Lake Towada

Lake Towada is in the caldera of a 400 meter high active volcano. With a periphery of about 46kms and an average depth of 71 meters, its clear cold waters are drained by the Oirase river.

I come here on the JR bus from Aomori. MY JR regional rail pass does not cover the 3090 yen bus fare. I stay three nights at the backpackers in the lakeside town of Yasumiya. The first night there is a Candian guy; the second, a number of Japanese; the third, only myself. Simple meals, eg curry and rice, were served at the backpackers for under 1000 yen.

Yasumiya

Though the day I arrive it is cold and rainy, the second and third days of my visit are warm and sunny. Nice days for for casual exploration. Along the shore several rowing boats and paddle ducks give hints to the lake's use as a recreational destination. However, currently there are not many people around and none of the recreational vessels are on the water.

Lake Towada at Yasumiya
Lake Towada at Yasumiya

Sections of the shoreline have small beaches of black volcanic sand. Perhaps they were created by the last eruption occuring in 915, a mere blink, geologically speaking.

Black Sand Beaches
Black Sand Beaches

Statue of Maidens

Continuing to walk along the shore I arrive at the Statue of the Maidens. A sculpture of two naked women facing and touching each other by the hand, it was erected in 1953 to help popularise the lake and its associated park.

Statue of Maidens
Statue of Maidens

Towada-ji Shrine

Of more interest to me is Towada-ji shrine, located about 100 meters inland. It can be approached by walking along a cedar lined path named Suginamai (Avenue of Cedars), passing under several tori and climbing up steep stairs.

Avenue of Cedars
Avenue of Cedars

At the main shrine are instructions of the shrine's homage praying procedures. They are: make a slight bow; ring the bell; throw a coin into the offering box; make two deep bows; clap hands twice; make a deep bow; make a slight bow. I have seen this ritual repeated many times since arriving in Japan.

Towada-ji Shrine
Towada-ji Shrine

Though places renting pleasure craft seem to be closed there are a few shops selling ice cream, drinks and crab on a stick.

Trek along the Oisase River

Catamaran to Nenokuchi

The following day is spent trekking the 14km trail that runs along the Oisase River from Nenikuchi to Yakiyama. There are two options to travel from Yasumiya to Nenokuchi, another town on the shore of Lake Towada, the catamaran or the bus.

Catamaran from Yasumiya to Nenokuchi
Catamaran from Yasumiya to Nenokuchi

I choose the cateraman which costs 1400 yen. An extra 700 yen buys a return ticket. The lake shore is followed closely for the first half of the trip. There is commentary, but as expected, it is in Japanese.

the Trail

The 14km path along the Oirase starts at Nenokuchi. Along the river to Iishi Ge Do there are numerous waterfalls and minirapids. You have to use your imagination a bit to think of it as a wilderness trail. Parallel to the walking track is a road. Today, few were actually walking the trail. Most were travelling by bus and disembarking at various points along the trail. Some were taking photographs with tripod mounted cameras and others were landscape painting.

Oirase River Trail
The trail along the Oirase River
Oirase River Trail
has many waterfalls
Catamaran from Yasumiya to Nenokuchi
and mini-rapids.
Catamaran from Yasumiya to Nenokuchi
Artists and
Catamaran from Yasumiya to Nenokuchi
photographers try to capture its beauty.

I reach Ishi Ge Do. The name comes fom 'ishi' meaning 'stone" and "ge do" meaning hut. It is a large stone propped up by a giant Katsura tree, giving the appearance of a stone hut.

Towada-ji Shrine
Ishi Ge Do

The remaining 5.5kms after Ishi GE Do are, in my opinion, less interesting. There are no waterfalls and often the trail strays away from the river. If pressed for time, I would skip it, take the bus to Yakiyama and visit the Oirase Museum.

Towada-ji Shrine
Trail end at Yakiyama

The last bus from Yakiyama to Yasumiya leaves at the relatively early time of 15:58pm. Just something to keep in mind.