Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

Self-Drive Sightseeing and Hiking in Japan

An image of Oirase Stream - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

You don’t need a neutral density filter to get good shots of Oirase Stream. The flowing water is gorgeous. Photo by GREG OLSEN

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.

An image of Oirase Stream near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

The many moods of Oirase Stream. In some places it is a peaceful little stream and in others it is a roaring torrent. Photo by GREG OLSEN

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.

An image of Oirase Stream near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Stream

The soothing sounds of Oirase Stream are peaceful as you walk along the trail. Photo by GREG OLSEN

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.

An image of a man standing on the trail beside Oirase Stream near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

The trail is remarkably close to the water, which must prove challenging for maintenance, but makes for a lovely walk. Photo by DEBBIE OLSEN

An image of Oirase Stream and the trail beside it near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

I’s easy to get great photos of the stream when you are so close to it. Photo by GREG OLSEN

An image of the trail in Oirase Gorge near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

The trail is lovely and the trees really make this walk special. Photo by GREG OLSEN

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).

Image of a Kumoi no Taki Waterfall on Oirase Stream near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Stream

A short walk from the road, Kumoi no Taki Waterfall was one of the tallest we saw. Photo by GREG OLSEN

An image of Choushi Ohtaki Waterfall in Oirase Gorge near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

There is a staircase right beside Choushi Ohtaki Waterfall, so you can get very close. Photo by GREG OLSEN

An image of Kudan no Taki Waterfall in Oirase Gorge near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

Kudan Waterfall means “nine stairs” in English and you can see why it is so named. Photo by GREG OLSEN

An image of a waterfall in Oirase Gorge near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

An image of another beautiful waterfall in Oirase Gorge. Photo by GREG OLSEN

Lake Towada

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.

An image of the sun reflecting off of Lake Towada near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

Lake Towada is the largest crater lake in Honshu Island, Japan. Photo by GREG OLSEN

An image of the town beside Lake Towada near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

The town beside Lake Towada reminded us of the town of Waterton in Alberta. Photo by GREG OLSEN

An image of the sightseeing boat on Lake Towada near Aomori, Japan - Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

An excursion on the sightseeing boat that services Lake Towada will take about an hour and is a good way to see fall colors. The commentary is entirely in Japanese. Photo by GREG OLSEN

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.

2 thoughts on “Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge

  1. Nona MacDermid Reply

    This is a beautiful spot Debbie, thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to visiting Japan, and I will add this place to my visit list.

    1. wanderwoman Reply

      Thanks so much, Nona! When you get to Japan, you’ll love Oirase Gorge. It really took me by surprise. It was stunning.

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