IRIS Day at Lake Tazawa

IRIS is a South Korean television drama starring the popular South Korean actor Lee Byung-hun. Most of the main scenes were filmed for three weeks in Akita Prefecture, located in the northwestern part of Japan.

The route to Tazawako is through the JR Ou Line and JR Tazawako Line from Akita Station. What immediately caught my eye upon arriving at Tazawako Station is the big “Welcome to Akita” sign painted on the stairway with this life-size promotional poster of IRIS.

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The best and most picturesque scenes of IRIS were shot in Lake Tazawa, where the gold-colored statue of Tatsuko can be seen seemingly guarding the lake’s sapphire-blue waters. Lake Tazawa, a crater lake whose depth is 423 meters, is Japan’s deepest lake. Because of its depth, it never freezes!

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Its color changes from jade green to indigo blue depending on the season and the different legends about it contribute to the mysterious atmosphere surrounding it. There are different versions of the legend, and the romantic version about a beautiful lady Tatsuko and her lover was briefly mentioned in IRIS.

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Scenes from the drama and movie version are all over Tazawako Station. The second floor of the station is where photographs and memorabilia of IRIS 1 and 2 as well as IRIS The Movie are on display.

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Scenes from Iris 2
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Scenes from Iris 1

There are several buses going to Tazawa-Kohan station on the lake’s eastern shore. The bus stop is located to your right as you exit Tazawako Station. The bus ride takes around 15 minutes to reach the lake. It stops at Tazawa Kohan Station before travelling clockwise, stopping at various points allowing tourists to take some pictures, before returning to Tazawa Station.

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Japan’s deepest lake changes colors from jade green to indigo blue.
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Gozo no Ishi Shrine – located on bedrock ledge, where the lord of Akita in the feudal period had rested

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One can have a detour to Tsurunoyu and Nyuto Onsen (hot spring village), where the scene in which the main leads went to a hot spring for a date was shot. It is also the inn where Hyunjun (Lee Byung Hun’s character) hid having escaped from Hungary.

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The snowy road to Nyuto Onsen – filming site of romantic scenes in IRIS
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I wasn’t prepared for this! It was still winter here and it’s the last week of March.

The best part of this trip was my decision to visit Nyuto Onsen, a hot spring village consisting of seven hot spring inns scattered in a large area at the foot of Mt. Nyuto. I randomly chose Taenoyu Onsen, which means “golden water” and “silver water”, and I was glad because I had the onsen and open-air bath all by myself. Just the perfect way to relax my tired body and enjoy the quietness of the mountains.

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I had this onsen only for myself

A day is enough to explore the lake and its surroundings. However, I wasn’t able to go to Tamagawa Dam where the killer Vick (played by Big Bang’s TOP) slid down its slope. IRIS is the main reason why I went to Akita, but I fell in love with the place just the same, so there are many reasons to come back.

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