Lake Towada 十和田湖
Lake Towada in summer
Lake Towada in fall
The sculpture of two girls, by artist Kotaro Takamura
Fireworks at Towadako Winter Story
Towada Museum of Modern Art
Lake Towada is a renowned scenic site in the Tohoku region. This clear blue lake offers a unique experience of stunning scenery and fresh air.
Lake Towada (Towada-ko, 十和田湖) is located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, in Towada-Hachimantai National Park, 400 meters above sea level.
A volcanic region
The lake occupies the caldera of a volcano that has been active for thousands of years. Repeated volcanic activity formed the lake, which has a circumference of 46km and a maximum depth of 327m. As you can imagine, it's an impressive sight. The surrounding area is popular with fans of ephemeral seasonal beauty like the koyo, when the trees are ablaze with fall colors on the slopes of the volcano. And of course in spring, for the return of the vibrant greenery.
The starting point for a tour of Lake Towada is Yasumiya, where the buses terminate.
South of the lake, you will find a lively area, with accommodation and restaurants welcoming you. A pathway is set out at the lake, allowing visitors to admire the landscape throughout all the seasons. There is artwork on display by the artist Kotaro Takamura, in the form of a sculpture of two girls, symbolizing the lake. The shinto shrine Towada-Jinja, founded in 807 by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, is also a recommended part of your visit. You can admire it's solemn, other-worldly beauty among the cypress trees. It's also worth mentioning oyorigami (おより紙), a particular tradition of the shrine in the form of an omikuji (fortune) written on a small sheet thin paper that you must carefully roll between your fingers and throw into the water. If your oyorigami sinks rather than floats in the lake, your fortune will come true...
To appreciate the deep blue of the lake and the breathtaking natural panorama, a boat ride on the lake is recommended, taking around 50 minutes (from April to November, 1,400 yen for adults, 700 yen for children). For the more athletic, it's possible rent your own boat or canoe. Head up to Nenokuchi, the starting point for hiking at Oirase Keiryu, the famous road along the Oirase river, 14km into the forest through waterfalls, rocks, and into the heart of the raw natural beauty of the area, including wild birds that nest there. Bike rental is possible here too. And every winter in February, Towadako Winter Story is held, a festival of snow sculptures and illuminations, featuring an igloo bar and fireworks displays.
There are five observation points around the lake that each give a different view of the impressive panorama. But note that renting a car is necessary to enjoy them all.
The local specialty
Don't leave without tasting himemasu, a kind of trout that can live only in crystal-clear waters like Lake Towada's. The fish was introduced to the lake in 1903, when it was brought from Lake Shikotsu in Hokkaido. Enjoy it grilled, or as sashimi.
After a walk around the lake, why not visit the Towada Art Center, a museum of contemporary art, to enjoy a new spatial experience called the house of art. Each work has its own showroom and is connected to the other by a glass corridor. The exhibition continues in the courtyard and onto the roof, featuring internationally-famous artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono, Ron Mueck, and Yoshitomo Nara, a native Aomori artist. (Open 9:00 to 17:00 every day except Monday. Take the JR Oirase bus, get off at Towada Art Center).