Akan National Park is a volcanic area with craters spread throughout the forest. It also contains three crystal clear lakes. The area surrounding these lakes is covered with forests and dotted with hot springs.
Akan is one of Hokkaido’s most unique tourist attractions with its mysterious, foggy Lake Mashu, the marimo algae balls in Lake Akan and the “heated” beach at the Sunayu hot springs.
The best place to stay is Akanko Onsen, a small hot spring resort on the edge of lake Akan. It also makes a good base from which to explore both the Akan National Park and the nearby Red-Crested Crane National Park.
These cranes are the official birds of Hokkaido, and south of Akan is a breeding ground for these beautiful creatures. The Akan International Crane Center is about 40 minutes by bus from Akanko Onsen. Akan National Park features a rich natural landscape of primeval forests surrounding crater lakes that were formed by volcanic activities.
Figure: Algae balls at Akan National Park (It is said that it takes approximately 150 to 200 years for an algae ball to grow into 6 cm diameter.)
Access to Akan National Park:
By train – 4hrs 41min (9120 yen) to Kushiro Station from Sapporo Station
By car – 430km from Sapporo (buses run from JR Mashu Station)
By plane – 45min (14500 yen) to Memambetsu Airport from New Chitose Airport
Onneto is a small lake at the foot of Mr. Meakan. With sulfurous hot springs rising from the lake bottom, the lake varies from green to blue, depending on season and weather. This has earned the lake the nickname of “five-color lake.”
The name “Onneto” is believed to derive from the Ainu word for “old lake.” This lake is one of Hokkaido’s three most mysterious lakes, along with Lake Okotanpe near Lake Shikotsu and Lake Shinonome located to the east of Lake Shikaribetsu.
Access: Take Akan Bus, bound for Akan Kohan and Onneto, from Akanko Bus Center (30 min.) (in operation only between summer and the autumn foliage season): 970 yen (adult)
Lake Akan (Akan-ko)
Until approximately 6,000 years ago, lakes Akan, Penketo, Panketo, Lake Koakan constituted a single lake. (The last two of these now are on the side opposite Mt. Oakan.) This caldera lake was formed by the eruption of Mt. Oakan. Marimo, an alga that grows in spherical colonies, inhabits the lake. The alga was designated as a special National Natural Monument.
Lake Akan is famous for its marimo algae balls. Marimo are bright green perfectly spherical balls of algae, which form by rolling on the bottom of the lake. They are unique to Lake Akan and (believe it or not) have been designated a National Natural Monument. The lake is home to many small islands and is surrounded by a deep green forest. Lake Akan Onsen is a hot spring area located on the south shore the lake. It consists of a collection of hotels, restaurants and omiyage (souvenir) shops. If you are looking for onsen, you can visit the public hot springs called Marimo Yu, located across the street from the main boat dock. Another place is the Akan View Hotel. This is a more elaborate facility offering pools, water slides and onsen pools.
Most Japanese visitors take a boat cruise on the lake. The boat makes a stop at a small island where there is a marimo museum. It takes about 1-½ hours. There is also a sunset dinner cruise during the summer months that takes about 2 hours. If you’re feeling a little more energetic, you can take a canoe trip to the uninhabited Island of Yaitai. It’s a good chance to spot some of the local wildlife. Fishing for rainbow trout, steelhead, and spotted char is also a popular activity.
It is said that it takes approximately 200 years for marimo to grow as large as a baseball. It is also believed that marimo rolls over the lake bottom and becomes worn into spherical shapes by southwesterly breezes, which from spring to autumn creates waves on the northern side of the lake. Although it is not possible to go to actual the habitats of this alga, marimo can be observed on Churui Island, a small island in Lake Akan accessible by tour boat from the Akan Visitor’s Center.
From the lake you’ll see two con-shaped volcanoes, Mt. Oakan (Oakandake) to the east and Mt. Meadan (Makandake) to the south. Both are great for hiking. Mt. Oakan isn’t active and it’s about a 4-½ hour hike to the summit from Akanko Onsen. The trail starts at Takiguchi. Mt. Meakan is the highest mountain in the area and is an active volcano. There are three trails up the mountain, one of which takes about 6 hours to reach the top. You can pick up good hiking guides in English at the tourist association. There is a shorter hike to Mt. Hakutozan, from where you can get a great view of the lake below. It takes about 20 minutes to reach Akan’s skiing area and another 30 minutes to get to Mt. Hakutozan. You can get directions to the trailhead at the local tourist office as well.
