Aomori's Lake Towada is a dual crater lake that formed after a huge volcanic eruption. With the Towada Art Center as its anchor, the city's charms include an unspoiled natural environment and a community around the lake that now draw tourists up to this northern prefecture from all over the world.
You can reach the Towada area via car or a combination of train and bus.
Towada is not directly accessible by train. The primary means of transit to Towada is by car or bus. Shichinohe-Towada Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen is the most convenient place in Aomori to get a bus going to Towada. It takes about three hours and 20 minutes by shinkansen to get to Shichinohe-Towada from Tokyo, and 35 minutes from there by bus to Towada.
There is also a bus from Tokyo direct to Towada. The bus takes a little more than 10 hours, including rest stops.
Towada Art Center is the creative nexus of this region and a grand symbol of its revitalization. When the city of Towada made the bold decision to transform the town center, it put the art center at its heart.
In less than a decade, Towada became a popular venue for contemporary art lovers and other tourists, featuring works by 33 world-renowned artists such as Ron Mueck and Yayoi Kusama. There are hundreds of reviews about Towada Art Center on travel sites.
Oirase Mountain Stream is clear, beautiful and magical—a meandering, cascading route that stretches for 14 kilometers. You can hike along all or part of it, since there's a bus route that runs roughly parallel to the flow. You can also rent bicycles and ride alongside.
The many waterfalls in Towada are definitely a highlight, but the trees, moss, deep greenery and dark soil, the sounds of cascading water and the solitude of bridges crisscrossing the stream are what make the stream a magical, meditative experience.
Mt. Hakkoda is really two volcanic mountain ranges. The Hakkoda Ropeway takes visitors up the secondary peak, Mt. Tamoyachi, which is the site of the Hakkoda ski area, a renowned backcountry powder ski and snowboard mecca.
From the gondola you'll be able to see the rare "snow monsters" that populate the area—trees with shaggy coats of snow that look like fantastic creatures.
The best way to see the snow monsters is up close, while skiing or snowboarding. You can even ski through "tree tunnels" surrounded by these monsters.
There are many more beautiful spots around Lake Towada and in the Mt. Hakkoda area. One is Tashiro Marshland, a bog created by a volcano eruption nearly two million years ago. You can traverse this marshland over 1.5 kilometers of wooden plank walkways.
Suiren-numa Pond is surrounded by a marsh, with the Hakkoda mountains as a backdrop. Suiren, a type of water lily, grows wild in the water, and the delicate white flowers create a scene reminiscent of a landscape painting by Claude Monet.
There are several great onsen in the area, including Yachi Onsen, a secluded inn that has been around for over four centuries.