Monday, January 28, 2013

Lake Tazawa and Lady Tatsuko

The second part of our first 3-part bus trip was an interesting study in contrasts. Our trip had actually started with a short stop at a cherry-blossom lined valley, where we bought snacks, took pictures, soaked in the sunlight, and distracted a large group of elderly people playing croquet. After going from that to the beautiful river, still bathed in sunshine, I thought for a while that the sun would stay all day. It didn't. And while the lake we traveled to next, called Lake Tazawa, was beautiful and interesting as a tourist, I was dismayed at the grey clouds which erased all the color that had dazzled me just an hour earlier. Such is early spring in Japan, I suppose.
(The beautiful sunny beginning of the day.)

Lake Tazawa has many claims to fame. First of all, it is the deepest lake in Japan. It's maximum depth is 423 meters, or roughly 1388 feet, and because of its depth it never freezes ( It's depth also causes the water to be a beautiful, rich blue color. It is flanked by Japan's largest ski resort, Tazawa Ski Area, as well as several famous onsen, or hot springs (

It is also famous for the golden statue of a beautiful woman, named Tatsuko. The legend surrounding this statue says that Tatsuko was a woman of great beauty. Fearing the fleeting nature of such beauty, Tatsuko prayed at a shrine for 100 nights that her good looks would remain. On the last night, she received a message to drink from a holy spring. Perhaps because of her vanity, instead of granting her everlasting beauty, the drink turned her into a guardian dragon to watch over the lake (Oh Tazawako Blog). However, maybe in the end she received her wish, now that her image has been immortalized in the form of the gold statue, made by Yasutake Funakoshi in 1968 (

(The Golden Tatsuko. This picture belongs to a friend of mine.)

If you were to google image search Lake Tazawa, you would find hundreds of beautiful landscapes, with clear skies, deep blue water, bright white boats, and the golden charm of Tatsuko. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, by the time we got there it was cold and grey. Although the lake was still beautiful, it was mostly due to the fact that nature can never really be plain. As such, my pictures are all quite monochromatic.

Our time was short. As we filed out of the bus, we were all handed a prepackaged bento, or boxed lunch. These were actually quite tasty, consisting of rice, Japanese pickles, fried potato dumplings, noodle salad, hamburger patties, fried chicken pieces, and fruit. As we munched, we gazed out at the mountains hovering over the expansive lake. Close by was a small shrine, flanked by beautiful stone lanterns decorated by engraved kanji characters, as well as two stone lion guardians. Many people bought fortunes printed out on thin strips of paper called omikuji. Tradition grants people a fail-safe against bad or bland fortunes, by allowing them to tie the strips of paper to near-by ropes. This is supposed to erase bad luck, and create a blank slate for another chance at good luck (

(The shrine at Lake Tozawa. You can see the stone lantern in front there, just on the sand.)

(A close up to show you the kanji inscribed in the lantern.)

(The stone lion guarding the shrine.)

(The numerous  fortunes bought and tied at the shrine for better luck.)

Having finished our meals, Justin and I went to greet the golden Tatsuko, and had our picture taken beside her. Reaching her required a bit of dexterity, as we crossed over jagged and wet rocks. I think perhaps you cannot reach her if the tide is high. Thinking back now, I hope we didn't commit a culture faux pas by going all the way out to her.

(Me and Justin beside the beautiful Tatsuko.)

When we loaded back on to the bus, I think we spent a mere 45 minutes at Lake Tazawa. Someday, I hope to return on a nicer day. They offer boat trips, which sound lovely, and I wouldn't mind going to one of the onsen or the ski resort to gaze down at the beautiful, deep blue that Tatsuko calls her home.  


  1. I like that custom of tying bad or mediocre fortunes to a rope for better luck. Cultural traditions from around the world fascinate me: the locks on Ponte Vecchio in Italy are another very beautiful and interesting custom.

  2. It's really interesting! I just googled Ponte Veccio, and what a romantic tradition! I immediately wanted to that with my boyfriend but then read that there's a 50 euro penalty if you get caught because so many people did it. Sad panda. :(

  3. I had a wonderful day here and at Kakunodate during a three day visit to Akita where I spoke about child forensic interviewing at the university. My Japanese nurse colleagues, friends of several years, were such wonderful tour guides and we loved the beauty ( and the great sake ) of the area, with its lush green rice fields and early spring blooms.

    Your photos and writing brought back wonderful memories.