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Lake Towada Scenic Boat Tour: Incredible Food, Sightseeing, and More!

Lake Towada Scenic Boat Tour: Incredible Food, Sightseeing, and More!

Date published: 18 September 2020
Last updated: 13 October 2020

Lake Towada, Aomori Prefecture, is one of the leading tourist destinations in Tohoku. This beautiful, mysterious lake boasts magnificent, natural scenery that changes with the seasons, and you can experience it all up close with a relaxing ride on a pleasure boat. There are many attractions to see, including a restaurant that served Lake Towada's specialty fish, himemasu, and power spots like Towada Shrine surrounded by Japanese cedars. Today we will introduce the Lake Towada sightseeing course, perfect for a day-trip!

Table of Contents
  1. All About Lake Towada: When is the Best Time for Sightseeing?
  2. Getting to Lake Towada
  3. Lake Towada Pleasure Boat Excursion
  4. Tochino Chaya: Taste the Kokanee of Lake Towada
  5. Maidens by the Lake and the Towada Shrine Power Spot
  6. Recommended hotels around Lake Towada:

All About Lake Towada: When is the Best Time for Sightseeing?

All About Lake Towada: When is the Best Time for Sightseeing?
Lake Towada's summer scenery features beautiful mountains and the vast, blue sky, reflected on the lake

Lake Towada is situated between Towada City in southern Aomori Prefecture and Kosaka in Akita Prefecture. It is designated under the Special Historic Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monuments as "Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge". The double caldera lake formed by volcanic activity has an area of about 60 square kilometers, a lake circumference of about 46 km, and a depth of about 327 m, making it the third deepest lake in Japan. August is a popular season, but it is also draws many visitors in the early summer and fall. Tourists come from all over the country (and the world!) to see the sights and the city.

Autumn Foliage at Lake Towada (Photo courtesy of Lake Towada Pleasure Boat)

Getting to Lake Towada

To get to Lake Towada, you can take the shuttle bus from Aomori Airport to JR Aomori Station, then transfer to the JR Bus Tohoku Mizuumi (about a 3 hour trip). If coming from Tokyo by Shinkansen, get off at JR Hachinohe Station and take the JR Bus Tohoku Oirase (about 2 hours). Lake Towada may be a treasure trove of natural scenery, but another one of its attractions it how easily accessible it is from major stations!

Lake Towada may be vast, yet there are many sightseeing spots you can get to on foot - no car required! First, let's enjoy a lake excursion by pleasure boat to experience its beauty up close.

Lake Towada Pleasure Boat Excursion

Lake Towada Pleasure Boat Excursion
The Lake Towada Pleasure Boat accommodates up to 704 people!

A ride on Lake Towada's Pleasure Boat B-Course takes about 50 minutes round trip, departing from the rest house and circling the lake. There's also a one-way ride (A-Course) that takes you to the Oirase Gorge entrance, Nenokuchi. Today we took the A-course. We purchased our tickets at the ticket office (Adult ticket: 1,430 yen, tax included) and boarded the boat right away. Thorough methods against COVID-19 are taken on board, including pre-boarding temperature checks, face mask requirements, enforcement of social distancing, and regular disinfection.

The 2nd floor seats are great to sit and enjoy the view!

The boat has three stories: the deck, a second floor with indoor seating, and the top floor green room (first-class seating), which you can enter with an additional 500 yen fee (tax included; green seats may be unavailable on some vessels). Because the weather was nice during our visit, we decided to enjoy the lake from the deck. Once you depart from the pier, you will see a magnificent view of Lake Towada unlike any view you can see from on land.

View from the pleasure boat

As the boat heads for Nenokuchi, it circles the Nakayama Peninsula, with its small islands and coves, and the Mikura Peninsula, lined with cliffs and bluffs. The small islands of Nakayama Peninsula appear to be floating on the lake, and have a very unique shape. One island, Ebisu Daikokujima, was actually formed by the eruption of Towada volcano. It is a natural art piece, made of lava.

Ebisu Daikokujima was formed from volcanic lava
A cute island that appears to be floating

The beautiful pine tree at the tip of Nakayama Peninsula is a famous landmark called Migaeri-no-Matsu, or "the looking-back pine". It was given this name because it has such a unique and amazing beauty, it makes everyone want to look back at it! It is a completely natural pine tree that has undergone no artificial maintenance, such as pruning.

