Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Yakeyama – The Entrance of the Stunning Oirase Gorge

Yakeyama area (焼山) is said to be the entrance to Oirase Gorge (or the goal if you are coming from Lake Towada). As a base for visitors to rejuvenate from hiking and trekking, the area has a number of restaurants, ryokans/hotels, a ski resort, and even the most temperamental Ginkgo in Japan!

Yakeyama Oirase Gorge Aomori Japan
Towada city

Depending on how you want to organize your itinerary, you may want to stay at one of the hotels at the Oirase Gorge Onsen.

The onsen town was previously known as Lake Towada Onsen Town, but the name got changed in mid-2020 so that people won’t get confused or get mixed up with the location of the town as Lake Towada is actually 14 km away (´▽`*).

Here are a couple of attractions in Yakeyama that you might want to stop by.

Oirase Stream Gifts and Restaurant (渓流の駅おいらせ)

If you are hungry or want to get some fresh fruits (the famous Aomori apples), Oirase Stream Gifts & Restaurant is a good place to stop by.

Here, you can find a variety of apples sourced locally from Aomori prefecture. There is even a table available that you can refer to for the sweetness and crunchiness of each different type of apple on sale (*´ω`).

Important: if you are a vegetarian, you might not be able to find anything vegetarian at the restaurant.

Nonohana Yakeyamaso (野の花焼山荘)

Nonohana Yakeyamaso Oirase Gorge Aomori Japan
Ⓒ Aomori prefecture

You have probably been to a traditional Japanese ryokan, but have you ever been to one with tatami mats throughout the hotel?

We love the natural straw smell of tatami mats, and the feeling of walking on (or even lying on) one is fabulous!

This is the hotel that we highly recommend if you plan to stay at Yakeyama/Oirase Gorge Onsen (≧▽≦).

At Nonohana Yakeyamaso, apart from the usual table tennis corner, they also have a kids’ corner and aroma lamp (with four essential oils to choose from) that you can borrow from the reception for free!

Nonohana Yakeyamaso’s Onsen Facilities

  • During weekdays, their outdoor bathing area can be reserved for private uses
    • The cost is 1,200 yen per 40 minutes
  • If you are traveling with infants, the hotel has equipment for babies to enjoy!
  • Just like Tsuta Onsen, the onsen facilities at Nonohana Yakeyamaso are shared between male and female guests. Specific timeslots are allocated to each gender. Please check with the reception for the timeslots to avoid any potentially embarrassing moments… (´▽`*)

For more details about the hotel, please refer to their English website HERE!

The one negative thing about this hotel is that they don’t cater to a vegetarian diet. But you can still stay at the hotel with the meals excluded options (^_-)-☆.

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Yakeyama.

Oirase Gorge Onsen Ski, Snowboard, and Spa Resort (奥入瀬渓流温泉スキー場)

When you visit Yakeyama area, if you love skiing or snowboarding, then don’t miss out on this awesome resort (no accommodation, though)!

If you are coming during the warmer months, you will be able to stroll around the resort to enjoy walking in between the blossomed small flowers on the roadsides!

Oirase Gorge Onsen Ski, Snowboard & Spa Resort Ski Course
Ⓒ Aomori prefecture

How Much Does It Cost to Enjoy the Resort?

Whether you want to ski or snowboard, the equipment rental fee is 3,500 yen. Using the lift to get to the top of the course will cost you around:

  • 260 yen one-way for adults
  • 210yen for elementary school students and the elderly, 60 years old and above

If you plan to use the lifts more than 6 times, then you might want to get a ticket valid for 4 hours. The cost is:

  • 1,570 yen for adults
  • 1,150 yen for primary school students and people who are 60 years old and above
Oirase Gorge Onsen Ski, Snowboard & Spa Resort Aomori Japan
Ⓒ Aomori prefecture

A 1-day ticket will cost you around:

  • 2,720 yen for adults
  • 2,200 yen for elementary school students and the elderly, 60 years old

So it is time to do some forecasting of your energy level and maybe grab a calculator to see which lift tickets you want to purchase (´▽`*).

