19 Sep 2019 in In immersion
Stay at the heart of a picturesque gorge in the Aomori forests of northern Honshu.
Shin-Aomori may be some 700kms north of Tokyo, but it takes just 3 hours to reach by shinkansen. At the station, you’ll board a shuttle bus bound for Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel.
The journey on winding, thickly-forested mountain roads comes to an end at the tiny village of Yakeyama. Here, within the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, lies Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel, the only hotel located directly on the banks of the picturesque Oirase Keiryu stream.
Yakeyama is the starting point for both the Oirase Gorge and a spectacular 8.5-mile trail that follows the ebbs and flows of the stream through the forest to its source, mighty Lake Towada.
Whether you’re planning to hike, fish or admire the numerous waterfalls along the way, you’ll be at the heart of nature during your stay.
Time to settle in.
You room features tatami mats, a comfortable raised mattress and generous sofas.
For a special treat, opt for your own private hot spring bath overlooking the stream.
Before you head downstairs, why not slip into your complementary yukata and sandals? It’s all part of the Japanese hotel experience!
Each of the hotel’s wings has a spacious central lounge dominated by a towering suspended chimney sculpted by avant-garde artist Tako Okamoto. Both feature floor-to-ceiling windows, transporting you into the forest and making the seasons an integral part of the décor.
In spring and summer, sunlight penetrates through a forest of lush greens. In autumn, the panorama is picture-book pretty, with crisp orange, golden yellows and deep reds crowding the trees.
Winter brings a blanket of snow, weighing down branches and transforming nearby waterfalls into glistening walls of layered ice.
At the Activity Desk in the west lobby, you can peruse your many options to explore the National Park. Outside snow season, the choices are endless, encompassing everything from fly fishing to firefly watching.
For an authentically Japanese experience, sign up for one of the many moss-related experiences.
The Japanese are fascinated by moss, with the Oirase Gorge home to some 300 different varieties. Choose the morning Moss Watching Tour to get a closer look, armed with your complementary magnifying glass!
In winter, activities turn to snowshoeing and tours of the beautiful frozen waterfalls.
Take a towel from your room and head to the hotel’s onsen. There are 2 indoor pools, but the real pull is the rounded outdoor bath set above the stream.
Lie back in the warm waters, sourced from nearby Mount Hakkoda, and listen to the soothing sounds of the babbling stream.
For dinner, indulge yourself in the high-class French cuisine of Sonore restaurant, with a pre-dinner aperitif on the stream-side terrace.
Or opt for the Aomori Ringo Kitchen, an immense buffet of freshly-prepared Japanese and Western dishes.
Take a 9-compartment tray to sample a little of everything from sashimi to seafood bake, mochi rice cake to apple (“ringo”) pie. Then come back for more!
Head to the bar to cosy up on a chaise-longue sofa with views of the illuminated forest.
How about a Japanese whisky to round off the evening?
There’s another lavish breakfast buffet at the Aomori Ringo Kitchen. Take your pick from eggs and bacon, croissant and jam, or fish and miso.
Alternatively, you can start the day on the stream-side terrace with a generous bento box.
Time to explore the Oirase Gorge. If you’ve not signed up for an activity, lace up your walking shoes and head out on your own. The trail to Lake Towada takes around 4 to 5 hours, but you can easily shorten the distance by taking the hotel’s free shuttle bus or the local bus to different points along the route.
Along the way, you’ll pass 14 waterfalls, including the impressively wide Choshi Otaki and the roaring two-tiered Kumoi no Taki.
The path climbs gently, staying close to the stream until you arrive at Lake Towada, an impressive double caldera expanse, known for its clear waters. From here, you can take a boat trip to the small town of Yasumiya, a chance to admire the seemingly endless wilderness that encircles the lake.
Yasumiya has a pleasant, laid-back feel. It’s the perfect place to end the day, wandering along the beach, visiting the hilltop Towada shrine, and sampling street food such as yakitori or shioyaki (fish on a stick). From here, you can take a bus back for a well-earned hot spring bath at Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel.