Thursday, October 4, 2007


(enormous dragon head at the Tazawa-ko train station)

About 45 km east of where I live is Lake Tazawa (Tazawa-ko), the deepest lake in Japan. It's kind of Tahoesque, with its clear water, surrounding mountains, and ski resorts in the winterdefinitely one of Akita Prefecture's most photographed and visited sites. I was really looking forward to going, and was glad when Rob, another ALT, organized a camping trip two weekends ago. I was even more glad when the typhoon approaching us at the time shifted northward leaving us with great weather for the weekend.

A (blurry) picture of the bungalows we stayed in.

On Saturday night, we had a wonderful potluck barbecue, thanks very much to Tristan, an ALT from Utah, who didn't stop chopping and grilling until everyone was eating. Then, we all went down to the lake's shore for a nice campfire. A few of us tried out the cold waters and experienced Lake Tazawa firsthand. It was incredibly peaceful just floating there, surrounded only by a starry gray sky and black mountains, reflected in the water all around.

A visitors' center near the campground.

The lake was just down the road.

On Sunday morning, we all split into separate groups. I went hiking with Rob, Tristan, Rheanna, and Mike, because I wanted to try out my new hiking boots, and because I was determined to get to the top of a mountain this time. As it turned out, we didn't need to do a whole lot of hiking (the bus took us most of the way up), but we got in some good exercise, saw some views, and had time for dinner and onsen (hot springs) afterward.

A deposit of volcanic rock or perhaps an alien landscape from Star Trek TOS.

Tazawa is surrounded by rows and rows of mountains, completely covered in deciduous trees and shrubs. Just imagine this view in the fall, when all the greens, blues, and purples turn red, orange, and yellow.

A channel carved out by lava on the side of a hill

A nice view of Lake Tazawa from a distance.

Some fall colors making an early appearance.

Some people hiking up a peak opposite from ours.

Making our way back down.

After hiking, we went to a cozy little spaghetti place whose walls were decorated with musical instruments. Then, three of us finished off the day with a trip to the onsen (my first!).

An onsen is a sort of bath house that uses the naturally heated water from local hot springs. First you undress (men and women are usually separate, but not always), then shower off, usually with a detached shower-head, sitting on a wooden stool. Then you go soak in the onsen, usually outside. You get a little towel to preserve some bit of modesty on your way to the baths, should you care.

The water in the onsen often contains minerals from the hot springs, which are supposed to be good for your skin. Ours was white and cloudy so that you couldn't see below the surface, and it had a faint odor (I hear some of them are pretty stinky!) The whole time, we were completely open to a cool breeze and a wonderful view of Lake Tazawa and the surrounding mountains, just as the sun was beginning to set.

This is from the bus ride back from the onsen. At this point, we were all too tired and relaxed to say anything. It was a nice way to end the day.

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