Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Towada – One of the Most Stunning and Artistic Cities in Japan

If you are looking for a city in Japan with both breathtaking scenery and an artistic atmosphere, look no further than Towada City in Aomori Prefecture! In the center of the city, numerous statues complement the landmark of Towada, Towada Art Center. Not only are the artworks in the city all masterpieces from artists who are recognized internationally but renowned architects like Andō Tadao have designed a few of the buildings!

West of the city, Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge are the top two tourist destinations in Northeastern Japan. No matter what time of the year you visit this part of Aomori Prefecture, you will be amazed by its charm.

Below is a list of attractions you can add to your itinerary (^_-)-☆.

Please refer to the official pamphlet HERE for a map with all the attractions.

How to Get to Towada City

There are no train stations in Towada City. Instead, take bus services from either JR Shichinohe-Towada Station (七戸十和田駅), JR Shin-Aomori Station (新青森駅), or JR Hachinohe Station (八戸駅).

By Towada Kankou Dentetsu (十和田観光電鉄)

  • For the bus timetable from JR Shichinohe-Towada Station’s bus stop no. 2 at the south exit and from JR Shin-Aomori Station, refer to HERE.
    • You can get off at either Towada City Center (Towada-shi Chūō, 十和田市中央) or Towada Art Center (Towada-shi Gendai Bijutsukan-mae, 十和田市現代美術館前) or Kanchogai-dōri (官庁街通).
    • The bus ride will take around 35 minutes.
  • For the bus timetable from and to JR Hachinohe Station’s bus stop no. 5 from the east exit, please refer to HERE.
    • The bus ride will take around 60 minutes.

By JR Bus Oirase-gō (バスおいらせ号)

From late April to late October, you can take the JR Bus Oirase-gō heading to Lake Towada. It will take about 40 minutes.

For more information about the bus route, please refer to our article on How to Get to Oirase Gorge.

A List of JR Passes that Covers Aomori Prefecture

Below is a list of JR passes covering Aomori Prefecture and other regions. Please keep in mind that depending on your itinerary, a JR pass may or may not be worthwhile for your trip. You can estimate the transportation cost using Google Maps and compare the total price to a JR pass.

By Nanbu Bus (南部バス)

From JR Hachinohe Station, you can also take the Nanbu bus services.

The Cherry Blossom and the Fall Foliage Season at the City Center of Towada City

  • The cherry trees in the city usually bloom from mid to late April and may last until early May if spring comes a bit late.
  • The autumn foliage usually peaks from late October to early November.

Towada City Government Office Street (十和田市官庁街通り)

Ⓒ 十和田市

If you are visiting Towada City in spring or autumn, as you get off the bus, what will definitely catch your attention is the row of 156 cherry and pine 165 trees stretching along the 1.1 km road that is 36 meters wide.

The road was chosen to be one of the Best 100 Roads in Japan in 1986, and in 1992 when Japan’s Top 100 Landscapes were re-elected, it was one of the places chosen.

Apart from the trees, you will find water-based attractions on the side of the road, imaging the stunning Oirase Gorge and the Inoo River (稲生川). This is a city known for horse farming. Many horse objects are placed along the road as well.

Tip: The best time to enjoy the road’s scenery is the early morning when there is little traffic.

Ⓒ 十和田市

Towada Art Center (十和田市現代美術館)

When people talk about going to an art gallery, an image of a wide space with viewers appreciating various paintings and artworks will most likely pop into your head.

However, at Towada Art Center, this is not the case.

Inside each exhibition room, only one piece of artwork is displayed. Seeing the scale of the artwork in the art center, you will almost feel like your body has shrunk (or maybe everything has suddenly grown in size except you?).

The art center, established in 2008, is now the landmark of Towada City. The 38 permanent collections are the work of 33 renowned artists, such as Ron Mueck and Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生).

Your trip to the world of contemporary art will start before you enter the art center. If something looks too unusual around the closest bus stop, there is a high chance it is one of the art center’s exhibits!

Exploring Towada Art Center

The stylish building of the art center was designed by Ryue Nishizawa (西沢立衛), who also designed the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (金沢21世紀美術館), which is why you might notice some similarities between the two art galleries.

One of the most fascinating artworks in the art center is the Standing Woman. The facial expression of this giant old lady changes as you walk around her. Apparently, it is due to how natural lighting is reflected on her face.

