The main reason we traveled to Aomori prefecture wasn’t for Lake Towada, which we wrote about in our last post, but to hike the 14 kilometre track along the Oirase river. This is the only river draining Lake Towada and is the most popular tourist spot in the prefecture.
I recommend you start Oirase’s hiking track from the small town of Nenokuchi as most of the highlights along the trail are closer to this town than the other town Yakeyama. A lot of people only hike from Nenokuchi to the rapid formations in the river at Ishigendo. If you only do this part of the trail then it is only nine kilometres in length and you should be able to complete it in about two and a half hours. If you do the whole length, like we did then it takes four hour.
The Oirase river is a clear, shallow river flowing along the basin of a scenic gorge surrounded by a deciduous forest, which must be at its peak during the autumn season. Now in the middle of summer the trees were a healthy, bright green foliage, even the poor weather couldn’t damper our enthusiasm as we hiked along the track trying to avoid the mud and puddles the best that we could.
The rivers water pressure builds and as it swirls, rapids of the clear, misty water form bouncing off the rocks if this wasn’t satisfying enough then there are nearly 20 waterfalls, some being just small trickles while others are more impressive, such as the 25 metre Kumoi waterfall or my personal favourite, the Choshi waterfall which looks like a mini Niagra falls. The Choshi waterfall is 20 metres wide and only about 7 metres high.
As this is a forest and being along way from a large town then be aware that you may sight a bear while on the track especially in the section from Ishigendo to Yakeyama. The forest is thicker along this part of the trail. There was a sign which said last bear sighting was two weeks prior to when we went hiking.
What you need to know
Traffic, as this is a popular sightseeing place then there is a lot of traffic on the road. The hiking trail is sometimes beside the road and as waterfalls or the river crosses either side then you sometimes have to cross the road. Be careful as it could be dangerous especially during the autumn season.
If you are not a hiker then it is possible to hire bikes from either Nenokuchi or Yakeyama as well as from one small shop along the trail.
If the weather is good then I would suggest a picnic in the nature on a bench by the river but this wasn’t an option for us. If you are to walk from Nenokuchi to Yakeyama like we did then I would eat pizza at Ortolana
Ortalana serves all you can eat homemade pizza from their pizza oven for 1820 yen for lunch from April to November.
Oirase has a local brewery serving craft beer since 1997. The brewery brews a dark lager, an amber lager and a pilsner. I bought a pilsner to take back and drank it after taking an onsen (hotsprings).
Drinking Oirase beer
Where to stay
If you are not staying on Lake Towada in Yasumiya then I would recommend staying at the Hoshinoya resort. This is a famous resort chain in Japan
How to get to Oirase River
Buses leave regularly from Aomori city taking about two hours to get there.
Remember if we can travel then you can travel.