Oirase Gorge from Lake Towada 十和田湖、奥入瀬
Michi no eki Towada was a better experience than expected. The rain ceased completely before the necessary toilet trips so a dry and peaceful night. The place has rubbish bins so, presumably, Aomori has different regulations from Hokkaido.
We had planned to hike Mt. Hakkoda, but the weather forecast for the summit was cold, cloudy and foggy. With little point to slogging up a mountain, we head for Lake Towada and the Oirase gorge
We park at Nenokuchi by the lakeside where there is a bus station and a lake cruise boat dock. From the point where the stream leaves the lake to start its journey through the gorge, we begin our hike.
Planning this trip, we expected this to be Koyo (Autumn colours) season, but it is not. The trees are still resiliently green or dry and shrivelled brown, the result of an unusually hot and dry summer. Except that this area suffered from excessive rain in August and also shows signs of the destruction wrought. There is now no unseasonal weather.
The wind, as we step out of the car at the edge of Lake Towada is chill indeed. I have stood in this spot before and remember how exceedingly cold the wind off the lake was then.
Putting on more clothes, we set off alongside the rushing waters of the Oirase river. At first, the stream is wide with weeds waving clearly in the swift, clear current.
Although there are really no autumn colours and the day is overcast, the walk through the woods along the rushing stream is a delight. We are neither too hot in the sunshine nor too cold in the wind and there are very few people.
As we walk and as the gorge becomes more evident, the water become more constricted into roaring torrents between erratic boulders or else spread into rivulets as the stream takes advantage of the more open spaces.
The path along the stream sometimes disappears and we resort to walking along the road for short and occasionally rather long distances. As this is not high season, Koyo lacking, there are few tour bus groups and the restriction on overseas visitors has only just been lifted so little traffic on the road. Only at the spots for famous (mediocre) waterfalls did we meet other people.
We did encounter a couple of mushroom hunters. A gentleman in serious protective clothing and a lady with a very substantial bag of a brownish, yellow fungi. For her own consumption or for sale in a michi no eki?
After a long, satisfying, but leisurely walk we arrive at Ishikedo, where we encounter groups from the various tour busses. From this point all tour groups and perhaps everybody heads upstream, so by walking perhaps 25 metres in the opposite direction, downstream, we enjoy a peaceful, picnic lunch.
We then catch a JR bus back to Lake Towada and our car. A very pleasant and easy hike of 8.9 kilometres.
Leaving the lake, we take Route 102 over the mountains. This is a little used route and an interesting drive. Previously, we took this road in the dark so were unaware of the views of the lake far below. This time, at the highest point, we notice the car park and viewing tower, Ohanabeyama. Deciding to take a look, we forget how cold it was at the lakeside. Shivering, we climb the viewing tower, a rusting, mouldering monstrosity that affords us to view a grey blanket of cloud that proceeds to envelope and soak us as we beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of the car. Then a drive down the hairpins till we emerge on the normal, busy roads.
Michi no eki Ikarigaseki is our target, where we hope for an onsen before bed. Arriving at the michi no eki we wander about clutching our onsen bags but sadly there is no onsen to be found. There is a building obscured by construction sheeting but no notice of the onsen being closed. Bathless, we settle down for a chilly night.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.