Migaeri-no-Matsu, the "looking-back pine"

In contrast to Nakayama Peninsula's gentle scenery, the Mikura Peninsula has a powerful landscape. Goshiki-iwa was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. It is said to appear red due to the iron in its composition.

Goshiki-iwa Rock

Senjomaku is an impressive cliff. As its name suggests ("senjo" means "1,000 shaku" and "maku" means "curtain"), it is often compared to a huge curtain of about 1,000 shaku (about 3km) in length, with a large rock wall of about 220m. You can feel the tremendous power of its size, surrounded by the beauty of nature, even from aboard the boat.

Senjomaku Cliff

Lake Towada is originally a very translucent lake, but in August, when the sunlight is strong and hits it just right, the lake takes on a different kind of beauty. On calm days when there are no waves, the lake surface becomes an emerald green color. It's an excellent photo opportunity, and the perfect time to ride a boat. The still and mysterious scenery will make you feel as if time had stopped.

Beautiful trees reflected on the surface of Lake Towada

We were so absorbed in the scenery, taking photos nonstop, that we seemed to arrive at Nenokuchi in no time. To return to the rest house, you can take a bus or taxi, but we decided to wait for the returning boat. We recommend the return boat, because you can enjoy the scenery from the opposite direction!

Restaurants and souvenir shops in Nenokuchi
  • Lake Towada Pleasure Boat (Yasumiya)
    十和田湖遊覧船(休屋)
    • Address 486-Okuse Towadako-hanyasumiya, Towada City, Aomori Prefecture 018-5501
    • Nearest Station About 180 minutes from JR Aomori Station via JR Bus Tohoku Mizuumi
    • Phone Number 0176-75-2909
    • Operating Period: Mid-April to early November, every year
      Hours: 8:15 AM-4:15 PM
      Price: Adults: 1,430 yen, Children: 720 yen
      *Tax included

Tochino Chaya: Taste the Kokanee of Lake Towada

After taking in the views of the lake from the boat, it's time for lunch. We settled for lunch at a nearby shop. There are several restaurants around Lake Towada that serve local gourmet food. Today we went to Tochino Chaya, which serves the high-class fish Himemasu (aka Kokanee Trout), caught in Lake Towada.

Tochino Chaya, a lakeside restaurant
A large chestnut tree grows through the center of the shop, and tables made of chestnut wood line the eating space

Tochino Chaya is about a 10-minute walk from the yasumiya boat platform. It is popular for its Japanese cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients, and its specialty is Himemasu. At one time there were no edible fish in Lake Towada, but since Himemasu was successfully cultivated in 1903, it has gained popularity as a Lake Towada specialty. Today, I ordered the simple yet delicious salt-grilled fish.

Salt-Grilled Himemasu (1,400 yen, tax not included)

The fish is thick and plump, with a moderately salty taste that intertwines with the fat-laden meat. This was my first time eating Himemasu from Lake Towada. It doesn't have a strong odor or aftertaste and is fresh enough to be eaten as raw sashimi. Himemasu bred in the abundant waters of Lake Towada are delicious, edible treasures that can only be found here!

This fish has an addicting taste and texture!

We also ordered the Nijimasu (Rainbow Trout) Tempura Set Meal, a popular dish with tourists. The set includes tempura of rainbow trout, and local wild plants such as bamboo shoots, peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and eggplant. The tempura is crunchy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. Just like the Himemasu, the Nijimasu has no strong odor or aftertaste, and goes well with the sauce-soaked rice.

Nijimasu Tempura Meal Set (1,650 yen, tax not included)
The salmon is pink and tender, and the breaded coating is crisp.

There is another indulgent meal set that includes salt-grilled himemasu, nijimasu sashimi, and tempura, all local ingredients from Lake Towada. Stop by Tochino Chaya and indulge yourself in fresh Himemasu cuisine while gazing out at the lake! Current measures against coronavirus include hand sanitizer, and partitions installed at the cash register.