A few of the artworks are interactive. For example, the Sumpf Land is a piece of artwork that allows you to stick your head into the hole in the ceiling. Snap a photo of you doing so and show it to your friends later. It will definitely leave them wondering what sort of mischievous activities you got up to during your overseas trip (´▽`*).

In the courtyard, don’t forget to write down your wishes on a piece of paper and hang it on the apple tree.

The tree is one of the art center’s permanent collections. The paper with your wishes written on it will eventually travel to the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavik, Iceland (^_-)-☆.

For a list of collections currently in the art center and an expansionary of the artworks, please refer to the official website HERE.

The art center should take around an hour to explore. If it is around lunchtime when you visit, you might want to head to its cafe. They have a vegetarian light meal option. Click HERE for the current menu.

Towada Art Center’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • The art center is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Mondays.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day.
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
    • It’s also closed from the end of December to the beginning of January.
  • The admission fee is
    • 1,800 yen for access to both special exhibition and permanent collections
    • 1,000 yen when only permanent collections are on exhibit
    • Free for high school students and younger
  • If you are taking Towada Kankou Dentetsu’s bus, get off at Kanchogai-dōri (官庁街通) if you are coming from Hachinohe, and get off at Towada Art Center (Towada-shi Gendai Bijutsukan-mae, (十和田市現代美術館前) if you are coming from Shichinohe-Towada.
  • If you are taking Oirase-gō, stop at Towada Art Center (Towada-shi Gendai Bijutsukan-mae, 十和田市現代美術館前).

Farm Cafe Orta (農園カフェ オルタ)

Farm Cafe Orta is the place to be if you are looking for a highly-rated restaurant. They serve a Western menu with plenty of good choices.

The highlight of the cafe is its home-grown organic vegetables and bread made from homemade natural yeast. Their sweets are organic as well.

As the cafe doesn’t have a separate vegetarian menu, you will need to let the staff know what to exclude from the dishes you order. To assist your communication with the staff, you can utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article.

Farm Cafe Orta’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The cafe’s business hours are
    • Lunch: from 12 pm to 3 pm
      • The last order is taken at 2:30 pm.
    • Dinner: from 6 pm to 9 pm
      • The last order is taken at 8 pm.
  • The cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If Mondays or Tuesdays are public holidays, it will be closed on the next business day instead.
  • From April to October, as they need to take care of their farms, they won’t open for lunch on Wednesdays or Thursdays unless it is a public holiday.

Towada Civic Center Plaza (市民交流プラザ トワーレ)

Towada Art Center isn’t the only artistic attraction in Towada City. The city has a collection of architectural works by world-famous Japanese architects! One example is the Towada Civic Center Plaza, which opened in 2015 and was designed by Kuma Kengo (隈 研吾).

Speaking of a civic center, you might expect a larger building. But Towada Civic Center Plaza was designed to match the surrounding houses. So you will find it fits the image of the township quite well, with its height matching the private houses around it.

Inside the civic center, the space was intelligently divided, so you will never know what awaits you after you turn a corner, making walking inside the building a joyful exercise.

As you stroll around, don’t forget to look up and observe the irregular ceiling. It is a key element of this unusual artistic experience.

So when you need to take a break from exploring Towada City, come to Towada Civic Center Plaza! There might even be special exhibitions taking place when you visit. Also, you can source some information about the city from its information center.

Towada Civic Center Plaza’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The civic center is open from 9 am to 9 pm daily but is closed from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January.
  • It is less than a 10-minute walk from Towada Art Center.

Towada City Library (十和田市民図書館)

Just two blocks away from the Towada Civic Center Plaza, the white stylist Towada City Library was designed by Andō Tadao (安藤忠雄). The typical Andō Tadao building creates a space for people to feel light’s magic and concrete’s beauty. It just makes us envious that the citizens of Towada get to read their favorite books inside the masterpiece of the famous architect whenever they want!

Inside the library, Andō Tadao’s hand-drawn sketches are also displayed. There is also an Andō Tadao corner!

Furthermore, there are five sunrooms in the library. They were designed to create an opportunity for you to strike up a conversation with others who are in the same room.

The theme of the sunrooms is “a book that isn’t a book”. Through having conversations with others from different generations, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, Andō Tadao hopes the users can gain knowledge that can’t be printed. The sunrooms were created for people to cultivate the power of thinking and the ability to respect the differences between each other. He believed these two characteristics are essential to a successful future.

Moreover, in spring, the large cherry blossom tree, which is more than 100 years old, will bloom beautifully (^_-)-☆.

