi Ward, Oshu City, Tenshochi, a park in Kitakami City known for its big, old cherry trees and Morioka Castle in Morioka City.
There are several theories about the origin of the name ‘Iwate’, but the most well known is the tale, 'Oni no tegata,' which is associated with the Mitsuishi or "Three Rocks" Shrine in Morioka. These 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 these rocks and forced to make a promise never to trouble the people again.[cn] As a seal of his oath the devil made a handprint on one of the rocks, thus giving rise to the name Iwate, literally ‘rock hand’. Even now after a rainfall it is said that the devil’s hand print can still be seen there.
Iwate Prefecture was created in 1876 in the aftermath of the Boshin Civil War which heralded the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. While the entire island of Honshū was claimed by the Japanese, or Yamato, government from earliest times as a sort of divine right or manifest destiny, the imperial forces were unable to occupy any part of what would become Iwate until 802 when two powerful Emishi leaders, Aterui and More, surrendered at Fort Isawa.
The area now known as Iwate Prefecture was inhabited by the Jomon people who left their artifacts throughout the prefecture. For example a large number of burial pits from the Middle Jomon Period (2,800 - 1,900 BC) have been found in Nishida. Various sites from the Late Jomon Period (1,900 - 1,300 BC) including Tateishi, Makumae and Hatten contain clay figurines, masks and ear and nose shaped clay artifacts. The Kunenbashi site in Kitakami City has yielded stone "swords", tablets and tools as well as clay figurines, earrings and potsherds from the Final Jomon Period (1,300 - 300 BC).
The earliest mention of a Japanese presence dates to about 630 when the Hakusan Shrine was said to have been built on Mt. Kanzan in what is now Hiraizumi. At this time various Japanese traders, hunters, adventurers, priests and criminals made their way to Iwate. In 712 the province of Mutsu, containing all of Tohoku, was divided into Dewa Province, the area west of the Ou Mountains and Mutsu Province. In 729 Kokuseki-ji Temple was founded in what is now Mizusawa Ward, Oshu City by the itenerant priest Gyōki.
Little is known about relations between these Japanese frontiersmen and the native Emishi but in 776 they took a turn for the worse when large forces of the Yamato army invaded Iwate attacking the Isawa and Shiwa tribes in February and November of that year. More fighting occurred the next and following years but mostly in Dewa and the area south of present day Iwate prefecture. This situation continued until March of 787 when the Yamato army suffered a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Sufuse Village in what is now Mizusawa Ward, Oshu City. There the Emishi leaders More and Aterui leading a large cavalry force trapped the Yamato infantry and pushed them into the Kitakami River where their heavy armour proved deadly. Over 1,000 soldiers drowned that day. The Japanese general Ki no Asami Kosami was "rebuked" by the Emperor Kammu when he returned to Kyoto.
Since the Japanese could not win on the battlefield they resorted to other means to conquer the Emishi. Trade for superior quality iron wares and sake made the Emishi dependant on the Japanese for these valuable goods. Bribes were offered to the Emishi leaders in the form of Japanese citizenship and rank if they would defect. Finally a campaign of burning crops and kidnapping the Emishi women and children and relocating them to Western Japan was adopted. Many a stout warrior gave up the fight to join his family again.
In 801 Sakanoue no Tamuramaro bagan a new campaign against the Isawa Emishi having moderate success. Finally on April 15, 802 the Emishi leaders More and Aterui surrendered with some 500 warriors. The captives were taken to Kyoto for an audience with the emperor and beheaded at Moriyama in Kawachi Province against the wishes of General Sakanoue. This act of cruelty enraged the Emishi leading to another twenty or more years of fighting.
After the surrender numerous forts were built on the Chinese model along the Kitakami River. In 802 Fort Isawa was built in what is now Mizusawa Ward, Oshu City, in 803 Fort Shiwa was built in what is now Morioka City and in 812 Fort Tokutan was built also in Morioka.
