Self-Drive Sightseeing and Hiking in Japan
The leaves had just started to make subtle shifts from green to yellow as my husband and I walked along a well-maintained path beside Oirase Stream in northern Japan. It’s one of the most beautiful hikes in the country – especially in the autumn. We had thought about taking a tour bus through the area, but then decided to rent a car and go on our own. As we walked along at our own pace towards Lake Towada, I was happy with our choice.
Note: If you like hiking, check out are post about Siffleur Falls in Canada.
Do-it-yourself Tour from Aomori, Japan
Picking up the car in Aomori was an interesting experience. We had arrived by cruise ship and walked to a car rental agency right by the port. The owner didn’t speak any English, but he had a translation device and between that and hand signals we were able to understand each another. It was a little challenging driving on the left side of the road, but it didn’t take long for us to get out of the city and on our way to Lake Towada.
Beautiful Oirase Stream
Oirase Stream drains from Lake Towada and the gorge runs 14 kilometers from the lake to Yakeyama. The stream varies in depth and speed along the way – sometimes appearing to be more of a river than a stream. Beside the stream is a wonderful walking trail and beside that is the road, so you can get great views on foot and from the comfort of your car.
A Walk in the Woods
A well-maintained trail borders the stream all through the gorge with several crossings along the way. It passes through deciduous forest that is beautiful at any time of year, but particularly so in the autumn.
Gorgeous Japanese Waterfalls
Flowing rapids and dazzling waterfalls are also a highlight of this hike. Many of the waterfalls have interesting names like Tamadare Waterfall (Bead Curtain Waterfall), Soryu Waterfall (Two Dragon Waterfall), Tomoshiraga Waterfall (Happy Marriage Waterfall), Kudan Waterfall (Nine Stairs Waterfall), Shiraito Waterfall (White String Waterfall), Shirakinu Waterfall (White Silk Waterfall) and Shimai Waterfall (Sister Waterfall).
At more than 61 square kilometers, Lake Towada is Japan’s twelfth largest lake. It is more than 327 meters deep and that is what gives it the deep blue color. The lake is a popular tourist destination, particularly in the autumn when visitors come to view fall foliage.
Do It Yourself Details
- The shore excursion to Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge offered through our cruise ship would have cost $209 USD per person. We rented our car on Expedia for $84 CAD and used about $20 gas. We rented from the Hertz rental agency in the downtown location (not at the airport). The agency was a 5-minute walk from the cruise terminal.
- Driving on the left hand side of the rode can be challenging if you’re not used to it, but it was nice to do this journey at our own pace and for a price that was substantially less.
- For more information on visiting Japan, visit the official tourism website.