Two days in Aomori (Day 1): Lake Towada Winter Story

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Winter’?
Snow, freezing temperatures, the best season to cuddle-up in your blanket all day long?
In Tohoku, the winter months are bloody cold for sure! But they also have heaps of enjoyable events that will ensure you make the most of winter!
This year, Amy (China) and I (Annisa, Indonesia) decided to go to Aomori, the most Northern prefecture of Honshu Island, the mainland of Japan. In mid-February, Aomori is visited by crowds of tourists coming to see the Lake Towada Winter Story Festival and the Hachinohe Emburi Festival – both are events not to be missed 😀
 
 Amy and I in front of Morioka Station, Iwate Prefecture
 
 
Aomori prefecture is located about 350km from Sendai City. You have several options to reach Aomori: Shinkansen (bullet-train), JR local trains, or bus. By Shinkansen it will only take you 2.5 hours, but we chose the most adventurous (and also cheapest haha) way to go: regular local JR train! We started our journey EARLY in the morning at 6am and it took around 6 hours to Hachinohe. Sounds like a long journey, huh? But it didn’t feel boring at all. The views from our train window were amazing!! The sunrise over frozen rice fields, piles of fresh white snow, and 3 scenic Mountains: Mt. Hachimantai (八幡平), Mt.Iwate (岩手山 ) and Mt. Himekami (姫神山).
A frozen waterfall in Oriase Mountain Stream, in Towada City (Photocredit: Astin Nurdiana)
When we reached Hachinohe station the shuttle bus from the hotel was already waiting for us! The bus trip was fun as well. We got drive through the amazingly scenic Oirase Mountain Stream area complete with frozen waterfalls! Can you imagine how cold it must be that even the waterfalls freeze over! Wow! We stayed at a hotel called ‘Towada-So’ which was a little old but a very pleasant stay – and it only took 2 minutes to walk to the stunning Lake Towada. We wanted to see the view from the lake before the sun went down so we dragged our lazy feet to walk there (yeah I know it was only a 2 minute walk, but still :p) and it was a great life choice. The big lake was absolutely stunning. During warmer seasons you can rent a bike and cycle around it, or take a sightseeing boat trip. Lake Towada was formed by several volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. You can see the diorama of how the double peninsula of Lake Towada formed in Todawa-So hotel lobby.  The lake itself is the 3rd deepest in Japan, giving it its characteristic beautiful deep-blue color.
 

 

 Amazing view of the sunset from the lake (Photo credit: Amy)

  
Just a 10 minute stroll from the sightseeing boat wharf you can find the latest work of famous Japanese sculptor Kōtarō Takamura (高村 光太郎): “The Maiden Statue”. The statue was right in front of the walking path to Towada Shrine (十和田神社; Towada-jinja). Once you pass the wooden shrine gate, rows of cedar trees or Suginami (杉並木; avenue of cedars) welcome you.
 
The Maiden Statue by Kōtarō Takamura (Photo credit: Amy)
 
Since we came during the lake Towada winter festival they light up the snow beneath the trees, giving a romantic atmosphere to the sacred shrine area. By following the main walking path, you will reach the venue of the ‘Lake Towada Winter Festival’.
The festival is held annually in mid-February in the ‘Yasumiya’ on the shore of Lake Towada. There are heaps of great attractions at the event – everything from live music, an ‘igloo’ ice bar, foot-spa onsen, giant snow sculptures and of course tasty tasty festival food and hot wine (definitely recommended to keep you warm LOL)!! Each night before the festival ends they play a short 3D movie about the legend of Lake Towada on the snow stage then closed by a fantastic fireworks display!
What a wonderful winter I had here – I can’t wait to go back next year 🙂
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Towada winter story main stage (Photo credit: Amy)


Lake Towada Winter Story Festival

Date: Every year in February (this year was from February 3 ~ 26, 2017). Please note most of the events happen on weekends and holidays, although you can still enjoy the illumination displays on weekends.
Times:  
Official Events: Weekend and holidays 19:30~
‘Yukiakari Yokocho’ – Snow Light Alley (of lanterns): Weekdays 15:00~21:00, weekend and holidays 11:00~21:00
Igloo Ice-bar and Foot-spa Onsen: Everyday 18:00~21:00
Banana-boat rides: Weekend and holidays 11:00~19:00
Horse-trekking: Weekend and holidays 10:00~15:00
Admission Fee: FREE
Place: Special Event Venue at Towada Lakeside Yasumiya
Address: 486 Yasumiya, Aza-Towadakohan, Oaza-Oirase, Towada City, Aomori Prefecture

There are a few bus-tour options available from various cities in nearby Tohoku, however most require pre-booking:
http://towada-city.blogspot.jp/2016/12/lake-towada-winter-story-2017.html
PLEASE NOTE: ‘Lake Towada’ and ‘Towada City’ are not the same place!! Whilst most train/bus services will take you to Towada City, you will need to get an additional bus from the city to the Lake Towada area. Some hotels (like Towada-So) offer a convenient shuttle service.

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Annisa Noorhidayati

About Annisa Noorhidayati

Born and raised in Indonesia, Annisa fell in love with the Tohoku region when she first arrived in Japan in 2015. Right now, she studying as a graduate student at Tohoku University, but you can easily lure her out of the lab by offerings food, cultural events, art, or interesting historical places. Share her fascination with the Tohoku region through her articles!

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