Ainu Kotan is an Ainu village located west of the hot spring area. There are many handcraft shops and tear rooms. You can also witness woodcrafts being made and enjoy live performances of traditional Ainu dances. If you’re desperate for a ski in the off-season, head over to the Tsubetsu Glestain Ski Area. Here you can roll down a 250-meter plastic run on skis with wheels. The bus from Akan to Bihoro stops here, but there’s only one a day. The Angel Youth Hostel is a 15-minute walk from the bus terminal, but if you call them they will gladly pick you up.
Access to Lake Akan: 2hrs by Akan bus from JR Kushiro Station to Akan Kohan bus stop.
Lake Mashu (Mashu-ko)
Regarded as inaccessible to the casual visitor, Lake Mashu is a cone-shaped caldera lake at the top of the Mashu volcano. It has a 21-km circumference and a depth of 212 m. The lake once held the world’s record for its transparency of more than 41 m. It has become less transparent; however, it remains one of the clearest lakes in the world. Lake Mashu is called Kamui-to (lake of the gods) in Ainu, and legends holds that a small island in the lake was named Kamuish (an old woman in the shape of a god). The lake is often shrouded in dense fog from June to August, giving it an added sense of mystery. The emerald water of this deep caldera lake is believed to be the clearest in the world. The Lake Mashu is often shrouded in dense fog, particularly in summer, giving it an added eerie feeling.
Access: Take Senmo Line from JR Kushiro Station to Mashu Station (approx. 1 hr. & 30 min.) 1,600 yen (adult); Take Akan Bus bound for Lake Mashu Observatory No. 1 (in seasonal operation) from JR Mashu Station (approx. 25 min.); 540 yen (adult)
Lake Kussharo/Lake Kusharo (Kussharo-ko)
Lake Kussharo, the headwaters of the Kushiro River, is Japan’s second-largest caldera lake, after Lake Inawashiro in Fukushima Prefecture. In Hokkaido, it is the second-largest after Lake Saroma. Lake Kussharo is 57 km in circumference and 117.5 m deep. In the lake is a gigantic island with a circumference of 12 km which erupted after the caldera was formed.
In winter, the frozen surface of the lake upheaves in lines, with thunderous cracking. This rare natural phenomenon is called omiwatari (ice cracking). On the southern shore is the Wakoto Peninsula, which was a volcanic island in ancient times. On the peninsula is Oyakotsu-jigoku, which is a remnant of the volcano. The peninsula also is the northernmost habitat of the robust cicada, which is a National Natural Monument.
Renowned for its superb view of Lake Kussharo is Bihoro Pass, which is 523 m above sea level. Located along National Route 243, which connects Teshikaga and Bihiro, Bihoro Pass provides views as far as Mt. Shari-dake on clear days, a popular view that epitomizes Hokkaido’s scenic beauty.
Lake Kusharo is the largest lake in Akan National Park. Due to the high acidity and mineral content of the water (from hot springs at the bottom of the lake), there is very little aquatic life. Kawayu Onsen adds to this as it flows into the lake. This hot spring area is surrounded by fir trees and also features Mt. Iou and a woodcarving museum. Mt. Iou is a 510-meter active volcano situated to the south of Kawayu Onsen. From the middle of June, the foot of this mountain is filled with white Ezo Labrador tea flowers. Also nearby, the Kusharo kotan Ainu Folk museum exhibits the customs, habits and lifestyles of the Ainu people who used to live in the area.
Access: Approx. 20 mins by car from JR Mashu station. 35 minutes by Akan bus from Teshikaga Onsen bus stop to Wakoto Hanto bus stop
In the Ainu language, Ainu and Kotan mean a human being and a village, respectively. There are approximately 30 souvenir shops, standing side by side, where you can come in contact with the Ainu culture here.
Access: Approx. 2 hrs. from JR Kushiro Station Bus Terminal to Lake Akan by Akan Bus (Lake Akan Route); 2,650 yen (adult)
Akan Onsen is a cozy, tourist friendly town at the edge of Lake Akan. This beautiful lake is nested in the midst of Akan National Park (Akan Kokuritsu Koen); Hokkaido’s oldest national park. Akan National Park is a mountainous park that stretches across the eastern part of Hokkaido. The park itself is home to an abundance of rich wild life and nature that can be enjoyed throughout the year. The park includes a group of volcanoes, such as Mt. Iou/Io/Iwo (Io-zan), Mt. Meakan-dake, Mt. Oakan-dake and Mt. Akan-Fuji, which are situated around three famous volcanic lakes: Akan-ko; Kussharo-ko; and Mashu-ko.
