by Scott, staff writer of japan-guide.com
This journal is a log of my travels within Japan. Here you'll find my personal opinions on the places I've been and the things I've seen. Also expect to see the occasional review and editorial. Thanks for reading.
2012/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Lake Towada
Today I completed my late October Tohoku reporting with a visit to Lake Towada (Towadako) way up north in the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. The largest caldera lake in Japan, Lake Towada straddles the border between Aomori and Akita Prefectures.
Taking the bus from Hachinohe, I began my reporting from the far end of the Oirase Stream, the only outlet of Lake Towada, which runs along a beautiful tree-lined gorge. A nine kilometer long walking path runs along the water, crisscrossing the stream (and road) at many points along the way. There are also several waterfalls, both along the stream and cascading down to the stream from high up on the gorge walls, that provide many nice photo opportunities.
The autumn foliage around the stream is usually best from late October to early November when the leaves change to nice shades of yellow, orange and red. This morning the trees were a mix between green and yellow, but the oranges and reds that we've seen on previous trips were not very noticeable. I wasn't sure if that means we are late or early, but comparing to previous years' reports from the area (2008 and 2011) and looking at the foliage around the lake and higher up the gorge walls seems to imply that it is still a bit early.
After reaching Nenokuchi, which took quite a bit longer than expected due to the crowds of sightseeing tours along the trail, I boarded one of the frequent sightseeing ferries that travel across Lake Towada to Yasumiya, a ryokan town right near the border between Aomori and Akita. The ferries don't take the shortest route between ports; instead they follow Towadako's two distinct peninsula closely so that the passengers can enjoy the beautiful colors that line their shores.
The trees surrounding Lake Towada were absolutely spectacular today and definitely around their peak. I have to say, I think I've been very lucky with this year's autumn colors, but Lake Towada really stands out as one of the best despite the fierce competition so far.
Around the ferry port in Yasumiya is a beautiful lakefront resort town with ryokan and hotels lined up along the shore. After disembarking the ferry, I walked down the waterfront toward one of the famous attractions in the area: a statue of two nude, plump women placed along the water. The trees along the 10 minute walk to the statue were beautiful and either at or closely approaching the peak. Lots of beautiful colors surround the statue as well.
Further inland in the trees behind the women statue is Towadako Shrine. Sheltered relatively deep in the forest (it's only a 5 minute walk but it's so silent that you'd never know there was a lake nearby) , the shrine is surrounded by mostly green trees. The trees along the walk to the shore, however were more advanced and should continue improving over the next week or so.