Tsuburo-ko: Nara’s Hidden Lake
Lake Tsuburo (“Tsuburo-ko”) is a reservoir tucked away in the mountainous town of Yoshino (the same town that contains the famous cherry blossom base of Yoshinoyama) in Nara Prefecture. It also happens to be the largest lake in Nara, famous nation-wide among anglers as a location to catch black bass, and an overall nice place to spend a day cycling or exploring on foot.
Possessing a perimeter of approximately 32 kilometers in length, Lake Tsuburo is a deceptively large, yet narrow body of water that was created in 1963 after the construction of the Tsuburo Dam for purposes of supplying water to the Nara Basin. The town also decided to turn the lake into an outdoor recreation area, installing pedestrian bridges, picnic areas, and a dock from which anybody can rent a small boat for a day, or take a relaxing and scenic ride in a barge.
In the spring (March – May), the shoreline of the lake bursts into the vibrant colors of cherry blossoms and various shades of new green leaves. Though the nearby area of Yoshinoyama is far more popular for cherry blossom-viewing, Lake Tsuburo can offer a welcome reprieve to those looking to escape from the crowds while also experiencing all the beauty that this region has to offer. In the fall, the surrounding forests take on shades of orange, yellow, and red, or what is known as “koyo” in Japanese.
The sheltered nature of this lake, shielded by the ridgelines which surround it, often gives it a calm, mirror-like surface on which all the beauty of the changing seasons are reflected in stunning clarity. In some of the most hidden and narrow branches of the lake, the reflection can take on a near-perfect double image, making for superb photo opportunities.
A narrow road follows the outer edge of the lake for most of its shore that can be utilized by car, bicycle or foot. As the length of the lake is quite long, there are a number of convenient pedestrian bridges that cross the lake at various points which allow those without a vehicle to see more of the lake in a shorter amount of time.
Surrounding Tsuburo are a bunch of interesting areas worth exploring as well. From the eastern edge of the lake and a bit to the south is the Yoshino Town district of Kuzu where Japanese washi paper is made in traditional workshops found next to the Yoshino River. In recent times, this area has begun to be revitalized by new migrants who are starting businesses that operate in such a way that they preserve the local traditional way of doing things.
To the north of the lake is the Ryumon area where the Yoshino Yamaguchi Shrine can be found alongside terraced rice fields in what is one of the few agricultural areas in the town. Nearby, Ryumon Peak towers over the entire region as the highest mountain within Yoshino at 904 meters and is accessible via a trailhead located about 20 minutes away from Lake Tsuburo by foot. This hiking course (link to starting point here) follows the Ryumon Gorge up to the beautiful Ryumon Waterfall, the Ryumon Temple ruins, and eventually the peak of the mountain itself.
Whatever your interest is in regards to outdoor recreation, Lake Tsuburoko and its immediate surroundings will almost certainly have something that appeals to you. Why not set aside some time on your next trip to Nara to visit this interesting part of Yoshino Town? We are sure you will have a great time.
It is most easy to access the lake by motor vehicle, but for those who wish to go on foot or bicycle, the lake is about 5.3 KM from Yamato-Kamiichi Station, following Road 169 along the Yoshino River to 256 (a sign marks the turn off point to the lake) which will take you directly up to Tsuburo Dam.
After graduating from university and moving to the Republic of Korea for a brief period, I came to Nara Prefecture to pursue my interest of learning more about the country of Japan and its history.
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