There’s no denying that this 327m-deep crater lake (52km in circumference) has some impressive scenery (it’s at the top of a 440m mountain), famously transparent water and superb opportunities for hiking and skiing, but people here are oddly unwelcoming – perhaps the only area in Tōhoku where you may be told, ‘we’re booked solid this evening’, in the off season, when there are only two cars in the parking lot. It’s best enjoyed as a day trip, unless you’ve made reservations in advance.
Nenokuchi, a small tourist outpost on the eastern shore of the lake, marks the entrance to the 14km Oirase Valley Nature Trail, a three-hour hike along the lakeshore; you might want to hike it in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the coach parties. The path ends at Yakeyama, from where frequent buses return to Nenokuchi (¥660, 30 minutes) and Yasumiya (¥1100, one hour).
The tourist hub, Yasumiya, offers numerous boat tours of the lake, the best of which is the one-hour cruise between Yasumiya and Nenokuchi (one way ¥1320). Boats leave roughly every hour from April to early November between 8am and 4pm. You can rent mountain bikes at the dock for ¥1500 per day from April to November.
The hole-in-the-wall tourist information centre (75-2425; 8am-5pm), just north of the JR bus station, stocks only Japanese-language hiking maps but can help arrange accommodation.
Last updated: Sep 18, 2008
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