When many tourists think about Japan, the first impression that comes to mind is the bustling images of the esteemed Tokyo City. Due mainly to the lack of footage that has been taken in Japan by American news reporters, there are very few images done in the countryside that is present all over the island. One of the best natural parks in Japan is on Lake Towada called Oirase Gorge; it is where nature hides outside the boarders of city life.
Between the two Northern Prefectures of Aomori and Akita runs Japan’s 12th largest lake called Lake Towada. Lake Towada sets 400 meters above sea level, is 326 meters deep, and forms the upper stream of the Oriase River. This area is called a “caldera lake” or “crater lake” and has been recognized as the largest in the Honshu region. A caldera is a term which means that the center of a volcano has collapsed from an eruption or natural cause. It is greatly confused as being a large crater however it is more of a basin. The Oriase Gorge runs the first 14 Kilometers of Lake Towada.
Oriase Gorge is very popular among the Japanese people and is very rarely visited by tourists from other countries. To get to the Oriase Gorge, one must travel to the Towada-Hachimantai National Park in the upper half of Japan. The easiest way I found to get there was by the JR Bus from Aomori station that has a stop at Lake Towada and leaves a few times a day starting in the morning and a few trips in the afternoon. It costs around 3000 yen per person.
The park was completely free when I visited and I doubt that things have changed in the last few years. There are numerous walks to take through the forests and a wonderful waterfall that can not be missed. Everything is left untouched, besides the minimal walkways that have been created with natural materials, so it is like walking in the lands when the Ainu people lived there. Walks range from one hour to ten hours so make sure that you plan ahead before you start on a walk, it takes time to walk through all the gorgeous scenery.
Once you get to the Towada-Hachimantai National Park you can choose to take the walking/hiking trails in Oirase Gorge. Things to see include:
*Rare Trees such as horse chestnuts, katsura and wing nuts (names given by my Japanese friends)
*Small streams with natural mist coming from the rocks
*Mossy green forests
*Japanese forest creatures in the wild
When I went to the Oriase Gorge it was autumn and I was thrilled that I had the chance to go through the forests at this time. Just like in the Northern states of the Midwest in America, the tree leaves change gorgeous orange, red, yellow and gold. After working in the city, it was nice to take a breath and jump into the country life. The area is simply gorgeous and the walks are rather easy so it was a peaceful trip. It is a great trip to take if you want to see the natural part of Japan, before the construction of cities and human contact.