Saturday, November 17, 2012

Oirase Stream, Tohoku Japan

When I was researching my autumn trip to Japan, one of the places that was really popular was Oirase Stream in Tohoku. So I decided to head over to take a look.

Autumn foliage over pretty mountain stream

Oirase Stream is a mountain stream in Aomori prefecture, with water flowing from Lake Towada. There is a hiking trail running almost parallel to the stream, but unfortunately, a vehicular road also runs almost beside the hiking trail!! This is also the access road where the major cities of Hachinohe and Aomori connects to Lake Towada, so it can get busy. However, it is still well worth an outing, especially if you are a photographer who loves "flowing water among foliage" photos!

As it turns out, the foliage in most parts are actually quite thick, such that when you look at the pictures, it's hard to imagine that a road is just 5 metres behind you! Moreover, with the thick foliage, you could get beautiful sunlight streaming through the trees, and in most cases, provide enough cover so that you could slow down your shutter speed to achieve the silky smooth flowing water effect of the streams and waterfalls.

Some parts of the hiking trail unfortunately "spill" over to the road
Hard to tell that these scenes are just beside a busy road!
Besides hikers, there are many artists as well!

My main gripe as a solo backpacker is the access. Unless you have a vehicle, you will be at the mercy of the public bus schedules. There are buses from Aomori and Hachinohe that goes to Yasumiya (the access town of Lake Towada) that passes through the road beside the trail. There are a number of bus-stops along the way, and hence you can opt to only do partial parts of the trail or all (the whole trail is 9km long). Unfortunately, the last bus back to the city was like 4pm which I felt was way too early. Also, the bus fare is ridiculously expensive - a 1-way fare from Hachinohe to the extreme end of the trail (Nenokuchi) is 2000yen (~us$25)!

Nevertheless, the place is very pictureque! (hopefully evident in the photos :p) The best parts of the trail (with flowing water over rocks and foliage) is probably at Ishigedo. For those with enough budget, there is also a hotel at Yakeyama, which is the other end of the hiking trail, so you could have the hiking trail for yourself at later parts in the day (yes, it gets really crowded!). If you drive, you also also base yourself at Lake Towada (Yasumiya).

All in all, well worth a trip!

Beautiful light, beautiful waterfall

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