By Karyn Lo
Ever wondered what a lake tastes like? Perhaps you have read about tasting lakes in a previous article about the lakes near Mt Bandai in Fukushima? Or perhaps you just really like to look at pretty and colourful mini-lakes?
Well, staying closer to home, let’s take a look at the beautiful lakes in Aomori’s very own back ‘western’ yard… in the coastal area of Fukaura! The Juniko lakes, as implied not-so-cleverly by the name (oh Japan…) are a collection of 33 lakes surrounded by the beech forests of Aomori. Yup, 33 lakes. But at this site only 12 lakes are view-able from the collapsed mountain of Mt Ozukure, so in truth the name is aptly done.
Located in the UNESCO site of Shirakami Sanchi, this place is the perfect destination for a summer road trip within the prefecture! The area is nicely shaded, full of trees, and it’s an easy walk around to all the lakes. The most popular lake is the modest sized Aoike Lake, where the waters are a crisp, deep sapphire/azure/cobalt blue but somehow is completely clear when you peer through the water.
All of the other lakes are worth seeing during the gentle hike through the mountains, and during the summer season you might catch weird white sacks of frog eggs hanging off the trees or spy one of the many native kingfishers that fly around the area.
Now, I may boast of how pretty New Zealand is but when I visited these lakes I was really struck dumb (a rare occurrence for some) by the colours of these lakes. Being a Ghibli fan myself, I always picture the forest lake scenes in Mononokehime. So. Pretty. What. How.
How is a good question. For all those fans of Limnology (the study of lakes…not as boring as it sounds, believe me), which is probably not many, it turns out that the crazy rich blues and greens are created from…unknown means. Unknown! What! Algae, minerals, reflections, magic, somethingsomething…currently, there is no consensus on what causes the lakes amazing colours.
Well, forgetting that… if you get hungry during your nature hike… why not… taste the lake! Now I don’t recommend diving into these pristine lakes and procuring the wrath and scorn of naturists, the Japanese government, and the watching frogs… instead, you can go to a neighbouring small shop by the train station and purchase their delicious sounding Aoike Lake soft serve ice cream!
I can personally say, the ice cream is pretty delicious though I suspect there were liberties taken when naming the flavour of the ice cream.
Also, another relaxing detour on the way down the mountain is this little resting area. There isn’t a price for the green tea served by the wonderful ladies there, but instead there is a small donation box for keeping the spring water clear and clean. It sits across a beautifully green lake, so you can enjoy the scenery while drinking some freshly made green tea. Perfect.
Address: Matsukami-yama, Matsukam, Nishitsugaru-gun Fukaura-machi, Aomori
Phone: 0173-74-3320 (Fukaura-machi Tourist Association)
A car is recommended, but the closest train station is the JR Juniko. There is a bus from the station to the lakes.
Train – Special express from Aomori Station, or a regular train from Hirosaki Station. 15 minutes by Konan Bus to Juniko from Juniko Station (JR). Get off at Juniko Yogyojo (bus service stopping anywhere you wish from April to early November).
The building ‘Kyuroro’ is a good place to park/arrive at for the bus and start your walk around. They have maps of the lakes, a café, and some souvenirs to purchase.
Stop by the famous outdoor onsen, Furofushi onsen, on the way out of Fukaura. Though if you want to watch the sun set while bathing in the beach onsen, you might want to reserve ahead at the adjacent hotel/resort so you can stay there later than 4pm.
Insect repellent spray. Seriously. Be liberal if you don’t want to offer yourself as a delicious feast for all those mosquitoes out there, and become a walking mosquito swarm.
It can also get a bit muddy walking around the trails, so some solid shoes is a good idea!
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