Tohoku is a region located in Japan’s northwest. It is far wilder than other regions, with fewer of the high-tech city centers that Japan is known for. 

The region has endless unspoiled rural landscapes, historical landmarks, scenic spots, and lots of outdoor adventures. Abundance of powder snow in the winter attract thousands of winter sports lovers.

If you are looking to see the best of Tohoku, you can often find it on the shores of the region’s many lakes. The waters of Tohoku are beautiful to behold and are home to many activities, including sightseeing, rating, kayaking, and more.

These lakes are unspoiled and give you a glimpse into the landscape that helped shape the beauty of Japanese culture.

Here are seven of the best lakes to visit in Tohoku!

1. Lake Towada

Lake Towada in Autumn, Tohoku. Photo Credit: Agustin Rafael Reyes at Flickr.

This caldera lake is a wonderful sight at any time of year, though many insist that it’s at its best for the fall colors. When you visit this lake you will know why it is considered one of the best lakes to visit in the Tohoku region. 

This page shows you the best autumn leaves in the Tohoku region alongside this beautiful lake.  

Regardless of when you visit, Lake Towada has plenty to offer. Enjoy local salmon and locally produced wine on the shore as you take in the lakeside vista.

Enjoy a unique, in-depth sightseeing tour on one of the excursion boats that carry visitors around the lake, or enjoy canoeing for a more intense experience.

You can get to Lake Towada by taking a bus to the visitor center from JR Aomori Station. Bus service is suspended during the winter, so you’ll have to take a taxi or rent a car to get there in the colder months.

2. Lake Tazawa

Tatsuko, the golden statue in the western shore of Tazawako (Lake Tazawa, Akita Prefecture. Photo Credit: bryan…

Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan at 423 meters deep. The lake’s color varies with the season and weather, so it could be either sapphire blue or jade green.

The lake is nearly a perfect circle and there’s something to see on every shore. The Goza-no-ishi Shrine is located on the north side, instantly recognizable with its bright torii gate rising near the waters.

In the west, you’ll find a golden statue of a beautiful woman named Tatsuko rising above the water. It depicts a woman who is said to have been turned into a dragon and is now the guardian of Lake Tazawa.

You’ll find shops and restaurants on the lake’s eastern side. If you’d like to get an even better view of Lake Tazawa, take a sightseeing boat tour.

You can also take one of the six daily tour buses that leave from the eastern side to see the whole lake.

Reach Lake Tazawa by train by taking the JR Akita Shinkansen Komachi train from Tokyo to Tazawako station, via Omiya, Sendai, or Morioka (you’ll need reservations for this train).

You can also get there by bus by taking the JR or Willer highway bus from Tokyo to Morioka station in Iwate, then taking a local train to the lake.

3. Lake Inawashiro 

View of Mt. Bandai from Lake Inawashiro. Photo Credit: Σ64 at Wikimedia Commons.

Known as the “Heavenly Mirror Lake”, Lake Inawashiro is the fourth largest freshwater lake in Japan. Iwahashi Shrine on the lakeshore is beautiful, especially in spring when the cherry trees bloom.

In warmer months, you can enjoy many different marine sports and activities.

Autumn brings spectacular colors to the lakeside foliage. In winter, skiing and snowboarding can be found nearby.

The lake is located about three hours by train from Tokyo. Take a train to Inawashiro Station, then take a bus (or a 7-kilometer walk) to the lake.

4. Lake Juni (Juniko)

Aoike blue pond of Lake Juni. Photo Credit: Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization.

Lake Juni is in fact 33 ponds and lakes surrounded by a beech forest located in the western part of the Shirakami-Sanchi mountainous area. The most famous is the clear crystalline cobalt blue Aokie.

The area is part of a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site.

There is also Wakitsubo no Ike, a famous spring with bright blue waters. You can take a break from sightseeing at the Juniko-an teahouse.

Lake Juni is only open from April to November. Take a train to JR Juniko Station, then take a bus to Oku-Juniko Parking Lot.

5. Goshikinuma Lake

Rurinuma. Photo Credit: Urabandai Tourism.

Goshikunuma (Five Colored Ponds) is a group of volcanic lakes, ponds and marshes. 

The numerous lakes found here are various colors: turquoise, rusty red, bright green. Among them Bishamonnuma, Akanuma, Midoronuma, Tatsunuma, Bentennuma, Rurinuma, Aonuma and Yanaginuma are quite famous.

This area is a beautiful relief from nearby busy Tokyo and a perfect place to admire beautiful nature of Tohoku.

Take a hike through the wooded area. You can also rent a small rowboat to explore the lakes up close and personal. You’ll see beautiful foliage on the shore and lovely koi fish beneath the clear surface of the water.

After your busy day is over, or if you just want to get some refreshment, stop by the visitor center.

To get there by train, go to Koriyama Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen. Then take the Banetsu West Line headed to Aizu-Wakamatsu station and get off at Inawashiro station.

6. Tsuta Numa Lake

Tsuta Numa Lake in Autumn. Photo Credit: TOHOKU × TOKYO

This large lake offers incredible hiking that leads you along a serene lakeshore.

The wooden boardwalk on the lakeside allows you to see just why this lake has gone down in legend, especially as the setting of the legend of Princess Tsuta.

At night, both the stars and fireflies appear. In spring, Japanese irises bloom near the boardwalk.

To get to Tsuta Numa Lake, take a train to JR Shin-Aomori Station. From there take a JR bus and get off at Tsuta Onsen.

7. Lake Gandoko

Smelt fishing in winter, Lake Gandoko. Photo Credit: Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization.

Located in the coldest part of Honshu island, Lake Gandoko is famous for its ice fishing.

Provided you get a fishing ticket and have rented the right equipment, you can join in the smelt fishing from January to the middle of March.

You can catch anywhere from 30 to 250 fish- or even more, if you can; some fisherman will pull as many as 500.

Take a train to JR Morioka Station on the Morioka-Iwaizumi (Ryusendo) Line.

Take a bus from Morioka Station East Exit Boarding Area 1 and get off at Gandoko Rest House.