I visited both Osorezen and Yagen on the same day, but it was a bit of a rush to get to Yagen on-time and I am not sure if you could do this unless you stay at Hotel New Yagen who will send a shuttle to pick you up from the bus stop at Ohata (you have to take the bus first from Mutsu/Shimokita to Osorezen, then back, then grab another bus to Ohata from the Mutsu/Shimokita station, and you have to time them perfectly, which gives you a couple of hours at Osorezen). I speak a little Japanese which made this a pretty simple trip, communication-wise, but the women at the Tourist info booth next to the Shimokita station spoke good english and was very helpful. Note that there is a new tourist info booth at the Shimokita station so you don't need to get to the bus stop in Mutsu. You can even catch the bus to Osorezen/Yagen from there.
The problem with getting to either location (Yagen/Osorezen) is that there are very few JR Ominato trains that run from Noheji to Matsu/Shimokita (a couple a day, if I recall correctly) so even if you get to Noheji early, you may have a wait a long time for the train which limits what you can do that day.
The Hotel New Yagen is pretty neglected and not worth the cost, so I would not recommend as a good Ryokan/Hotel experiance, but it is convenient and a short walk to the onsens and the people are friendly.
There are three Onsen worth visiting, two of which are marked as "closed" and unusable(both the famous Kapa Onsen and another that is not often market on English maps, but lies along the river on the right hand side of the road about 1/2 way between the Hotel New Yagen and the Kapa Onsen). However, I met some Japanese locals on the walk to both and they encouraged me to use them anyhow. In fact, the Hotel owners said that I was no allowed to go into the Kapa Onsen but there were several older Japanese using it and when I asked if i could come in, the welcomed be warmly. Both are amazing. Truly spiritual experiances. I was alone in the one and it was like almost no other experiance in my life - the rain was falling lightly, the onsen is just a few feet above the height or the river water and no one was around.
It is a long haul back to Tokyo but it's do-able in a day. Many Japanese have no clue where these places are so if you visit, you will have a few good stories to tell when you return.
- Wow, sounds great. I stayed with a friend of mine who lived in Misawa for a few months, and this was one of the many places we visited. We set north in our Hilux Surf, with some nice firewood, guitars, and hiking gear. We ended up staying at the Yagen Campground, which is staffed by a groundskeeper who (at least when we were there) spoke some English. Knowing some japanese will definitely get you a long way especially if you want to socialize. After a nice day of hiking around up and down the river and some 4x4 adventures on a VERY tight dirt mountain road, we headed back to the campground, struck camp, and started barbecuing. You'll find on the left side of the campground that there is a sizeable bbq pit in addition to toilets.
- After dinner we went to the central fire pit, which was vacant, but flanked by some japanese making 'campfires' in their little grills. They watched in curiosity and surely some degree of amazement as the tall gaijin returned time after time with deadwood from the neighboring forest and stacked it up a nice log cabin. We set a match to it, stood back, and cracked open some sapporos. While things were getting going, the neighboring japanese came by and asked if they might sit down and join us. Hell! It was a communal fire pit! So lo, it was me, my tall german friend and 15 or so locals going over the finer points of fire-building and exchanging drinks and stories. Yagen is probably one of my favorite memories from Japan, and I'm amazed at how wild the country is outside of the urban areas. Pristine, untouched, and rarely visited, yet still accessible via excellent roads. Just make sure that as a gaijin you help to keep everything as nice as it is. The natural beauty of these areas is as fragile as it is revered by the locals.
- -Godzilla (220.127.116.11 15:45, 11 July 2011 (EDT))