Iwate faces the Pacific Ocean to the east with sheer, rocky cliffs along most of the shoreline interrupted by a few sandy beaches. The border with Akita Prefecture on the west is generally formed by the highest points of the Ou Mountains. Aomori Prefecture is to the north and Miyagi Prefecture is to the south.
The land forming Iwate prefecture is the oldest in Japan. The Ou mountains on the west still contain active volcanoes such as Mt. Iwate (at 2,038 meters the highest point in the prefecture) and Mt. Kurikoma (1,627 meters). But the Kitakami Mountains running through the middle of the prefecture from north to south are much older and have not been active for thousands of years. Mt. Hayachine (1,917 meters), lying at the heart of the Kitakami range, is thus unique in many ways. It is the oldest and sits farthest to the east of any large mountain in Japan. This gives it a unique ecosystem which contains exotic plants that occur nowhere else on earth.
Besides these two mountain ranges and the rugged coastline, the prefecture is characterized by the Kitakami River which flows from north to south between the Ou and Kitakami mountain ranges. It is the fourth longest river in Japan and the longest in Tohoku. The basin of the Kitakami is large and fertile providing room for the prefectures largest cities, industrial parks and farms.
In the past Iwate has been famous for its mineral wealth especially in the form of gold, iron, coal and sulfur but these are no longer produced. There is still an abundance of hot water for onsen, or hot springs, which is the basis of a thriving industry. The forests of the prefecture are another valuable resource. Before World War II the forests were mainly composed of beech but since then there has been a huge swing towards the production of faster growing Japanese cedar. Recently, though, there has been a push to restore the original beech forests in some areas.
Thirteen cities are located in Iwate Prefecture:
Towns and villages
Towns and villages in each district:
Iwate's industry is concentrated around Morioka and specializes in semiconductor and communications manufacturing.
As of March 2011, the prefecture produced 3.9% of Japan's beef and 14.4% of broiler chickens. In 2009, 866 tons of dolphins and whales were harvested off the coast of Iwate, accounting for more than half of Japan's total catch of 1,404 tons.
The current population of Iwate as of October 1, 2007 is 1,363,702 consisting of 651,730 males and 711,972 females.
The earliest census records date from 1907 when the population of Iwate stood at 770,406 with 389,490 males and 380,916 females. This is also the only census to record more males than females.
In 1935 Iwate's population surpassed a million reaching 1,095,793.
In 1985 the population of the prefecture reached its all-time high before or since at 1,433,611.
The census of 1950 saw the most births in the prefecture with 45,968 reported. Since then there has been an almost steady decline to 10,344 births in 2007. The greatest number of deaths were reported in 1945 with a total of 32,614. The number of deaths declined steadily until 1980 when the fewest deaths were recorded, 9,892. Since then the number of deaths has increased gradually to 14,774 in 2007.
Thanks to improvements in medicine the number of infants dying at birth has declined from a high of 4,246 in 1950 to just 332 in 2007.
The number of marriages in the prefecture has also declined from a high of 13,055 in 1950 to an all-time low of 6,354 in 2007.
In 839 a meteorite fell from the sky in Dewa Province causing a large number of peasants in the area of Fort Isawa to desert.
On July 13, 869, a magnitude 8.6 earthquake struck off the coast of Iwate.
On November 14, 1230 volcanic activity was reported.
On December 2, 1611 a magnitude 8.1 earthquake and tsunami were reported to have killed over 3,000 horses and people.
In 1662 Morioka and its suburbs were hit by a large flood leaving 1,000 dead.
Volcanic activity was reported on Mt. Iwate on March 23, 1686 and April 14, 1687.
On May 13, 1717 The Hanamaki area was struck with a magnitude 7.6 earthquake opening cracks in the ground everywhere. There was also widespread destruction of houses and shops.
In Nanbu-han alone, 49,594 people starved to death in the famine of 1755.
Severe famines continue from 1783 to 1787 and again from 1832 to 1838.
Cholera outbreaks occurred in August, 1879 in Miyako and Kuji.
