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October 22, 2018 - Tohoku Series: Oirase Gorge (奥入瀬渓流) and Towadako (十和田湖)
This travel report is a continuing series highlighting the various destinations of the Tohoku Region. In this report I traveled to Oirase Gorge and hiked/bussed to Towadako.
One of the top places to visit in Tohoku is the entire Oirase Gorge/Towadako (Lake Towada) area. This area is touted as one of the most beautiful parts of Japan and is said to be even more stunning in Autumn. The lake itself is your typical caldera lake and is no different from others such as Toyako and Tazawako. Still, with the amazing highlands surrounding the lake, it makes so for some great photos.
We started off at Hachinohe Station's West Exit where you can board the JR Tohoku Bus. Cross the street and the bus stop is right in front of you. This bus takes you to the two destinations, up to Mt. Hakkoda, and then to Aomori. There is also a two-day bus pass where you can spend two days in the area exploring and staying at one of the many onsen hotels here.
The bus took us through the west part of Hachinohe then gradually to the highlands of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. A lot of people got off at the Ishigedo rest area (石ヶ戸休憩所) which is the unofficial start of the hiking. Walking west you will come across the gorge itself. The rock face is not very noticeable because of the dense trees and the powerful river in front of you.
The trails parallel the road and river and is a very easy hike. Even my friend who is not a hiker, found it enjoyable. You are distracted by the sounds of the rapids and waterfalls as you walk westward.
When we went, it was a week before the big festival where they close off the street and only allow buses and hikers. As you can see from the photos, it was before the prime season to visit. Even so, the roads and trails were packed full of people.
One major waterfall you will come across is the Kumoi Falls, which is an example of a "multi-step" waterfall with a series of two smaller falls broken up by a ledge.
Another major waterfall is the Choshi Otaki Falls, is probably an example of a "block" waterfall with its thunderous crashing of water to the bottom. Its not a particularly tall waterfall but is wide and draws a lot of people.
The hiking trail along the Oirase Gorge is long and can take several hours, especially if you need to rest along the way. One way to overcome this is to take the JR Tohoku Bus heading towards Towadako. This saves you lots of time and energy. Once you reach the bus terminal located along the shore of Towadako, you can hop on another bus which takes you to Yasumiya. which is about a twenty minute ride away.
Once at the Yasumiya bus terminal, get off and walk towards the lake for a different perspective. There is a long wooden boardwalk that takes you to Ogurojinja Ebisu Shrine (shown below)
After passing by the Ogurojinja Ebisu Shrine, you arrive at Nakayama Peninsula (中山半島) which is the location of the Otome no Zo Statue and the Massha Kumano Shrine (末社 熊野神社).
Overall this is a very worthwhile day trip and you can plan this based on your physical abilities. Avid hikers would appreciate the low difficulty and others can appreciate this place is well served by private tour groups. When you visit the Tohoku Region make a visit here.