Nov 1

Exploring the Oirase Gorge & Lake Towada, Japan

in Travel

Sponsored by the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization).

Oirase Gorge

Towada, Japan

The next stop on my Japan adventure was to the city of Towada which sits in the foothills of the Hakkoda mountains in Aomori Prefecture.  The city includes part of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  First stop on our exploration of the national park was the Oirase Gorge.


Stone Staircase in Oirase Gorge


Oirase Gorge

The Oirase Gorge is a 14-kilometer (8.7 mile) long gorge that begins at Lake Towada and ends at the foot of Mt. Hakkoda.  The Oirase River runs through the gorge, flowing from Lake Towada and emptying into the Pacific Ocean.  The gorge is filled with lush plant life, including many different types of moss. This area is particularly popular for moss observation in Japan, due to this fact. (Random fact: 2,500 of the 12,000 species of moss that exist in the world can be found growing in Japan.)  We were given small magnifying glasses so that we could better explore the rich beauty of the gorge.

Magnifying glass

Moss covered railing in Oirase Gorge

Our guide, Kawamura-san, lit up as he showed us different types of moss and their unique characteristics.

Our guide Kawamura-san

The Oirase Gorge also has a variety of beautiful waterfalls and we stopped to enjoy Kumoi no taki, an 82-foot tall, 2-tier waterfall, that was breathtaking.

Kumoi Falls

There is a hiking path that meanders through the gorge, roughly following the road and Oirase River.  The path is gentle enough for most people to enjoy it.  If you decide to go for a hike, plan on it taking more time than you think, because there is so much to see and enjoy that it’s practically impossible to just walk the path at a normal speed.  You will want to stop and explore along the way!

Sign along Oirase Gorge hiking trail


Little Island in Lake Towada

Lake Towada

Located at one end of the gorge is Lake Towada, the largest double caldera lake on the mainland of Japan and the 12th largest lake in Japan.  It is a double caldera lake, formed when the mouth of the volcano caved in during eruption.  The volcano which created the calderas is actually still active.  Lake Towada is the 3rd deepest lake in Japan, reaching depths of almost 1,100 feet.  Because of the depth, the water in the lake is brilliant shades of blue.  The water is crystal clear and as a result there are areas where you can see 30 feet down.

Cliffs around Lake Towada

Our first stop at the lake was to take a short walk along the shore to see the Statue of Maidens, the last work of the poet and sculptor Kotaro Takamura.  This would be a perfect picnic spot!

Statue of Maidens at Lake Towada

Before leaving the area I couldn’t resist stopping at one of the food stalls to purchase some grilled mochi—chewy dumplings made from short-grain rice, brushed with a sweet soy sauce mixture, then grilled.

Atome Mochi at food stall

I love mochi and this mochi was divine.  Easily some of the best I’ve ever had.  Though I wonder if the beauty of my surroundings influenced my taste buds?  Probably, but that’s part of the experience!

Eating Atome Mochi at Lake Towada

The best way to see Lake Towada is by boat.  Although you can take a leisurely “pleasure cruise,” I suggest going with a RIB ride instead.  Guriland offers RIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) tours of the lake that allow you to go into special protected areas of the national park and get a closer look at the cliffs and shores.

Guriland Lake Towada Tours

It also allows you to see more of the lake, as you are traveling at much faster speeds.  I was worried we would get wet, but after our tour I climbed out of the boat without having gotten a single drop of water on me!

RIB tour of Lake Towada

The cliffs surrounding Lake Towada are breathtaking, as were the hints of fall foliage starting to show.  This is easily a place that I could return to time and time again.

Cliffs around Lake Towada Colors of Lake Towada Lake Towada

If you want to see a bit more, check out this video!

COMING NEXT: Hachinohe City


*Disclosure: The Japan National Tourism Organization sponsored my trip and is also compensating me for my time in writing this blog post.  All experiences and opinions are my own!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy November 1, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Wow, such beautiful places! You did a great job capturing them in your photos and video.


La Fuji Mama November 8, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Thank you! It was spectacular!


GoMovies November 11, 2017 at 12:34 am

Spectacular! Beautiful places!


things to do June 11, 2023 at 6:56 am

Added this place to my bucket list in Japan, thank you for sharing the experience!


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