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 (Wikipedia.org). 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 (Wikipedia.org).
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 (semboku.akita.jp).
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 (Wikipedia.org).
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.
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.