is the second largest prefecture of Japan after Hokkaido. It is located in the Tōhoku region of Honshū island and contains the island's easternmost point. The capital is Morioka. Iwate has the lowest population density of any prefecture outside Hokkaido. 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.
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 itinerant 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 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 dependent 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 began a new campaign against the Isawa Emishi having moderate success. Finally on 15 April 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.
In the latter part of the Heian period, the town of Hiraizumi in what is now southern Iwate became the capital of the Northern Fujiwara. The warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune fled here after the Gempei War.