Last Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Make Time for Tono

Iwate’s Town of Yokai & Folklore

Donny Kimball
12 min readOct 8, 2023

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A collection of Tono’s farm buildings on a clear autumn day in Iwate Prefecture. This hidden gem is a must visit for fans of getting off of the beaten path.

When I started producing travel content back in the spring of 2016, Iwate’s town of Tono was one place that I knew I was going to need to feature. Known nation-wide for its local legends, Tono has often been described as the birthplace of Japanese folklore for the modern era. This legacy was mainly built on the back of Sasaki Kizen, a man who has come to be known as the “Japanese Grimm.” Originally from Tono, Sasaki was the first to pioneer the academic study of folklore in Japan. Over time, Sasaki passed the torch to another man, Yanagita Kunio, who would continue the work of popularizing these stories in his tome The Legends of Tono.

These days, a trip to Tono is like traveling back in time to a simpler age. While you’ll find the odd trappings of modernity here and there, the hamlet is largely free from the insanity of our technology-addicted world. In fact, if it weren’t for the electrically powered bicycle that I was mounted upon, I would have been hard pressed to tell what century, let alone what decade, I was presently in as I cycled about. In the rural reaches of Tono, it often feels as if the hands of time have all but stopped.

Especially if you like to get active while traveling, I cannot recommend Tono’s folktales and countryside charms more highly. Though decidedly not a destination that I would want to push on first-time visitors, Tono is exactly the type of place that I envision when I talk about seeing Japan’s lesser-known sides. Somehow, this village in Iwate Prefecture ticks all of the boxes that I look for when evaluating off-the-beaten-path spots for their tourism potential. If you’re looking for a true hidden gem that is also rife with allures, there are few places that I’d suggest over this one.

How to Get There

All things considered, the trip to Tono is not all too bad. Assuming that you’re coming from Tokyo, you’ll want to first begin by taking the Tohoku Shinkansen from…

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Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media. https://donnykimball.com/