Towada-Hachimantai National Park

Non-profit Nature Service http://www.natureservice.jp/

Discover the mountains, streams and lakes of Tohoku's northern reaches

A short bullet train ride from Tokyo but a world apart, Towada-Hachimantai National Park is a land full of contrast. The area has Japan’s deepest snowfall, which carpets the mountains and dense forests in pure white and covers trees in thick frost. Yet, even in the remotest reaches of the snowy landscape, steam rising from hot springs breaks the icy spell. Read more about this landscape's spellbinding beauty.

Visiting Japan's National Parks

Towada-Hachimantai National Park, like all of Japan's national parks, has no entrance fees, no opening and closing hours, and no permit is required to enter or stay in the park. The national parks of Japan differ from national parks worldwide in that the land within the national parks is not exclusively designated for national park use and is made up of private property as well as public and protected areas. Visitors are free to enter and leave at any time. 

Park Highlights

Towada-Hachimantai National Park is in the mountains of Northern Honshu. The Towada-Hakkoda region, the park's northern area, contains Mt. Hakkoda, Lake Towada, and Oirase Gorge, while the Hachimantai region, the southern section, has Mt. Hachimantai, Mt. Akita-Komagatake and Mt. Iwate.

DON'T MISS

  • Pristine forest and a clear stream along Oirase Gorge
  • Hiking the Hakkoda Mountain Range
  • A canoe trip or boat cruise on Lake Towada

The park's mountainous landscape is heavily forested and dotted with marshes. Highlights include viewing Lake Towada from mountains around the outer rim or by taking a cruise tour. Take in enchanting waterfall views from Oirase Stream and bathe in the high-quality hot springs around the foot of Mt. Hakkoda and Mt. Hachimantai, each of which has a distinct character. 

HAKKODA MOUNTAIN RANGE

The Hakkoda Mountain Range spans a group of volcanoes, with 1,585-meter-tall Mt. Odake its highest peak. Surround yourself in the natural forests of Japanese beech and Aomori-Todomatsu trees that cover these mountains. These mountains have well-maintained hiking trails and a ropeway that runs year round. 

Hakkoda Mountain Range

LAKE TOWADA 

Lake Towada is a caldera lake formed by volcanic activity that began approximately 200,000 years ago. The quiet surface and rich greenery create a primeval landscape. Views of the lake change with the seasons and perspective, such as from the lakeside footpath or sightseeing boats on the water.

Lake Towada

OIRASE GORGE

The Oirase Gorge is a 14-kilometer-long, U-shaped valley that was carved out by the Oirase Stream that flows out of Lake Towada. The clear water, constantly changing flow, mossy rocks, forests that cover the banks, and numerous waterfalls all come together to create one of the most scenic locations in Japan.

Oirase Gorge

MT. AKITA-KOMAGATAKE

Mt. Akita-Komagatake is the collective name for the southern area's highest peak, Mt. Oname (1,637 meters), and multiple surrounding caldera hills. The mountain is well known for its alpine plants such as Dicentra peregrina and takanesumire (Viola crassa), while the hillside onsen are popular for their rustic atmosphere.

Mt. Akita-Komagatake

MT. IWATE

Stratovolcano Mt. Iwate (2,038 meters) is the tallest mountain in Iwate Prefecture, located away from the main ridges of the Ou Mountains. Hike around the summit's crater wall for 360-degree views and Kannon statues, remnants of the mountain's long spiritual history. Also check out the Yakebashiri lava flow along the northeastern base.

Mt. Iwate

Plants & Animals

The park's forests contain mainly deciduous trees, but conifers including Maries' fir (Abies mariesii) grow at the peaks of Mt. Hakkoda and Mt. Hachimantai. On the ridgeline you can see a variety of alpine plant communities and marsh plant communities, with different flowers blooming depending on the season.

The landscape is home to mammals such as the Japanese serow, Asiatic black bear, Japanese flying squirrel and dormouse, which depend on a rich forest environment for survival. Amphibians such as the forest green tree frog and black salamander, and insects including the ezoharuzemi and ruriitotombo, thrive here, as do the black woodpecker, ruddy kingfisher and Siberian blue robin.

 

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    Maries' fir (Abies mariesii) Forest 

     

    The density and spread of the Abies mariesii forest make it one of the most impressive examples in Japan. It is particularly scenic in winter, when a fantastic view is created by the juhyo (frost covered trees).

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    Komakusa (Dicentra peregrina)

     

    When seen from the side, the pink flower of these alpine perennials resembles the face of a horse, giving it the nickname of komakusa, or "horse plant." Large clusters can be seen on the Akita Komagatake Oyakesuna and Iwatesan Yakehashiri routes.

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    Japanese Serow (Capricornis crispus)

     

    While they resemble deer, Japanese serow are actually of the cow family. Thriving in the forests of the park, these unique creatures are designated as a National Special Natural Monument.

Culture 

In June every year a group of one hundred horses with decorations and ornaments go on a 13 kilometer-long parade during the Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival. The name “Chagu Chagu” comes from the sound of the bells attached to horses, meant to repel wolves.

 

A decorated horse during the Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival

 

The horses parade from Onikoshi Sozen-jinja Shrine in Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture, a shrine dedicated to the god of horses, to Hachiman Shrine in the center of Morioka. Spectators appreciate and thank horses for their labor during war times and for their contribution to agriculture. This area has been widely known for its quality of horses since the 8th century.

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    Seasonal Information

    Towada-Hachimantai National Park receives some of the heaviest snowfall in Japan, and in winter, the landscapes turn to pure white. Experience excellent conditions for snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding and many other winter activities. Expert skiers should not miss a backcountry tour on Mt. Hakkoda. 

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    Spring brings a welcome respite, and vivid greens decorate the woods, lakes and marshes. The trees of the primeval beech forests begin to sprout light green buds. Summer and fall are perfect for hiking the 14-kilometer trail along Oirase Gorge, taking a scenic boat ride on Lake Towada, and riding the Hakkoda Ropeway to access the mountain trails around the summit.

About the Park 

Towada-Hachimantai National Park encompasses a wide area spanning Aomori, Akita and Iwate prefectures in northern Tohoku. The park is best known for its primeval beech forests, rugged mountains, picturesque calderas, diverse fauna and deep snow. 

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Date of National Park Designation: February 1, 1936
  • Area: 85,534 ha (855.34 square kilometers)
  • Location: Aomori, Akita and Iwate prefectures

VISITOR INFORMATION CENTERS 

There are four main visitor information centers in Towada-Hachimantai National Park. Each center is in a different area and has information about hiking and walking trails, as well as other activities. They also host exhibits about local animals, plants, geology and geography. See all of Towada-Hachimantai National Park's visitor information centers.

PARKS RULES & SAFETY 

As with any national park or conservation area, visitors to Towada-Hachimantai National Park are required to observe the following rules for safety and to protect the area's natural biodiversity:

  • Carry in, carry out: Take all of your trash away with you. 
  • Do not pick wildflowers or damage plants. 
  • Do not feed the wild animals. 
  • Hunting is not permitted. 
  • No fishing unless with a certified guide.
  • No smoking while walking. 
  • Campfires are only permitted in designated areas. 
  • The area is inhabited by Asiatic black bears. Take the necessary precautions to avoid unexpected encounters.
  • Stay on the trails and paths. 
  • Pets are not allowed on the trails 
  • To prevent trail erosion, use covers when using hiking poles or walking sticks.
  • Make sensible hiking plans.
  • Act at your own risk.