Winter nights are long as the resorts are open from 9 am to 10 pm. If you plan on visiting at night via the night lift ticket, then this may actually save you more money!

The ticket will cost you:

  • 1,570 yen for adults
  • 830 yen for elementary school students and the elderly, 60 years old and above

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Yakeyama.

Hōryō Ginkgo Tree (法量のイチョウ)

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

If you like Ginkgo trees, the 4th biggest Ginkgo tree is around a 30 – 40 minutes walk from Yakeyama. This tree is estimated to be around 1,100 years old!

When you venture out there, you will definitely be amazed by the scale of this tree. The 30-meter tall tree has a trunk with a circumference of 14.5 meters. In 1926, it became a National Natural Monument, making it one of the five Ginkgo trees in Japan that has received this fame.

The tree is said to have been planted by Nansonobō (南祖坊), the main character of the legend of Lake Towada. Accordingly to the legend, he was born in Zenshō Temple (善正寺), which used to be here. For more information about the legend, please read on Lake Towada.

The small worship hall in front of the tree is for mothers to pray for an ample amount of breastmilk.

Why are women praying for breastmilk to a tree? It is all to do with its aerial roots. The aerial roots growing out of its thick trunk at a height of 7 meters resemble the idea of female breasts. So the tree used to be called “Chichi Morai no Ki (乳もらいの木), which means a tree you can get milk from.

When to See the Fall Color at Hōryō Ginkgo Tree

If you are keen to see the tree turn bright yellow in early November, remember to pray really hard way before your trip to Oirase Gorge.

The tree is known to be the most temperamental Ginkgo in Japan. You rarely get to see Hōryō Ginkgo Tree in autumn color. It only happened 4 times in the last 20 – 30 years, in 2021, 2018, 2009, then 1997.

The problem with the tree is its location. If it snowed when the leaves were still green, the leaves would start falling before they turned yellow. And even if the color managed to turn yellow, the leaves might just fall down in a matter of a day!

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Yakeyama.

Former Kasaishi Family Residence (旧笠石家住宅)

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

On the other side of the Oirase River, there is a thatched-roof house built in the second half of the 18th century. It is an attraction for you to peek into the farmer’s lifestyle in the late Edo period.

Kasaishi family had been in the forestry industry for generations. The house was built to be their residence and home office.

Around one-third of the house is a stable. Other parts of the house are divided into kitchen, bedrooms, workshop, living room, and storage.

Tools that were used at the time are on display for you to imagine how people only 2 centuries ago used to live.

The house became a National Important Cultural Property in 1973.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

Lake Towada Folk Museum (十和田湖民俗資料館)

Just next to the Former Kasaishi Family Residence, the Lake Towada Folk Museum was built to complement what is on display in the residence. Due to rapid changes in the living environment and lifestyle, the museum was founded to preserve folklore and folk materials.

Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟
Ⓒ 青森県観光連盟

If you would like, you are welcome to hold up many of the living materials in the museum in your hands. Sometimes touching the equipment/tools can give you a completely different feeling compared to just observing.

The Opening Hours and Access Information of Former Kasaishi Family Residence and Lake Towada Folk Museum

  • The facilities are open from
    • 9 am to 4:30 pm from April to October
    • Between Nov to Mar, it closes early at 4 pm
    • Both facilities are closed on Tuesdays and from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January
  • From Yakeyama, it will be easier if you rent a bike from Oirase Stream Museum (奥入瀬渓流館(奥入瀬フィールドミュージアム)
  • If you are coming by bus from the city center of Towada, please get off at Katakaizawa (片貝沢). From there, it is a 20-minute walk

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Yakeyama.

Your Guide to the Stunning Oirase Gorge

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

The 14 km Oirase Gorge (奥入瀬渓流) in Aomori prefecture 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`).

Choshi-Falls-Oirase-Gorge-Aomori-Japan
Click the photo for more information about Oirase Gorge!

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