The Oirase (OH-EE-RAH-SAY) River flows through a wooded valley out of Lake Towada, a large caldera formed by a collapsed volcano. The river passes through a densely wooded area over waterfalls and past moss-covered outcroppings. The path that follows the river from Towada 14 kilometers to Yakeyama is unforgettable. The way the water flows over the rocks in many small rapids is often described as milky, and the numerous waterfalls are magical. There are more than a dozen named waterfalls and natural locations. The beauty of this area really cannot be overstated. The only downside is that a road runs the entire length of the path, never far away. It doesn’t spoil the area, but the atmosphere would be perfect if not for the occasional tourist bus rumbling by.
This is one of the most famous places in Japan for viewing the autumn colors. Some say that in the fall it appears as if the river is gushing through flames. But it really is breathtaking in the summer as well. The first nine kilometers of the path from Nenokuchi to Ishigedo are the best provided for. The path is wide here and crosses many small foot bridges back and forth across the river. This walk takes about two and half hours one way, and there are bus stops along the way.
Access: Buses from Aomori Station to Yasumiya will pass along the Oirase Gorge. Depending on where you wanted to start the walk, you could get off at Yakeyama, Ishigedo, or Nenokuchi. The bus takes about two hours and 45 minutes and is 3,000 yen. Free parking if available at many different stops along the way, and it makes for a luxurious drive if you’ve traveling by car.