Oirase is one of the most beautiful rivers in Japan. The surrounding area is famous its onsens and waterfalls, as well as being a very popular hiking trail.

This picturesque river is only 14 kilometers long, but one of the most well visited scenic spots in Aomori prefecture. The fact that it is part of the larger Towada-Hachimantai National Park and within convenient reach from other famous spots such as Towada Lake and the Hachimantai Plateau is one reason why. Another is that it’s simply drop dead gorgeous.

Oirase River flows to the north from the eastern shore of Lake Towada. Hiking along the river is definitely something we would recommend if you happen to be in the area. The leisurely stroll takes you through lush green forests and past several impressive waterfalls. Just like most other nature parks in Japan, autumn is the most popular season, unfortunately this means that the crowds are at their peak this time of the year too. If possible, we would highly suggest that you go on a weekday if possible. Another way to avoid the worst crowds is by staying overnight at one of the many hotels in the area, and get up early to capture the first beautiful rays of sunlight, before any of the tourist buses have arrived.

If you plan to walk along the entire river, expect that it will take about three hours or so, one way. There are a few rest places along the way, but few opportunities to buy food or snacks, so make sure to bring enough. In case you prefer to traverse the stretch on wheels instead of feet, rental bikes are available at the Oirase Keiryu Kanko Center at nearby Towada Lake.

To get to Oirase from Hachinohe take the appropriately named bus “Oirase” that runs through the valley all the way to Lake Towada. The trip takes about one and a half hours and costs approximately 2000 yen. If you’re coming from Aomori, take the bus called “Mizumi”, this is also bound for Lake Towada. From Aomori, the one way trip takes about two and a half hours and will set you back 3090 yen (prices current as of October 2016). The buses are operated by JR, and timetables can be found on the official website.

Remember that the public transportation in the area is spotty at best, so make sure to check all timetables well in advance. If you plan to drive here, you should also know that the main road that runs next to the river is closed to private cars during certain days in peak season, due to congestion.