The Natural Wonders of Towada-Hachimantai National Park

Towada-Hachimantai National Park – The Big Picture

Towada-Hachimantai is a national park of mountains, lakes, and streams which extends across the three prefectures of Aomori, Akita and Iwate in Northern Honshu’s Tohoku region.
The park is divided between the northern Towada-Hakkoda area and southern Hachimantai area.Visitors will encounter an abundance of natural beauty including hot springs and myriad plant and animal wildlife.

Map of Towada-Hachimantai National Park
Map of Towada-Hachimantai National Park

To get to the Towada-Hakkoda area, JR Aomori station is your best starting point.Take the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo station approximately three hours and ten minutes. There are also regular flights to Aomori Airport from Sapporo (New Chitose Airport Terminal), Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. Board an airport bus to Aomori station.

If you want to start with the southern Hachimantai area, make your way to JR Morioka station. Take the bullet train from Tokyo station for approximately two hours and twenty minutes.
There are flights to Iwate Hanamaki Airport from Sapporo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. Take an airport bus to Morioka station.

Hot Springs and Cool Mountain Streams in Towada-Hakkoda

Just one ride on the Lake Towada-bound bus from JR Aomori station and you’ll find yourself in an incredible natural sanctuary.
Take in a magnificent view of the northern island of Hokkaido from mountain heights, visit a 1000-year old hot spring, and explore forest streams and the crater lake of Towada.

A wintry view from the Hakkoda ropeway
A wintry view from the Hakkoda ropeway

The bus ride from Aomori station to Rope way station bus stop takes approximately an hour and twenty minutes. This is your starting point to the Hakkoda Mountains. The rope way is a leisurely means to enjoy the scenery as you make your ascent.
The park offers stunning vistas during all four seasons, but the fresh greenery of May, the fall colors of October, and the wintry landscapes of December to March are particularly outstanding. After arriving at Sancho koen (Summit Park) station you’ll be greeted with an incredible panoramic view that extends all the way to Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.

The spring waters of Tsuta first bubbled forth 1000 years ago
The spring waters of Tsuta first bubbled forth 1000 years ago

After making your way back down to the Rope way station bus stop, get on the same bus and continue on to the Tsuta Onsen hot spring inn approximately 50 minutes away. Tsuta Onsen has been in business for over a century, and its spring waters enjoyed for a millennium.
In the winter, the bus route ends one stop earlier – at Sukayu Onsen. After exploring the Hakkoda Mountains in the daytime, soak your tired muscles and bones in Sukayu’s curative acidic sulfur springs.

The fantastical Ashura rapids of Oirase Mountain Stream
The fantastical Ashura rapids of Oirase Mountain Stream

Along the 14-kilometer (8.6-mile) stretch from Yakeyama bus stop (three stops past Tsuta Onsen) to Nenokuchi bus stop run the crystal clear waters of Oirase Mountain Stream. As you navigate the deep forest, the Oirase transforms through various tributaries and waterfalls. You’ll feel you’re becoming one with nature.
There are eight bus stops along the route, allowing you to customize your trekking plans. From spring until fall, standard and power-assisted bicycles can be rented at the Oirase Stream Museum just three minutes from the Yakeyama bus stop.

Lake Towada in the autumn
Lake Towada in the autumn

Adjacent to the route’s final bus stop of Nenokuchi is the expanse of Lake Towada. The small lakeside town of Yasumiya is reachable by JR Bus Tohoku but why not enjoy a 50-minute pleasure boat ride instead?

Lake Towada originated in a caldera formed by volcanic activity 200,000 years ago. Encircled by a primeval forest, Lake Towada’s stillness leaves a deep impression. The fall colors of mid-late October are a visual delight.

A Scenic Sojourn at a Hachimantai Mountain Resort

Lying northwest of Iwate Prefecture’s Morioka City is the Hachimantai area of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. In this mountainous terrain, visitors can marvel at the beauty of the four seasons.
Set out from your resort accommodations on a trek and encounter rare alpine flora and animal wildlife.

Summer view of the Hachiman-numa marsh
Summer view of the Hachiman-numa marsh

Iwate Prefecture and Akita Prefecture converge on the gentle slope of Hachimantai’s plateau at an altitude of 1,400-1,600 meters (4,593-5,249 feet). You’ll want to start your adventure at Hachimantai-sancho (peak) bus stop.
From JR Morioka station, take the Iwate Kenpoku bus on a two-hour journey to Matsukawa Onsen hot spring and the Hachimantai summit. (In the winter, the bus operates only as far as Matsukawa Onsen).

After a short 20-minute walk from the Hachimantai-sancho bus stop you’ll arrive at Hachiman-numa marsh. Take a stroll around its startling emerald green waters. Among the marsh’s rare plant life, the pink-flowered komakusa (peregrina) are called the queen of alpine flora.

Fun on the slopes at Appi Ski Resort
Fun on the slopes at Appi Ski Resort

En route from Morioka to Hachimantai is the region’s foremost accommodations – the Appi Resort. Getting to the resort is easy, with smooth access from Hanamaki Airport to JR Morioka station via bus, or to Morioka station directly by bullet train. Ski season at Appi is highly recommended. The powder snow of Mt. Iwate is as brilliant to look at as it is to ski down.

From spring to autumn, ascend on the gondola and trek through the mountain plateau terrain. Visit a ranch populated with sheep and goats, or play an 18-hole round of golf.

Majestic walls of snow along the Hachimantai Aspite Line
Majestic walls of snow along the Hachimantai Aspite Line

Every year in mid-April, the roads closed for winter begin to open up once again. Of special note is the Hachimantai Aspite Line, which cuts across the park. Towering walls of snow line either side of the road, making for an unforgettable drive.

With access to Hachimantai’s highest altitudes closed in the winter months, fun on Appi Ski Resort’s slopes or the neighboring hot spring are the ideal way to spend your holiday. From spring to autumn, devote a week exploring both the Towada-Hakkoda and Hachimantai areas.

Whichever season you choose to visit Towada-Hachimantai National Park, it will be an experience filled with spectacular sights. Combined with the pleasure of the region’s hot springs, you have the ultimate vacation.