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A Hike Through Oirase Gorge

A view of Oirase Stream as it winds its way through the gorge.

Nested in the valley near the Hakkoda mountains lie one of Japan’s best spots for autumn viewing: the Oirase Gorge. The gorge is accessible by bus at Hachinohe station and upon arriving you are welcomed by the sound of the thrashing waters of Oirase stream. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike through the forest path and marvel at the multiple waterfalls that dot the area. If you’re not up to the two and a half hour trek to get to the end of the stream, there are also bus stops along the way that services tourists and locals alike. As a true showcase of the natural wonders of the country, many landmarks can be found in the hiking trail, some of the more popular ones include: the Ishikedo Rapids, the Makado Rock, the Ashura Rapids, Kumoi waterfall, and Chosi Ootaki waterfall.

Although the area is famous for its fall colours, traversing the area during the summer months gives the chance for locals and tourists to cool off and enjoy the striking greenery of the forest and mountains. Towards the end of the trail, you will find one of the docking points for the Lake Towada cruise boats. Yes, there is a lake at the end of the trail! In fact, it is the largest caldera lake of its kind in Honshu (Japan’s main island). The ferry ride takes about an hour one way and would dock at Yasumiya where you will find a small yet charming tourist town. Lake Towada was once very popular to many tourists both foreign and domestic but in the last decade or so, its popularity dwindled and as a result, there aren’t as many tourists in this area and it’s easy to see old shops that have closed down.

Lake Towada Shrine as it appeared in July 2019.

Once you’re in Yasumiya, take in the views and history of the area. Visit the Twin Maidens statue commemorating the founding of Towada-Hachimantai National Park, to which Lake Towada and Oirase stream are located in. After which, trek through the forest nearby and pay your respects at Towada Shrine, one of the most powerful shrines in the area, according to locals. Aomori prefecture has so much to offer her visitors and yet so few people visit the area. Maybe one day these gems hidden in the mountains of northern Japan will shine bright again for all to see.

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