Our flight from Chitose to Aomori was full but very short and sorting out the car at the Airport was easy so off we went to Lake Towada for a short one night stay. This was such an important place for us to go to as the Oirase Montain stream was something we researched so much and was a must do. The drive was spectacular and when we left the freeway the mountain roads were brilliant, just one lane each way but easy driving and truly spectacular as we flowed past lake Nijinoko and along the Aseishi river. We followed the river up the mountain to its source and the further up we went the more spectacular the scenery along the forest and stream side became as the river turned into a stream. Once at the top of the pass we headed down the switchbacks to Lake Towada and another beautiful lakeside drive to the Hotel
We had booked into the Towada price Hotel on the lake and although it was basic the setting was lovely and the french inspired menu was fantastic so all up a good choice. The lake vistas were lovely and we chilled out and enjoyed the Onsen bath house looking over the lake.
We awoke to a mist covered lake but as it lifted we began our journey along the lake shore through more stunning forests of bright yellow and emerged to a lovely lake beach where we enjoyed a good coffee and apple pie on the lake shores whilst watching the mist shrouds move around.
A little further was the entry point to the Oirase Mountain stream where we parked the car and began our walk. It was chilly so we rugged up and followed the stream as it flows out of lake Towada on its journey to the ocean. Like most of these lakes in Japan, Towada is an old Volcanic caldera so the water is so pure and full of mineral deposits so it’s no suprise that the ponds were totally transparent as well as being mirror like. The effects were stunning with colours coming from both in and out of the water.
The hillside along the stream were full of colour , yellow, orange and red whilst along the stream shores it was mostly yellow at this early stage of Autumn, with the odd red flourish that stood out.
The rainforest environment meant that there were many ancient trees and ferns hiding in protected little valleys and clefts along the steeper gorge areas. The water falls and rapids created a misty mineral infused effect as the waters tumbled along the rocky embankments.
The ferns clung to the rocks in the most precarious manner and waterfalls fed the stream at various intervals, and moss made its prescence felt at every turn clinging to every possible piece of rock or root.
We walked and then turned back to get the car and made our way along the 9km of roadway , stopping whereever we could to do some more stream time, but when the crowds and traffic thickened and parking was at a premiun we decided we had seen plenty and then drove back to begin our journey to Morioka. It was a real highlight and would recommend to anyone to experience..but start early. There was a pass at the other end of the lake that took us over the mountain towards the freeway at Kazuno and the views from the top were stunning in every direction. The downward drive was equally as beautiful as when we had climbed up just a few days before so we were very pleased with our choice of route as there were plenty of ways we could have gone.
The Feeways to Morioka started through mountains with stunning vistas and then through the plains, it was more farming based sights, but as always the driving was easy with only a bit of confusion where we left the freeway to bypass Morioka to get to our Onsen at Shizukuishi on lake Goshoko. The Hotel was good and the room was also fine with a nice large courtyard outdoor hot tub that got a really good workout with the amount of walking we ended up doing in this region.
We had read about a village called Kakunodate, an old Samuari town that has been kept very much intact from its early 1800’s hey days. The Samuri were revered and many held very important posts and lived as such accordingly. The houses were large and beautifully designed, built and decorated with beautiful traditional gardens. The drive through the mountains was truly amazing and we saw whole mountainsides covered in red as well as deep valleys ablaze with yellow, orange and red. Emerging from many of the mountain tunnels there would be deep gorges that were so bright with colour it was blinding and all of this was almost impossible to photograph due to nowhere to stop and pullover…again one for the memory banks apart from this one that really does not do it justice.
A classic entry gate typical of the houses in the town.
They were very much set up as living museums and retained all their original character, both inside and out.
We had not seen this extent of domestic yet fortified architecture anywhere else in such a suburban setting as usually there was a castle surrounding such buildings so this felt very unique.
The two layers of sliding sceens for all seasons work brilliantly , the outer being timber and the inner rice paper created a temperate baffle between the two and regulated heating and cooling, so sensible and so functional. We experienced this in many of the traditional rooms we stayed in, when it might have been 2deg outside, 8 deg inbetween and 15 deg on the inside.
The oldest house dated back to the 17th century, 1600’s and was still standing stong with its moss covered roof and stone weights to assist with strong winds
We stopped off at Lake Tazawa on the way back and enjoyed its quiet ambience which in summer gets busy, as it is one of the most family friendly lakes in Japan with a vast array of sandy beaches.
We spent some time in the main regional city Morioka and stumbled onto an italian resturant that was so authentic right down to the vast array of old B&W photos from the 40’s to the 70’s that adorned all the walls. The food was fantastic and it was a nice break from our full board fare everywhere we were staying. We are not complaining about the amazing Japanese feasts we have had every day but we are so used to variety that it was nice for a change.
The Morioka castle ruins and gardens are well worth visiting as the way they have set up the ruins and preserved some really important features makes it really interesting .
The colours were alive and the offset of the evergreen tress made it all the more interesting. We also explored more of the countryside and took a few bush tracks but decided our little car really was not built for such discoveries so decided to be careful and stick to the tarred roads.