On the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, lies Towadako, one of the biggest lakes on Honshu. The surrounding area is famous for its beautiful nature as well as being one of the top destinations in the entire country for watching colorful autumn foliage.
Several major volcanic eruptions formed this lake, with the most recent one, back in 915 AD, giving the lake its current shape. Lake Towada (Towadako), roughly 44km in circumference, is almost circular in shape with two peninsulas reaching out towards the middle from the southwestern shore.
The area around the lake is sparsely populated, with only about 10,000 people living in former Towadako-machi, the town making up most of the area around the lake. The town merged with present day Towada-shi in 2005.
Lake Towada is a popular tourist spot, mentioned as one of the most scenic views in Japan by several Japanese newspapers as early as the 1920s. The lake and the surrounding areas became a part of Towada National Park back in 1936. Today too, Lake Towada attracts a significant number of visitors every year. The crowds reach their peak during autumn, when the mountains around the lake turn into one of the best spots in Japan to watch koyo, or autumn foliage. The view of the colored leaves, reflected in the crystal clear water of the lake, makes it truly spectacular. The best time to visit for autumn foliage is usually during the latter half of October.
If you want to experience the colorful show to its fullest, we would suggest you board one of the sightseeing boats that depart from Yasumiya, the town and transport hub near the southernmost peninsula. In Yasumiya you will also find a few hotels, hostels and restaurants, as well as the biggest bus terminal in the area around the lake. The sightseeing cruise takes about 50 minutes and costs 1440 yen.
While you are in here, you should also pay a visit to the statue by famous poet and sculptor Kotaro Takamura, called “The Maiden Statue”. Completed in 1953, it became his last widely known piece of art, as he passed away shortly after finishing it. The statue, depicting two identical women, is said to have been modeled after his wife Chieko Takamura who suffered from schizophrenia.
In the area around the lake you will find plenty of onsen resort hotels, and the surrounding mountains have ample opportunities for downhill skiing as well. Lake Towada is also the starting point of the Oirase mountain stream (Oirase Keiryu), another popular sightseeing spot.
Be aware that Lake Towada and the surrounding areas are somewhat inaccessible via public transport. It is by no means impossible to visit without a car, but if you have access to one, things will be much easier. Otherwise, the best way to get to Lake Towada is by bus from Aomori station, a trip that takes 180 minutes and will set you back 3090 yen one way. There are also buses connecting Yasumiya with Hachinohe in 135 minutes for 2670 yen. Make sure to check the timetables on the JR Tohoku Bus website in advance though, as there are just a handful of departures every day.