In July, 1882, a cholera outbreak in Kamaishi left 302 dead and warnings about drinking water were posted throughout the prefecture.
In April, 1884 there was another outbreak of cholera in Kamaishi.
In September, 1886 cholera outbreaks throughout Iwate left 312 dead.
On June 15, 1896 at 7:32 AM a magnitude 8.5 earthquake struck offshore. The ensuing tsunami sent waves onto the coast of Iwate at Yoshihama, in what is now Sanriku town, reaching 24 meters in height - the highest ever recorded in Japan. 18,158 people died in Iwate alone while some 10,000 homes were destroyed. Fishermen fishing the ocean about 20 miles offshore felt nothing, then returning home the next morning found the shore littered with their homes and the bodies of their loved ones.
In September, 1899 dysentery spread throughout the prefecture killing 2,070 people.
There was a widespread crop failure due to violent storms in September, 1902. Only 32,900 tons of rice were produced in Iwate, just 30% of the previous year's harvest.
In 1905 there was again a massive crop failure due to heavy rain and cold leading to famine in 1906. People were reduced to eating straw, acorns and roots.
In 1919 Nishi-Iwate erupted.
On March 3, 1933 a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck offshore killing 3,008 people and destroying 7,479 homes. This is the fifth worst earthquake in Japan since 1923.
Small explosions shook Mt. Iwate throughout 1934 and 1935.
In August, 1957 there was volcanic activity on Mt. Kurikoma.
There was volcanic activity on Mt. Akita-Komagatake from September to December, 1970 with lava flows visible from Morioka.
In 2003 earthquakes struck on May 26 (M7.0 off the coast of Kessennuma, Miyagi Prefecture), July 25 (three jolts of M5.5, 6.2 and 5.3 in southern Iwate) and September 26 (M8.3 in Hokkaido but strongly felt in Iwate).
At 8:43 a.m. on June 14, 2008 Iwate was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was about 8 km underground in Ichinoseki City. 13 deaths were reported and massive landshifts occurred in Northern Miyagi and Southern Iwate.
On Friday, March 11, 2011, an earthquake measured at 9.0 by the US Geological service hit this area, triggering a large tsunami and extensive damage. The highest run up of water has been measured at over 38 meters. 
Iwate is served by the East Japan Railway Company which operates two high-speed shinkansen lines in the prefecture and seven local rail lines. The Tōhoku Shinkansen has stations at Ichinoseki, Oshu, Kitakami, Hanamaki, Morioka, Iwate Town and Ninohe. The Akita Shinkansen starts at Morioka Station and connects to locations in Akita Prefecture.
The East Japan Railway Company operates passenger and freight trains on the Tōhoku Main Line or Tōhoku-honsen in Iwate but sold the track north of Morioka to the Iwate Galaxy Railway Line in 2002. The two lines share track with JR still running freight trains and some passenger trains over IGR track and IGR running occasional passenger trains as far south as Hanamaki. There is a large JR freight yard and maintenance facility in Yahaba.
Local lines include the Ofunato Line, the Kitakami Line, the Kamaishi Line, the Tazawako Line, the Yamada Line and the Hanawa Line.
Other lines include the Iwate Galaxy Railway Line mentioned above and Sanriku Rail which operates two lines along the coast, the North Rias Line and the South Rias Line. Using these lines can be confusing as there are sometimes JR and Sanriku stations side by side. A weary traveller can easily miss a connection by not realizing he or she has to go to a different station to make a transfer.
- National Census 2010 Preliminary Results
- Schreiber, Mark, "Japan's food crisis goes beyond recent panic buying", Japan Times, 17 April 2011, p. 9.
- Kyodo News, "Sea Shepherd's return to Iwate town enrages local fishermen", Japan Times, 26 May 2011, p. 2.
- (Japanese) Japanese Wikinfo
- Yiengpruksawan, M.H. Hiraizumi: Buddhist Art and Regional Politics in Twelfth Century Japan, Harvard University Asia Center, Cambridge MA, 1998
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