Home of the Ainu
Lake Akan in the southwest of the park is home to the village of Akanko Ainu Kotan, at Akanko Onsen. This is the largest gathering in Japan of the indigenous Ainu, being comprised of around 30 households of Hokkaido’s native people who exhibit their crafts, and the traditional Ainu dance—inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list—at the Akanko Ainu Theater Ikor. Akanko Onsen on the lake’s southern shore makes an ideal base to explore the natural wonders of Lake Akan from. Take a cruise to fully appreciate its stunning blue waters, and visit the Marimo Exhibition Center where you can see the intriguing marimo ‘moss balls’ rare green algae called Marimo the lake is famed for. Or hike the surrounding mountains and ancient forests, and the shoreline trails with their bubbling ‘mud volcanoes’!
Sea of Clouds
Lake Kussharo is the largest caldera lake in Japan (57 km around), big enough to dwarf Japan’s largest lake-bound island which sits at the center. But this modest peak is far from the star attraction, as Mt. Mokoto along with Bihoro Pass and Tsubetsu Pass stand high above the lake, bringing countless visitors especially from June through August, as the sweeping views they offer of the Kussharo Caldera put you above the “Sea of Clouds”. Each year when winter grips the lake, incredible ridges of ice thrust up from the surface, up to 10 km long! In summer though the lake is a hotbed of activity—nearby onsen and the numerous campsites around the shore bring people for canoeing, fishing and the outdoor hot springs that the lake is known for. Dig your own hot spring in the sand right by the beach!
7,000 or so years ago a volcanic eruption formed the caldera that would hold Lake Mashu, leaving as its legacy one of the clearest lakes in the world, 351 meters above sea level. Lake Mashu is so uniquely brilliant—called by many the clearest lake in the world—that its deep and pure color is known as ‘Mashu Blue’ and marks it out as one of the most incredible sights in Hokkaido. Besides the waters of the lake itself, visitors drive up to its three surrounding observatories for incredible vistas of the frozen Sea of Okhotsk to the north, the fabulous mists that roll across the lake in the mornings, and at night the most incredible stargazing. Taking advantage of almost 360 degrees open sky, far away from city lights, a Lake Mashu starlight tour is a must when you visit this incredible park.
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