The Opening Hours and Access Information of Towada City Library

  • The library is open from 9 am to 8 pm daily except the 4th Thursday of the month and from the end of December to the beginning of January.
  • It is around a 5-minute walk from Towada Art Center.

Cloth Studio Hi (布工房 杼)

Cloth Studio Hi is a cafe gallery with a fabric art theme.

Although it is a 45-minute walk from Towada Art Center (i.e. you will need to drive or take a taxi), the dishes served here are completely vegetarian, without seafood or meat. And they are delicious!

The interior is gorgeously decorated like a Western cottage but with Japanese elements. As you stroll through the gallery, if there is anything you would like to bring home, check with the staff to see if they are on sale (^_-)-☆.

Important: The cafe doesn’t take walk-in customers. Please call to reserve at +81-176-25-3808. As the staff doesn’t speak English, if you don’t speak Japanese, it would be highly appreciated if you could come with someone who can.

Cloth Studio Hi’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The studio/cafe is open from 11 am to 6 pm from Thursday to Sunday.
  • From Towada Art Center, it is less than a 10-minute drive.

Risoukyō (手づくり村 鯉艸郷)

Risoukyō, which isn’t too far from the city center of Towada, is best known for the 200,000 irises of 500 different species blooming from May to July. Apart from the iris, they have other flowers, such as Chinese peonies and Lupines, bursting from their ground.

The tourist farm is a facility built to convey the importance of treasuring the food in front of us and the benefits of organic farming.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟
Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

Tip: To adore these varieties of flowers in one visit, come between late June to early July.

In addition to the flowers, Risoukyō has an activity menu for you to choose from. From making pizza and soba noodles to harvesting water shields in their pond, you can participate in plenty of things.

For more information, please refer to their website HERE.

Water shields are aquatic, perennial herbs with floating leaves that grow in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams.

Important: Reservation is required at least 5 days in advance.

Tip: If the number of participants in your group is less than the specified number of required participants, you can still enquire to see if booking is possible. They might have received bookings from other people and may be able to include you!

They also have a restaurant called Risoutei (鯉艸亭), where you can enjoy various vegetarian menus.

Risoukyō’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • Risoukyō is open from 9 am to 5 pm from the end of April to July.
  • From August to October, it is only open on Sundays and public holidays. If you would like to come on a weekday, a reservation is required.
  • The restaurant Resoutei is open
    • Daily except Thursdays in June and July
    • Sunday and public holidays in May
    • On weekdays in May and from August to October, a reservation is required
  • To reserve for the restaurant and/or activities, please call them at +81-176-2-2516.
  • The admission fee is
    • 400 yen (200 yen for elementary and junior high school students) from late April to mid-May and from August to late October
    • 800 yen (300 yen for elementary and junior high school students) from late May to late July
  • From Towada Art Center, it is around a 10 to 15-minute drive.

Takamoriyama Observatory (高森山展望台)

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

Towada is a city mainly composed of flat terrain. So if you are seeking a spot near the city center with a wide view of the mountain ranges up north, Takamoriyama Observatory to the west of the city center is one of the few choices available.

On the ground of Towada Horse Park Komakko Land (駒っこランド), there is this really simple-looking observatory that doesn’t quite fit into the scenery around.

If the weather is good, you will get a panoramic view of the rural landscapes of Towada City, Lake Ogawara (小川原湖), the Pacific Ocean, and Hakkōda Mountain Ranges (八甲田山) from the observatory.

Just note you won’t be able to see much at night from here. Even looking in the direction of the city center, there is just not enough light.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

Important: If you are still keen to head to the observatory at night, remember to bring a torch. There is no light around the observatory.

How to Get to Takamoriyama Observatory

No bus services are stopping by the observatory.

From the city center of Towada City, it is around a 15-minute drive.

Towada Horse Park Komakko Land (駒っこランド)

Towada City has been a famous region in Japan for horse breeding for a long time. Just like its name suggests, Towada Horse Park Komakko Land is a facility all about horses. In its museum, there is information that explains how horses have been indispensable to human life and the development of civilization since ancient times.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

Of course, you get to meet horses of various breeds when you visit the park. Although you won’t be able to wander off with one of their horses, it is possible to get on horseback (with a staff leading the horse).

One last thing to mention is that their 217.4-meter-long slide goes through the forest. Among the playsets on the park’s grounds, it is the one even adults can enjoy.

Important: Please note the facility has limited English explanations.

