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Lake Towada and Oirase Stream

Enjoy the Changing Colors of the Seasons


Lake Towada.

Lake Towada, along with its tributary the Oirase Mountain Stream, is a famous sightseeing spot in the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan and is known for its scenic natural beauty. The beautiful blue lake, flowing river, and surrounding mountains never fail to impress. Visitors enjoy the colorful scenery that changes with the seasons, particularly the crimson foliage of autumn.

Deep Blue Caldera Lake
Situated on the boundary of Akita and Aomori prefectures in the northern part of Japan's main island of Honshu, Lake Towada is a dual-crater lake 46 kilometers in circumference that was formed by the caving in of a volcano mouth formed by a giant eruption. While not the largest lake in Japan, Lake Towada is distinctive for its pictorial beauty; its deep blue waters are beautifully accentuated by the surrounding virgin forest.


Oirase Stream in autumn.

In addition to taking in the beauty of the area through a sightseeing cruise on the lake, visitors can enjoy the stunning views from four observation points around the lake. And along the water's edge there is a bronze statue of two maidens by renowned Japanese sculptor Takamura Kotaro.

The portion of the Oirase River known as the Oirase Mountain Stream, which starts from Nenokuchi at the shores of Lake Towada and runs roughly 14 kilometers down to Yakeyama, is a mystical place. Swathed in rich, natural forest, the Oirase Mountain Stream presents a dynamic landscape born from ever-changing water flows.

Visitors can enjoy the diverse scenery as they slowly walk along trails leading through the quiet nature. The trail that runs alongside the stream, also known as Waterfall Road, takes visitors past a number of various-sized waterfalls.


Grayling cuisine. ©Mapple.net/Shobunsha

Grayling, the Local Specialty
Lake Towada and the Oirase Mountain Stream have long been popular tourist destinations. The area was declared a Place of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monuments in 1928, designated as the Towada-Hachimantai National Park (formerly Towada National Park) in 1936, and named a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monuments in 1952. Although most people visit during autumn to see the resplendent red and yellow foliage or in late spring to enjoy the lush new foliage, the area's frozen waterfalls in winter also display a solemn beauty.

In an effort to protect and preserve this valuable natural heritage, public and private sector agencies joined forces last year to develop the Oirase Eco-Tourism Project. Various efforts, such as walking events and traffic controls, are carried out under the project.

The area has gained popularity among foreigners in recent years. It was rated sixth by foreign tourists asked which sites they would recommend to other visitors in a Japan National Tourist Organization survey.


An open-air hot spring bath in Oirase. ©Oirase Keiryu Hotel

The local specialty is grayling, a species of freshwater fish in the salmon family, which can be prepared and eaten in several ways, including as sashimi or grilled with salt. Fresh slices of grayling sashimi are a delicate treat that melts in the mouth. Other dishes, such as those made with mountain vegetables or rainbow trout, are also well known.

There are many hot spring resorts in the area, including Towadakohan Onsen, Towadako Onsenkyo, Tsuta Onsen, and Sarukura Onsen, as well as many traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inns). Each of the hot springs is surrounded by nature. Tsuta Onsen is situated amidst a swath of virgin beech forest, known as Towada Jyukai, which is home to a number of different bird species that can be seen from the surrounding walking trails. Visitors to Lake Towada and the Oirase Mountain Stream can find refreshment for the mind and body, breathing in the fresh mountain air while hiking through lush forest and along the gurgling brook, followed by a relaxing soak in a hot spring amid the splendors of nature's bounty. (December 2008)