Okutadami is worth a visit if you like unusual drives. The access road up there is 22 kilometers long and the majority of it is tunnels dug into the mountains. They are pretty narrow all the way, with rough rock wall for much of it, which makes the tour buses coming the other way feel very close indeed. We headed up on a summer day with an outside temperature of 27 degrees. It was half that in the tunnels and on emerging into the sunlight again the car was quickly covered in condensation.
Okutadami is a huge lake that stretches over to Oze. You can get a boat all the way across there though we opted for a quick 40 minute cruise. You pop out of the tunnel and a couple of bends later find yourself in the car park with several restaurants offering refreshments. The dam rears up on your right in all its concrete glory. To get to the lake and the boats you can either opt for the 15 minute walk up a path or take the little funicular “Slope Car” which costs an additional hundred yen.
Once at the top you have another 5 minutes of walk to the jetty with some fine views of the dam and a lookout into the valley below.
There are a few different boats offering trips across or around the lake. We took a trip on Fantasia which is a little paddle boat that does a short 40 minute loop. It has big picture windows which afford great views. Apparently autumn time is the best season with a fantastic array of colors on display. The day we went, the crew were dressing kids up in a captain’s uniform and letting them up front to see what it is like to pilot the boat. That plus a cup of shaved ice and syrup was certainly a highlight for the little people with us.
There is also a ski resort up there - Okutadami Maruyama. It usually opens up early in the season then shuts midwinter due to the huge amount of snow, opening up again for a long spring season.