Foreign language menus are available in English, Chinese, and Korean.
  • Tochino Chaya
    とちの茶屋
    • Address 486-Okuse Towadako-hanyasumiya, Towada City, Aomori Prefecture 018-5501
    • Nearest Station 5-min walk from JR Bus Lake Towada
    • Phone Number 0176-75-2231
    • Hours: Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays: 11:00AM-4:00PM (last order 3:45PM); Weekdays: 10:30AM-3:30PM (last order 3:15PM)
      Regular Holidays: Irregular days

Maidens by the Lake and the Towada Shrine Power Spot

Gozengahama, located on the shores of the lake behind Tochino Chaya, is a great place to take a walk after your meal. While walking along the beautiful lake, we head to the Otome no Zo, or Maidens by the Lake, statue, a symbol of Lake Towada.

A perfect walk, only 5 minutes to the statue of the maiden
A calming lakeside breeze cools you as you walk

Along the lake we approach two nude, bronze statues facing each other. Otome no Zo was built in 1953 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the designation of Lake Towada National Park, and is the last work by famous poet and sculptor, Kotaro Takamura. The reason they are facing each other is said to be because, "when two similar people face each other, the feeling of compatibility deepens". The triangles on their backs represent 'infinity'. This sculpture is highly regarded as a masterpiece.

Otome no Zo maiden statues, standing by the lake

After seeing the maiden statues, we head down the cedar-lined road. About 3 minutes away is the entrance to the power spot, Towada Shrine, which looks like a deep mountain road.

The road to Towada Shrine
The Towada Shrine is surrounded by a sacred atmosphere

The torii gate is said to have been built by military commander Sakanoue no Tamuramaro in 807, and is one of Towada's leading power spots, said to grant wishes and good luck. It currently enshrines Yamato Takeru, but was a symbol of the Tohoku Region water deity until the separation of Shinto and Buddhism in 1868.

Towada Shrine Worship Hall

Lake Towada has a magnificent story, the Lake Towada Legend. Long ago, there was a hunter named Hachirotaro who lived at Lake Towada. But one day, he broke a promise to his friends and ate their fish. After drinking water from the lake, he became an eight-headed dragon and ruled the lake. Soon, a monk named Nansonobo appeared. He transformed into a nine-headed dragon and fought Hachirotaro, defeating him.
Towada Shrine enshrines the Nansobo as Seiryu Gongen, a dragon deity. The calm interior of the temple is shrouded in mystery. You can almost hear the breath of the dragon god.

Worship practices written in English
Many foreign worshipers visit this shrine, too!

If you visit Towada Shrine, be sure to try the "oyori-gami" fortune-telling. Oyori-gami are pieces of paper blessed by the priests' prayers before the gods. There is a fortune-telling area to the back of the shrine, though it was currently off-limits due to falling rocks. Instead, we were told to do it at Gozengahama when the waves calmed down, so we went back to test our luck.

Oyori-gami fortune paper (200 yen, tax included), received at the amulet office
Twist the paper like so, and put it in the water from the bottom

The way to tell your fortune with this practice is to first, call upon the dragon god of Lake Towada in your mind. Then, drop your twisted paper into the lake. Watch the paper as it sinks: if it sinks vertically, that means good luck; sinking sideways means average luck; and sinking upside down means bad luck. Mine sank vertically as soon as I dropped it in - that means good luck!

The paper sank vertically!

We were impressed by this mysterious fortune-telling method of Lake Towada, and even searched the lake for a sign of the vanished piece of paper. After getting your fortune, thank the dragon god and send him on his way, saying "Please return home." Then, you can return home, too.

  • Towada Shrine
    十和田神社
    • Address 486-Okuse Towadako-hanyasumiya, Towada City, Aomori Prefecture 018-5501
    • Nearest Station 5-min walk from JR Bus Lake Towada
    • Phone Number 0176-75-2508
    • Amulet Office Hours: 9:30 AM-4:00 PM
      Free entry

Autumn foliage at Lake Towada at dusk (Photo courtesy of Lake Towada Pleasure Boat)

Experience the beauty of Lake Towada by enjoying the scenery, tasting delicious gourmet food, and visiting power spots. The landscape differs depending on the season you visit. Check out the sightseeing course introduced here today, and enjoy the sights in any season!

Recommended hotels around Lake Towada:

  • Drive Inn Keigetsu
    • Address Horyo Yakeyama 64-263, Towada, Aomori, 034-0303
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    • Nearest Station Shichinohe-towada Station (Tohoku Shinkansen / Hokkaido Shinkansen)

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Text by: Tsubasa Shimoda

*The information in this article is as of September 2020.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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