Tazawa-ko (Lake Tazaka, 田沢湖)
The deepest lake in Japan, with relatively untouched shores and surrounded by mountains. A great place to relax in winter (ski) and summer (beach).
All year round. In winter, access are more complicated and many attractions are closed, but it is also much less crowded. Very popular in summer (water sports) and automn (koyo).
Akita Shinkansen is a direct link between Tokyo and the Tazawako station since 1997. It takes 2h30 to 3h30 by "Yamabiko" shinkansen (13'840 yens).
: if you do not have the JR Pass, you might want to buy a package train + hotel, as they can in some cases be even cheaper than the train alone!
There is a relatively good bus network
. All buses leave from Tazawako station (go to the right when leaving from the station).
There are four lines, going to :
- Tazawa Lake (田沢湖), circling around the lake and coming back to the station;
- Nyuto Onsen (乳頭温泉) via Tazawa Lake;
- Komagatake (駒ケ岳) via Tazawa Lake;
- Tamagawa (玉川).
You can find all timetable as pdf files here : www.ugokotsu.co.jp/ug/rosen/rosenmei.html
(in the 大仙・仙北 frame); keep in mind that schedule changes with the season, so check carefully.
A nice way to enjoy the lake is by renting a bicycle
and cycling the 20 km of shores. The road has little slopes, making the journey a 2-3 hours easy. Be just careful with the cars... For more information, contact the Tazawako Tourism Information Center, phone : 0187-43-2111.
To enjoy the view from a different perspective, you can board on a boat for a tour of the lake
. Boats are leaving from the Shirahama beach and cross the lake to Katajiri, where the Tatsuko statue is located. Return tickets are available from both places (1170 yens, 40 minutes, 4 times per day). There is no excursion from November to April.
Finally, the most convenient way to travel around is – as it is often the case in rural Japan – the car
. You can rent a car at Tawazako station, either from JR car rental or Orix. See the section on the station below for more details.
Where to stay
Even if the lake can be really beautiful, it might be more interesting to stay in a nearby onsen town, like Nyoto Onsen or even Tamagawa Onsen. In winter, ski resorts are also more popular, as activities around the lake are limited. There are still accommodations on the shores of the lake.
Most of them are located on the east side: Tazawako Sunrise Hotel, Katakuri-no-hana, Kashintei Shirahama, Tazawako Lodge, Horai-kan.
The Tazawako Prince Hotel
is on the west side of the lake, near the road leading to Kakunodate. It offers great views on the lake, but without many attractions around... except that of the Tatsuko statue. Canoe are available for guests
(田沢湖, Tazawako) is the deepest lake in Japan (423 meters), and has a circumference of 20 km – and almost a perfect circular shape. Its water used to be one of the clearest in Japan, together with Lake Mashu (Hokkaido), but Lake Tazawa is slightly polluted since the construction of a dam in 1940 (a local fish called kunimasu
even disappear in the process). The appearance of the lake and its sapphire-blue colored water tends to change dramatically with the sunlight and the clouds, creating a rather mysterious atmosphere. This might be the origin of the most famous legend of the area, that of Tatsuko
. She was the most beautiful girl of the area, and wanted to have her youth and beauty preserved; she thus drank the water of a spring, as she was advised to, and turned into a big dragon, which sank to the bottom of the lake. During the winter months, her dragon husband joins her in the lake, and then warmth of their passion explain why the lake never freezes – although scientists suggest that this is rather due to its depth...
Her statue is one of the most popular spot around the lake. This statue, which has gold color, is seen on most pamphlets featuring Akita-ken. It is standing on a concrete block directly on the lake, just one meter from the shore. What you don’t see on the pictures, though, is that the road circling around the lake passes less than 10 meters away from the statue, rendering the spot much less attractive! (In some pamphlets' picture, the statue looks more like in the middle of the lake - either the statue was moved recently, or the pictures have been treated with Photoshop...)
A small modern shrine, Kansagu
, was built close to Tastuko statue; it is located over the water and access by a small bridge.
The main city in the area is the new town of Senboku (population of 12'500), which resulted from the merging of the towns of Tazawako, Kakunodate and Nishiki. Arrival point for most visitors, the Tazawako train station
is a stop on the shinkansen line from Morioka to Akita. The modern building has the appearance of a ship, and the tourist information center is located in it. This place can provide pamphlets on accommodations and sight-seeing spots of the area, information on transportation, onsen, ski fields, etc. A good way to visit the area is to rent a car, which can be done at the JR car rental office (next to the station) or at Orix car rental (located in a grocery shop very close to the station).
If you have some time while waiting for the shinkansen on your way back, you might want to visit the Tazawako Ichi sake store
(田沢湖市). It is located 200 meters from the station; right in front of you when you go out (check their web page for precise directions). This shop offers a large selection of sake, and has a “sake tasting by the cup” for 100 yens per cup. Unlike most of the places, where the nihon-shu to be tasted are of low quality, you will find several excellent ginjo-shu there. Highly recommended for souvenirs, especially as the staff is very helpful.
Phone : 0187-43-3511
From the Tazawako train station, you can reach the lake in 15 minutes by bus, arriving in Tazawa-kohan bus terminal, which is the main gateway to the lake, as the large omiyage shops and parking lots are suggesting. From there, you can circle around the lake by bus, bicycle, boat or car. The following interesting points are reach traveling clockwise...
Amateur of attraction parks might want to visit the Tazawa-ko Swiss-mura
(the Swiss Village of Lake Tazawa-ko). It consists of a row with store and houses which are supposedly modeled after the famous “The Little Girl Heidi from the Alps” – a very popular old cartoon in Japan. Among activities are a glass-painting atelier and you can get a lift to a view point on the lake. Rather surprisingly for a “swiss” attraction, this one is simply closed in winter! The rest of the year, opening hours are 9:00-17:00, and they charge 1000 yens to enter.
Phone : 0187-43-2939
The most famous spot around the lake is the statue of Tastuko
, close to the Prince Hotel. While the interest of this spot is a little exaggerated, it is a "must see"... See above for details.
On the north shore, the small Goza-ishi shrine
can be visited. It is especially interesting for its red tori built which reflects in the nearby lake.
A little further is the Tazawako Herb Garden
(田沢湖ハーブガーデン「ハートハーブ」), with 150 different varieties of plants. A restaurant and herbal baths are also available. Entrance fee of 500 yens (400 yens for the bath only), opened from 9:00-17:00 (11:00-21:00 for the bath). The garden is closed from December to March.
Phone : 0187-43-0310
(白浜) is the most beautiful beach around the lake. Its name means “White Sands”, and is a good description of the sight! This place is very popular in summer. It is also from there that the excursion ship are leaving for a tour of the lake. Sailboarding, swimming and jet skiing are common activities in summer.
are available around the lake, and offers a scenery that changes every day with the weather. Especially good points are People's Forest of Akita Prefectures and Katamae Mountain Forest Park.
Semboku City – Sightseeing information around Tazawako
: official web site with limited information on main attractions.
: A good map of the lake area from the JNTO web site, which can be downloaded (and printed) as a pdf file.
: The usual comprehensive guide on Kakunodate, Lake Tazawa, Akita and Oga Peninsula.