Lake Towada, 2006

Day 6 came so quickly; it felt like we had just landed but we were already 60% done with our stay in Japan! We left early in the morning to catch the to ride the train through the Seikan Tunnel ‘青函海底隧道’–the longest underwater tunnel in the world–to Aomori ‘青森’. Train breakfast bento is surprisingly delicious.

seikanlunch

Picked vegetables, fried tofu, lotus root, white rice, and fresh fruits for dessert.

After we got off the train, we spent a little time in the train station to look for the famous Aomori apples. Unfortunately, summertime is not apple season, so we left empty-handed. We then drove up into the mountains to visit Jogakura Bridge in Towada-Hachimantai National Park (十和田八幡平國立公園). Before we hit the bridge, though, we stopped at a rest area with the cleanest public restrooms of any national park I’ve been to and with a water station complete with freely-flowing spring water and little china teacups to sip from. Ah, only in Japan.

towadareststopThis was in preparation for our short hike through the park: the Oirasekeiryu, 奧入瀨溪流. The only word that I can think of for Oirase was that it is very zen. Gentle waterfalls, abundant greenery, and absolute silence. Our 90-minute trail was so therapeutic: to hear nothing but the rustling of leaves, the gurgling of streams, and the squishing of steps onto mossy rock. I distinctly remember one instance where the trail dipped into a muddy patch that all of us had to jump over; unfortunately for one of the older women (about 70-years-old) on our tour, she was wearing Louis Vuitton shoes and had the hardest time crossing over to the other side. Her generous and loving husband took it upon himself to carry her across the swampy mess, just so she wouldn’t mess up her new shoes. Love.

oiraseWith our appetites whetted after our walk, we drove to our onsen (hot spring) resort for the night to eat dinner. Our resort was situated on the lakeshore of Lake Towada. Every place we’ve been to in Japan thus far can be explained in no way other than calming. Fresh air, no traffic, no people, no technology. It was glorious.

towada

Dinner was grand: a smorgasbord of meticulously and beautifully arranged little items. Delicately spun threads of gobo and taro wrapped into balls, picked vegetables cut into floral shapes, a healthy garden and seaweed salad, udon noodles and soup, and a tofu hot pot. So much food!

100_0653-1And our room, like all rooms at hot springs hotels, were traditional tatami rooms. I’ve come to prefer these much more than American bedrooms. Walking on the soft woven straw makes my feet so much happier somehow. And there’s nothing like sleeping on a futon–a thick, cushy mattress with large, thick blankets. It saves so much space, since all you do is roll it up in the morning!

100_0659-1 My favorite part, though, is how the hotels always leave little pieces of handmade mochi or sweetened white beans and/or adzuki beans as snacks every time they clean your room. Omnomnom. Mom and I finished off our day with a relaxing 2-3 hours in the hot springs. They overlooked the lake from above, in the open air. Watched the tides of mist roll back and forth between the sloping, green mountains.

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