Iwaizumi (岩泉) in Iwate prefecture is the largest town on Honshu — by land area, that is. It's well known for its clear spring water and caves across town.
Iwaizumi Town covers a total area of 990 km², making it the largest town in mainland Japan. The Kitakami mountains extend to the west, while the Sanriku coast borders the town's eastern side. The town is blessed with an array of fascinating features, including a group of limestone caves, white birches' forests, and the Hayasaka Plateau.
JR Iwaizumi Line serves Iwaizumi from Moichi, the transit station for JR Yamada Line links Morioka and Miyako. However it is extremely infrequent (3 times a day, 1 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon) and unless you really are train lovers, it is very difficult to negotiate. Japan Rail Pass is accepted.
If you are on the Sanriku Coast, Sanriku Railway does have a station in the east edge of Iwaizumi Town. Omoto Station is 40 min away from Miyako (¥750 single). The town council operates shuttle bus service from Omoto into town via Ryusendo Cave (¥600 single) usually connect train arrival times.
JR Tohoku Bus Co. operates a direct bus service (4 times daily) from Morioka Station to Ryusendo Cave via Iwaizumi Town Center. The journey takes 2 hr 10 min. Japan Rail Pass is accepted on this bus service.
Morioka Station - Ryusendo (via Iwaizumi), daily, ¥2590
- From Morioka Station 09:40, 12:40, 14:40, 17:40
- From Ryusendo 05:55, 08:55, 13:30, 16:00
The bus leaves from Morioka Eastside Bus Terminal, Bus Stop No.1. No toilet on the bus, but there's a break at the Mitakai SA along the way. All buses go via Iwaizumi Sanbonmatsu. (8 min before Ryusendo arrival).
Another option is to hire a rental car at Morioka station. Driving in this region is less stressful than in cities like Tokyo. National Road 455 is the shortest route from Morioka, passing through picturesque Gando-ko and Sotoyama lakes. Since the new tunnel through Hayasaka Plateau was completed, the journey time has been cut -- Morioka to Iwaizumi takes around 90 minutes. In the winter, driving times are often longer and conditions are often less safe.
There are limited commuter bus links mainly serving for locals connecting between settlements, the town hall and medical center. There are couple of useful services for visitors. One is the line mentioned above, linking between Omoto Station and Iwaizumi Town center, and the other one is to Ryusendo and Sugawatari Caves. Ryusendo can be within walking distance (although 30 mins from town center). All buses start/end at Iwaizumi Station, passing through Sanbonmatsu (8 min away) along the way.
Iwaizumi Sanbonmatsu - Omoto, daily, ¥600
- From Sanbonmatsu 05:58, 06:40, 07:25(*1), 08:05 (Sa Su 08:05), 11:06, 12:58, 14:33, 16:30(*1), 17:33, 19:23
- From Omoto Station 06:37(*1), 07:21, 08:42, 09:53, 12:47, 14:10, 15:46(*1), 17:03, 18:52, 20:50
- No mark= Operated by Iwaizumi Un-yu Bus
- (*1)= Operated by Iwate Kenpoku Bus
- Times in bold = via Ryusendo Cave (add 8 min from Sanbonmatsu)
Iwaizumi Sanbonmatsu - Ryusendo Cave, M-F ¥150
- From Sanbonmatsu 08:07(*4), 11:06, 11:30(*3), 11:53(*2), 12:58, 14:33, 14:47(*4), 14:53(*2),16:00(*3), 16:53(*2), 17:33, 17:37(*4), 19:53(*2)
- From Ryusendo Cave 05:55(*2), 07:41(*4), 07:52(*3), 08:55(*2), 09:08, 09:36(*4), 10:19, 13:13, 13:30(*2), 14:36, 16:00(*2), 17:01(*4)
Saturday - Sunday, Public holiday
- From Sanbonmatsu 08:05, 11:06, 11:35(*3), 11:53(*2), 12:58, 14:33, 14:53(*2), 16:53(*2), 17:33, 19:53(*2)
- From Ryusendo Cave 05:55(*2), 08:55(*2), 09:08, 10:19, 13:13, 13:30(*2), 14:36, 16:00(*2)
- No mark= Operated by Iwaizumi Un-yu Bus
- (*2)= Operated by JR Tohoku Bus
- (*3)= Operated by Tanohata Kotsu Bus
- (*4)= Operated by Ogawa Taxi
Iwaizumi Sanbonmatsu - Ankado (for Sugawatari Cave), M-F only, ¥720 Monday - Friday
- From Sanbonmatsu 08:07, 14:47, 17:37
- From Ankado 07:10, 09:05, 16:30
- 1 [dead link] Ryusendo Cave (龍泉洞), 日本 〒027－0501 岩手県下閉伊郡岩泉町岩泉字神成1番地1 (From Misawa, take the Momoishi toll road to Hachinohe, and follow Route 45 to the T-Intersection at the Sega World. Make a right and continue on 45 about 85 km until you get to Route 455. Turn right onto Route 455 and follow it about 17 km to the caves.), ☏ +81 194 22-2566. October–April 08:30-17:00, May-Sep 08:30-18:00. A Japanese national monument and one of three largest caves in Japan. Adults ¥1;000.
- 2 Sugawatari Tankendo Cave (氷渡探検洞).
- 3 Kumanohana Observatory (熊の鼻展望台).
- 1 Ryusendo Onsen Hotel (龍泉洞温泉ホテル), 日本 〒027-0501 岩手県下閉伊郡岩泉町岩泉町字府金48, ☏ +81 194-22-4141, fax: +81 194-22-4770. Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. This hotel and onsen is located a few kilometers south of the caves. 1 night and 2 meals for ¥11,550.
- 2 Numa no Hei Campground (沼の兵キャンプ場) (About 20 km SE of Iwaizumi. From Iwaizumi, take Highway 455 east. Take Highway 45 south about 5 km. Take a side road east, down to the ocean and the campground.). A nice campground on the ocean. There's a sandy beach, and the campground has bathrooms and showers, a large fire pit, and vending machines.