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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Japan’s National Parks: Towada-Hachimantai National Park

While it is true that distance can make the heart grow fonder, it is actually more true that it doesn’t.

In the case of Towada-Hachimantai National Park (十和田八幡平国立公園, Towada-Hachimantai Kokuritsu Kōen)—it is actually made up of two separate parks that lie separated by 50 kilometers (31 miles)… which could make for one hell of a portage.

For those who are not aware, portage is what you call it when you transport a canoe over land (between lakes or rivers) by having the overturned craft atop your head.

After leaving Japan, and working for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment back in Canada, I went canoeing/camping with some of the guys from work.

The fact that we were all writers should have raised warning flags all over the place. None of us were experienced outdoorsmen—given by the fact that I had to poop in the woods and nearly wiped my butt with the leaf of poison oak—some 10-year-old kid who was wandering by and who decided to poop near me gave me the heads up on that near-death-experience.

Anyhow… we had to portage our canoe from one lake to another… a 20 minute jaunt across a small northern Ontario forest… after an hour with a canoe on our head, we realized we were hopelessly lost.

We probably should have asked that helpful pooping kid for directions earlier… anyhow… are we not men? We are devo. D-E-V-O.

Another hour later, I was ready to cut holes in the front of the canoe so we could see where the heck we were going, because it sure wasn’t near any water.

Thirty more minutes later - just as we remove the canoe from our heads to smack the mosquitoes off our sweaty brows… we are tired, thirsty, and one of the guys has blisters on a foot, the other’s varicose veins are hurting and one of us is getting rash because the pine needles he used just weren’t all that effective.

We’re lying against a tree, with me wondering who I’m going to have to kill and eat first, when all of a sudden a bunch of teenagers go flying over our head with their bicycles… then a small family of four does the same… and then some joggers… and then another family of four - including one smug 10-year-old.

Stopping a lone rider on an 18-speed, we asked if he could direct us to either the main highway, the XXX parking lot or to a hotel.

He did all three… all of which were about a one-minute walk, but five minute hobble for all three of us.

We decided—instead of camping outside with all the gear we were lugging about, to happily pay whatever amount the hotel wanted to spend a night in comfy beds with a—for one person at least—a comfy shower.

Anyhow… Towada-Hachimantai National Park is one of three national parks in the Tōhoku
section in the north part of Japan’s main island, across Aomori-ken (Aomori Prefecture), Akita-ken (Akita Prefecture), and Iwate-ken (Iwate Prefecture).

There are plenty of forests, rivers, mountains, hiking trails and hot springs, and for those in the know, it is considered to be one of the best spots to go and view dying leaves in the Autumn.

The Towada-Hachimantai National Park, as mentioned, is separated by 50 kilometers, with the more northern park near Lake Towada and Mount Hakkoda, with the southern part being in the Hachimantai area.

From what I understand, however, is if you see one side of the park, you have pretty much seen it all. Both sides are beautiful with nature galore all over the place. I’m just saying it’s probably not worth the portage.

The park was established on February 1, 1936.

Yes… it does appear as though we walked in a circle and after canoeing across one lake, missed the path to the second lake, and instead managed to walk around the first lake to end up literally meters from where we had parked the car.  

Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo shows Oirase River in the Towada-Hachimantai National Park.

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