Winter Model Route (Tour Idea): Lake Akan One Night Plan (mid-January – late March)
- Board a morning bus bound for Lake Akan at the Akan Bus Terminal in front of Kushiro Station ► Alight at “Tancho-no-Sato” ► Have lunch cooked from local ingredients at “Akai Berei” ► Observe Japanese cranes, a special natural monument, at the Japanese Crane Observation Center ► Board an evening bus bound for Lake Akan ► Arrive at Lake Akan ► Check in at a Lake Akan hotel ► Enjoy “Ice Land Akan” and “Ice Akan Fuyuhanabi (Winter Fireworks)” ► Stay at the hotel (enjoy hot springs and fine food and drinks)
- Take a stroll in an Ainu kotan (village) and enjoy many winter activities, including snowmobiling, fishing on ice and ice skating at “Ice Land Akan”. Board an afternoon Akan bus bound for Kushiro ► Arrive in Kushiro in the eveningPrice:Kushiro – Tancho-no-Sato: ¥1,410 Tancho-no-Sato – Lake Akan: ¥1,570Lake Akan – Kushiro: ¥2,650
Adrress and Other Essentials:
Address: Moashoro, Ashoro-cho, Ashoro-gun, Hokkaido Prefecture 089-3964 Japan
Lake Onneto Hot Water Falls (Onneto Yu-no-Taki) and Akan Onsen (Hot Springs Spa) at Akan National Park Moashoro, Ashoro Town (Ashoro-cho), Ashoro District, Hokkaido Prefecture 089-3964, Japan Tel: 0156-29-7370
Akan National Park (Akan Kokuritsu Koen) Website:
NPO Akan (Akanko Onsen) Tourist Association 2-6-20 Akan town (Akan-cho), Akanko onsen, Kushiro, Hokkaido Prefecture 085-0467, Japan Tel: 0154(67)3200 [Akanko Onsen Tourist Office], 0154-67-2655 [Akan Bus], 0154-67-2451 [Akan Tourst Shop] Fax: 0154(67)3024
Akan Nature Center 5-3-3 Akan Onsen, Akan-cho, Kushiro, Hokkaido Prefecture 085-0467, Japan Tel: +81-154-67-2801 (overseas), 0154-67-2801 (domestic)
Teshikaga Town (Teshikaga-cho) Government Office 2-3-1 Chuo, Teshikaga Town (Teshikaga-cho), Kawakami District, Hokkaido Prefecture 088-3211, Japan Tel: 015-482-2191 Fax: 015-482-2696
Teshikaga Town Website: http://www.town.teshikaga.hokkaido.jp/
Teshikaga Tourist Information Website: http://www.masyuko.or.jp/pc/english/index.html
Lake Akan Tsuruga Resort Spa – Tsuruga Wings 4-6-10, Akanko-onsen, Akan town (Akan-cho), Kushiro City (Kushiro-shi), Hokkaido Prefecture 085-0467, Japan Tel: 0154-67-4000 Fax: 0154-67-2754
City of Kushiro (Kushiro-shi) Citizen Collaboration Promotion Division Kushiro City Hall Main Building (2F) 7- 5, Kurogane-cho, Kushiro City (Kushiro-shi), Hokkaido 085-8505 Tel: 0154-23-5151 (Reception), 0154-31-4503 (Direct) Hour: 8:50 – 17:20. Closed on Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays, Year end and New Year
Ashoro Town (Ashoro-cho) Government Office 4-48-1 Kita 1 Jo, Ashoro Town (Ashoro-cho), Ashoro District (Ashoro-gun), Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan Tel: 0156-25-2141 Fax: 0156-25-2488
NPO Ashoro Tourist Association 4-48-1 Kita 1 Jo, Ashoro, Ashoro District, Hokkaido Prefecture 089-3701, Japan TEL: 0156-25-6131 FAX: 0156-25-6132
Lake Onneto at NPO Ashoro Tourist Association Website: http://www.ashoro-kanko.jp/kanko/index.html
Ashoro Chamber of Commerce and Industry 3-20 Minami 1 Jo, Ashoro, Ashoro District, Hokkaido Prefecture 089-3711, Japan TEL: (0156)25-2236 FAX: (0156)25-4007
Office of Nature Conservation and natural environment at Teshikaga, Kushiro Ciy (Kushiro-shi) 2-2-2 Kawayu onsen, Teshikaga, Kawakami District, Hokkaido Prefecture 088-3465, Japan Tel: 015-483-2335