Oirase Keiryu Mountain Stream
By Kyohei Yamato
(Japanese translation coming soon.)
The Oirase Keiryu is a stream of the Oirase River that extends approximately 14 km from Nenokuchi on the eastern shore of Lake Towada in Towada City, Aomori Prefecture, to the Yakeyama area. This road along the stream is also called Bakuhu Kaidou and there are many waterfalls along the mountain stream, many scenic spots and it’s also a popular spot for fishing on the way to Lake Towada. There are promenades along the roads and along the mountain stream, and the scenery is beautiful, so there are many tourists, especially during the spring and autumn.
In 1928, it was designated as a scenic spot and natural monument together with Lake Towada, and in 1936 it was designated as Towada National Park (now Towada Hachimantai National Park).
In 1952, it was upgraded to a special scenic spot and natural monument. The Oirase River is a ravine with a wide flat area on the valley floor with a wide distribution of plants that grow in a moist environment. The river flows from Lake Towada, which has a stable volume of water and often floods. As a result, the soil is rich and fertile.
Highlights of the Oirase Mountain Stream
There are four main streams at Oirase; the Shimeikei, the Samidare, the Ishigedo and the Ashura streams. Each stream has its own unique characteristic. The Shimeikei stream used to be a beautiful place with clear water flowing through a cobble-strewn riverbed, but now this area has been lost to the past due to the accumulation of sediment. However, it’s still a popular place for photographers in the winter.
The Samidare stream is narrow despite the abundance of water. A variety of plants grow on the rocks, which are well placed in the middle of the stream. The best time to photograph it is in mid-May, when the purple pines are in full bloom on the rocks.
The Ishigedo stream has rapids and is often seen in TV commercials. The Ashura stream is the most well-known and is featured on TV, in magazines and on posters. It is often crowded on weekends with people taking photos and painting pictures.
Kumoi Falls, which falls in three stages from a cliff surrounded by dense forests, is 20 meters high, has an abundance of water, and is one of the most spectacular waterfalls along the mountain stream. Kumoi Falls comes from tributaries into the mainstream of Oirase.
Choshi Falls is the largest waterfall along the Oirase Mountain Stream at 7 meters high and 20 meters wide. The flowing water creates a large amount of mist, and the sunshine through the trees creates many streaks of light. It is also called "fish stopping waterfall" because it prevents fish from entering the lake. It is the only waterfall that spans the mainstream of the Oirase River, and is very popular.
Trees, Plants and Wildlife
You can see many types of trees and plants along the Oirase stream, such as willow and alder trees. In May, the Euonymus and Helen grass bloom and as the leaves of the trees around them grow thicker, they are replaced by ferns and other shade-loving plants. If you are a bird watcher you can see many wild birds along the riverbank, including Sekko wagtails, Mandarin ducks, Kingfishers, Wrens and Red-Shouldered kites, among others.
Another type of wildlife is the Japanese goat-antelope, which can be seen throughout the year, but it’s easiest to spot them in the early spring and winter when the trees are not covered with leaves. You can also find two (four?) types of salamanders at Oirase; the Tohoku salamander, the Eurasian salamander, the Toucan salamander, and the Hakone salamander along the stream.
The Oirase Keiryu Mountain Stream is a beautiful place, so you should visit there and tell people about the charm of the Oirase Keiryu and recommend it as a World Heritage Site.