Between Aomori and Akita, Towada lake is one of Japan deepest and is the bigger caldera lake to be found in Honshu. And unlike many, Towada was not born after a single volcanic eruption but after two successive ones – explaining its two peninsulas and the unique shape on its shores. Its crystalline waters are then flowing towards the Pacific Ocean with Oirase river, known as one of Japan’s most beautiful. The whole area is a landscape out of the Heisei 100 list.
Towada lake and mainly the Oirase river have been huge inbound touristic destinations since a long time. The second has been famous and quoted in Japanese literature for several centuries, thanks to its many small waterfalls and beautiful mosses – which made the writers and poets thought of a natural Japanese garden.
But since the late 1990s, the number of visitors had been decreasing, leading many hotels and restaurants to their definitive closure. We saw the same in Shosenkyo, Yamanashi, and that now creates an unusual atmosphere, with many ruins standing not far from the lake shores.
Still, the lake and river, with a small island and a hidden sanctuary not far from the Maidens statue, are a great natural destination, not far from Aomori. And both are still nostalgic sights for the Japanese, especially when that tune is running (as it was from a local shop when we visited).
The river Oirase is the only outlet draining lake Towada. The best time to stroll along the stream is november with the autumn colors. But the season is also the busiest, and because of road 102 also running along, the woods are not really calm at that time. Summer time is less crowded even though parking along the road can be tough.
How to get there?
Getting to lake Towada is almost impossible in winter, from November to April, when public transportation is not running and the main roads are closed because of the snow. The rest of the year, the easiest from Tokyo is to reach first Hachinohe, thanks to Hayabusa trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen line (3h, about 16000 yen). Then JR buses are running to Towadako (135 minutes, 2670 yen). JR pass is working for the whole journey. On the road to the lake, the bus stops several times along Oirase river.
JR buses are also running from Aomori, again making stops along Oirase before reaching Yasumiya, the main settlement. One of the best accomodation – and the most lively – we found there was the guesthouse Towadako Backpackers.