From Tokyo, take the Tohoku Shinkansen train from Ueno or Tokyo Station to Morioka and then the Akita Shinkansen to Tazawako Station. (You can travel via some Shinkansen the entire distance from Tokyo without having to transfer.) The trip takes about 3 hours and costs ¥15,240 for a reserved seat. Tazawako is one stop before Kakunodate. You can also reach Tazawako Station by Towada Taxi sightseeing bus (tel. 0186/35-2111) from Yasumiya on Lake Towadafrom mid-April to October for ¥6,000. Buses depart Yasumiya at 9am and reach Tazawako Station at 4pm, with stops at scenic spots along the way; reservations are required. From Tazawako Station you must then board a bus to all the recommendations below, including Nyuto Onsen.
Visitor Information -- For information on Lake Tazawa and vicinity, including skiing and bus schedules throughout the region, or for hotel reservations, stop by the Tazawako Tourist Information Center inside Tazawako Station (tel. 0187/43-2111; daily 8:30am-6:30pm). They also offer one computer with free Internet access and a topographical model of the area. More information is available at www.city.semboku.akita.jp. For information on Nyuto Onsen, see its website at www.nyuto-onsenkyo.com.
Orientation & Getting Around -- The town of Tazawako, in Akita Prefecture, is the transportation launching pad for visiting the southern region of Towada-Hachimantai National Park. Buses depart from the Tazawako Bus Terminal across from Tazawako Station for Lake Tazawa, area ski resorts, Mount Komagatake, and Nyuto Onsen hot-spring spas. Ask for bus schedules at the Tazawako Tourist Information Center.
Lake Tazawa is just a 15-minute bus ride from Tazawako Station; note that some buses stopping here go onward to Tazawako Skijo ski resort, Kogen Onsen, and Nyuto Onsen, all of which lie northeast of the lake. Otherwise, a bus departs Tazawako Station approximately every hour for Tazawako Skijo (a 30-min. ride), Kogen Onsen (37 min.), and Nyuto Onsen (45 min.). In Nyuto Onsen, there's a bus that runs between the seven hot-spring spas; after purchasing the Yumeguri-cho ticket book for ¥1,500 at your inn, you can make reservations for the bus and enter all seven hot-spring baths at no extra charge.
Car Rentals -- Tazawako is a good starting point for driving excursions through Towado-Hachimantai National Park. JR Eki Rent-A-Car (tel. 0187/43-1081) is located beside Tazawako Station. For Toyota Rent-A-Car in Tazawako, call tel. 0187/43-2100.
Lake Towada & Oirase Stream
Getting There -- As Lake Towada does not lie close to a train station, your final journey to the lake must be by bus to Yasumiya, a small village on Lake Towada with a tourist office and a few accommodations. The bus rides are through scenic, mountainous terrain (you might want to pack some Dramamine). The name of the bus stop in Yasumiya is Towadako.
From Tokyo, take the 3-hour Shinkansen train to Hachinohe (fare: ¥15,350), and then board a JR bus to Yasumiya, which takes about 2 1/4 hours and costs ¥2,600. If you're arriving from Hokkaido, take the train to Aomori. Outside Aomori Station, to the left, you can board a JR bus from platform no. 8 bound for Lake Towada, with the last stop at Yasumiya 4 hours later and costing ¥3,000. If you have a JR Rail Pass, you can ride both these buses for free (but not with a JR East Pass). Note also that both these buses travel on the road beside the hiking trail along Oirase Stream and make several stops there, with about five or six runs daily (less frequently in winter). You must make a reservation for the JR bus in advance at a major JR train station or travel agency. For more information, contact the JR bus company in Aomori at tel. 017/723-1621 or visit www.jrbustohoku.co.jp.
Car Rentals -- JR Eki Rent-A-Car has offices at Aomori Station (tel. 017/722-3930) and Morioka Station (tel. 019/624-5212). Toyota Rent-A-Car also has offices in Aomori Station (tel. 017/739-0115) and near Morioka Station (tel. 019/622-0100).
Visitor Information -- Before leaving Tokyo or the Narita or Kansai airports, pick up the "Towada-Hachimantai National Park" leaflet at the Tourist Information Center, or download it from JNTO's website at www.jnto.go.jp by looking under "Browse by Destinations." In Yasumiya, the Lake Towada Information Center (tel. 0176/75-2425; daily 8am-5pm) is located next to the JR Bus Center (to the right after you exit the bus terminal's main door).
Orientation & Getting Around -- Yasumiya, a village on the southwestern shore of Lake Towada, has a bus terminal, a tourist office, and a handful of accommodations and restaurants. On the eastern side of the lake is Nenokuchi, trail head for hikes along Oirase Stream. The JR buses that run between Yasumiya and Aomori or Hachinohe also stop at Nenokuchi and several locations along the Oirase hiking trail (including Oirase Keiryu Grand Hotel), making approximately a dozen runs a day from April to early November. Otherwise, your best bet for travel between Yasumiya and Nenokuchi is via sightseeing boat .