Towada Horse Park Komakko Land’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The park is open from 8:30 am to 6 pm generally, with individual facilities in the park closing between 3 pm to 5 pm.
    • The park closes on Mondays. If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day.
  • It is around a 15-minute drive from the city center of Towada.

Nanbu Sakiori no Sato (南部裂織の里)

Sakiori means rag weaving. The Nanbu Sakiori no Sato is a facility established in 2002. Here you can experience this Aomori’s traditional handicrafts.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

Because of the cold weather that isn’t suitable for cotton farming, back in ancient times, cotton was hard to come by in the Nanbu region (southern Aomori Prefecture to northern Iwate Prefecture).

So people treasured cotton clothes that even after their cotton clothing was torn to the point that it couldn’t be worn anymore, they combined the parts of the clothing that were still okay to make into other wearable clothes.

After the second world war, the techniques were once abandoned. But, in 1975, a preservation society was formed to pass on this folklore to the next generations.

The rag weaving in the Nanbu is characterized by using a finely split cloth for the weft and cotton yarn for the warp. Instead of weaving by hand, a weaving machine is used.

Rather than just checking out the workshop and the traditional machinery, you can weave your own Sakiori. In around 60 minutes, you can weave a cloth of a size of 20 cm x 25 cm. The cost of the workshop is 2,500 yen.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

For more information about the weaving experience, please refer to their website HERE.

Nanbu Sakiori no Sato’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Nanbu Sakiori no Sato is open from 10 am to 4 pm.
    • The last admission for weaving is at 2:45 pm.
  • The workshop is closed on Mondays. If Monday is a public holiday, it will be closed on Tuesday instead.
  • From the bus stop, Towada City Center (Towada-shi Chūō, 十和田市中央), take the Nanbu Bus (南部バス) services bound for Gonohe (五戸) and get off at Michi no Eki Towada (道の駅十和田).

Roadside Station Towada Towadapia (道の駅とわだ とわだぴあ)

Opposite Nanbu Sakiori no Sato is the roadside station of Towada. It is a typical Japanese roadside station designed for drivers to rest at and source some local fresh produce and specialties.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

What is special about Roadside Station Towada Towadapia is its soft-serve cone. You can choose either a soy milk-based or rice-based ice cream before adding toppings made from fresh fruits or vegetables.

And yes, you read it right, they turn vegetables into jams or powders and add them to their soft-serve cone. Since 2020, the most astonishing flavor is the black garlic soft serve.

For some reason, it doesn’t have the typical garlic smell. And if you add the powder to the rice-based ice cream. It somehow tastes like Café au lait!

Other original sweets we found interesting include carrot waffles, Chinese yam donuts, and cakes made from rice powder. Even if you don’t need a rest, stopping by this roadside station will definitely impress you one way or the other (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Tip: Their soy milk soft-serve is made from 100% soybeans if you are a vegan.

Roadside Station Towada Towadapia’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The roadside station is usually open from 9 am to 7 pm.
  • The restaurant is open from 11 am to 3 pm.
    • The last order is taken 30 minutes before the closing time.
  • The food counter is open from 11 am to 5 pm.
  • The cafe is open from 10 am to 5 pm.
  • The access information is the same as Nanbu Sakiori no Sato.

Oirase Gorge (奥入瀬渓流)

Click the photo to find out more information about this stunning destination!

After arriving at Towaday City, your scenic journey shouldn’t just stop there!

The 14 km Oirase Gorge (奥入瀬渓流) north of the city center of Towada is known as one of Japan’s most scenic spots. No matter which season you visit Oirase Gorge, you will definitely be amazed by its ethereal beauty (*´ω`).

Lake Towada (十和田湖)

Before heading to Oirase Gorge, the stunning Lake Towada is another destination in the city. Come here and enjoy the beautiful nature.

If you are bored of strolling around the virgin beech forest, there are also a couple of water sports you can participate in. And if you just want to sit still and let the astonishing scenery change in front of you, hop onto one of the sightseeing jetboats when you get there.

For more information, read our article on Lake Towada!

Click the photo to find out more about Lake Towada!

Discovering Other Attractions in Hachinohe

Click the photo to find out more about where these stalls are!

As Towada City might take you less than a day to explore, it can be a good idea to base in Hachinohe.

The city of Hachinohe is definitely one of the more unique cities in Japan. The biggest morning market in Japan is found here. And an alley full of stalls where you can randomly strike up a conversation with the owner or customers eating next to you!

To find out more about what to do and where to go in Hachinohe, please refer to our Hachinohe article (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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