Morioka is a busy commercial and industrial city ringed by mountains, but it's more of a travel hub than a destination to visit; for that reason, a one-day (or even half-day) stopover is usually sufficient to give travelers a glimpse of the city's greenery and attractions. A nice, expansive park surrounds a ruined castle, and an ancient cherry tree has proven it belongs here by rooting itself into the crack of a huge granite slab in front of the district courthouse. But the city's major draw is the locally produced Nanbu-tetsu, a special type of cast iron forged into functional and highly ornamental wares. The most popular are heavy iron kettles. They are expensive, because they're specially tempered not to rust. As tea connoisseurs know, once conditioned, these pots soften the water by leeching out unwanted minerals and chemicals while adding the taste and health benefits of elemental iron. They will go on doing it forever, too, if properly cared for. Many locals are still using kettles from centuries past. Dozens of shops throughout the city sell Nanbu-tetsu, but the main shopping streets are Saien-dori and O-dori, which pass right by Iwate Koen (Iwate Park).
Your complete guide to planning a trip to the U.S. National Parks, including an interactive map and several road trip itineraries.More