Aomori prefecture seems to be a world apart from the hustle of Osaka. Aomori is raw, isolated but extremely beautiful. We spent four days in the prefecture staying on the tranquil Lake Towada, which fills the volcanic caldera, approximately three hours from the prefecture’s capital.
The surrounding areas is one of the coldest places in Japan and has over five metres of snow fall during their long winter season, the lake even freezes causing the majority of the hotels and ryokans to close for the winter
While we were there in the heart of the summer, the weather barely climbed over twenty degrees. The summer and autumn is the peak of the tourist season but with the isolation of the lake it still is extremely peaceful. For the tourist this is great, but for the township which relies so heavily on tourism it is sad to see so many of the hotels in despair, abandoned due to the difficulties of sustaining tourism in the area.
The small township of Yasumiya, built on the foreshores of the lake is one of those rare border towns which lies partly in two prefectures Aomori and Akita. The Aomori side is the busiest of the two with boats departing for a fifty minute cruise around the lake giving you an opportunity to see the rugged shoreline of the lake and more of the pristine water as you sail out to the deepest point some 327 metres deep.
The local Towada shrine, built in the 9th century is located in a wooded area where we were to see our first signs of caution to be on the look out for bears, The path leading to the shrine is lined by an avenue of cedar trees. The shrine is dedicated to the god of water, azure dragon,known as Seiryu in Japanese is worth the short stroll from the banks of the lake on the Aomori side.
The other attaction which Yasumiya has is the statue of two young Tohoku women, installed to commemorate the area’s designation as a national park.
The highlight though is the lake, which is the twelfth largest in Japan. The hardened molten rock which formed three unique islands makes for a great time exploring by canoe.
The two days we were there though we preferred the Akita side of the lake, where we would relax on the lakeside drinking coffee, eating Aomori’s famous apple pie and watching the few children who dared to take a swim in the lake.
The surprising event for us was that we were there at the same time as the 54th Towada lake fireworks festival where we were joined with about 25,000 people to watch the 50 minute firework display. We were very fortunate as we were there in July. Most summer festivals which include fireworks are usually held in Japan in August. 25,000 people sounds like a lot of people but we had no problem finding a space on foreshore to watch the display.
Where to Stay
We stayed three nights at Hotel Towadaso, located a short walk from Lake Towada on the Aomori side of the town. Rooms were spacious with a Japanese tatami room for resting as well as a room which had two double beds.
Over the three nights we were served three different meals at night and for breakfast as the meals are from a set course each night.
The hotsprings (onsen) have both inside and outside springs and the women’s and men’s bath rotates each day giving everyone a chance to bathe in both springs.
Room with two meals a day 10,000 yen.
Their website in Japanese
What to eat
Himeyasu, a very small salmon fished from the lake is what most of the restaurants serve. The fish can be grilled, served as tempura or as most prefer it to be thinly sliced sashimi. The restaurants around the lake are on the expensive side and it is very difficult to find a meal under 1500 yen.
Aomori is also famous for apples and they make great apple pies around the area.
Don’t leave without doing
The Oirase river, which runs from the lake forms an amazing clear, misty rapids. Hike along the 14 kilometre track which takes you to waterfalls, some twenty metres high. It makes for an energetic, fun day trip.
How to get there
Lake Towada is located in Aomori prefecture. Buses leave regularly from Aomori station from mid April to early November. During the winter months, access by public transportation is not provided. The 2.5 hour bus ride costs 3000 yen.
Remember if we can travel then you can travel.