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Akan Mashu Nationwide Park – Lake Kussharo Journey Information • Simply One Cookbook

Discover Akan Mashu Nationwide Park and Japan’s largest caldera lake – Lake Kussharo on this journey information.

Lake kussharo with stone beach in the foreground

Hokkaido is the biggest prefecture in Japan, overlaying 32,221 sq mi (83,454 km²), which is twice as massive as your complete Kyushu island! The northern island is characterised by expansive mountains, farms, and huge open plains that stretch so far as the attention can see. Whereas the central and western areas, equivalent to Sapporo, Otaru, and Hakodate, are fashionable vacationer locations, the jap areas are sometimes left untouched, boasting surroundings that’s equally, if no more, stunning and breathtaking than that of the remainder of Hokkaido.

View overlooking Lake Kussharo

Regardless of residing in Sapporo for over 4 years, I had by no means visited the jap aspect of Hokkaido as a consequence of its relative inaccessibility. Pals and colleagues typically informed me about the great thing about the world round Lake Akan, well-known for its Marimo algae, wildlife, scorching springs (onsens), and dirt volcanoes. So, I packed my baggage and launched into a 2-day street journey, which I’ll share with you!

Let’s dive into half considered one of this two-part information to Japanese Hokkaido in Akan Mashu Nationwide Park!

What’s Akan Mashu Nationwide Park

Akan Mashu Nationwide Park, established in 1934, is among the longest-established parks in Hokkaido. The park is famend for its crystal-clear lakes, onsens, and unparalleled views. Nevertheless, earlier than being designated as a park, it was dwelling to the Ainu indigenous group. Whereas the Ainu inhabitants has dwindled, you possibly can nonetheless expertise their historical past and traditions on the Ainu Kotan village, which I’ll delve into additional within the subsequent submit.

Lake Masshu

The core of the nationwide park is fashioned by the Akan Caldera, Kussharo Caldera, and Mashu Caldera, which had been all created by a sequence of eruptions from the Chishima Volcanic Zone. The park is split into two primary areas: Kawayu and Akan. Kawayu encompasses the gorgeous Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu. In the meantime, Akan consists of equally spectacular Lake Akan, Lake Onneto, which is located southwest of Lake Akan, and quite a few different small mountains and lakes.

Mountains of Akan Mashu National Park

When is the very best time to go to Akan Mashu Nationwide Park

The nationwide park reveals its fascinating attraction year-round, with every season providing its distinctive surroundings.

From June to September, it’s all about absorbing the summer season greenery and entering into all types of outside enjoyable. It’s prime time for hitting the mountain trails, taking within the epic views, and simply usually having fun with the nice open air.

Wooden pier with swan boats at the end at lake Kussharo

Come late September and October, it’s just like the mountains and lakes determined to throw on their fancy autumn jackets—all decked out in golden yellows, oranges, and deep crimson reds. It’s a complete leafy takeover!

And when December rolls round, brace your self for a winter wonderland! The freezing temps work their magic, turning all the things right into a snowy paradise. Mountains put on cozy snow blankets, and lakes freeze over, opening the door for all types of winter enjoyable, like attempting your hand at some ice fishing. It’s chilly however oh-so-magical!

Find out how to get to Akan Mashu Nationwide Park


From Sapporo, it takes roughly 4 and a half to 5 hours to achieve the park. One route takes you thru the middle of Hokkaido, passing via Obihiro. One other route takes you barely additional north, via Asahikawa. Each routes take roughly the identical period of time, but it surely’s value noting that tolls can value greater than 6000 yen a method (USD $40 in 2023).


In case you don’t get pleasure from driving lengthy distances, touring by aircraft will be the most handy possibility. When departing from Sapporo, you might have two airports to select from: Okadama Airport and New Chitose Airport. From both of those airports, you possibly can fly to Memanbetsu Airport or Kushiro Airport.

From Memanbetsu Airport, you possibly can take a taxi to Nishimemanbetsu Station. Then, board the KR Sekihoku Important Line to Abashiri Station, which takes roughly 25 minutes and prices 540 yen. From Abashiri Station, switch to the JR Senmo Line to Kawayu Onsen, which is a 2-hour journey and prices 1,890 yen.

In case you’re arriving at Kushiro Airport, you possibly can board the Akan Airport Liner bus, which is able to take you on to Lake Akan in 70 minutes. This bus operates solely 4 to 5 occasions a day and prices 2,190 yen for a one-way ticket.


From Sapporo, you possibly can take the Ozora Restricted Categorical to Kushiro Station, which is a few four-and-a-half-hour journey and prices 9,990 yen (USD $67 in 2023). From Kushiro Station, you possibly can then board the Akan Airport Liner bus, as talked about earlier.

The general public transport inside and across the park is restricted and will differ relying on the season. Due to this fact, I extremely advocate renting a automobile if you arrive on the park, the station, or the airport.

Lake Kussharo – Sea of Clouds

As I had restricted time to journey, I needed to take advantage of my time within the park. I left within the night and drove for 5 hours earlier than reaching Lake Kussharo.

My hope was to witness the Sea of Clouds throughout dawn from Tsubetsu Go Observatory—a dream of mine, albeit notoriously difficult because it relies upon completely on climate circumstances. Anyway, I arrived at Lake Kussharo round 1 am, and it was pouring rain. Opting to catch a couple of hours of sleep in my automobile, I awakened later to make the drive to the observatory. The street up is slim and darkish, with wild deer roaming, so please watch out should you plan to go. Sadly, my view was obscured by a blanket of grey. It was so cloudy that I couldn’t see greater than 5 meters in entrance of me… I suppose my dream continues!

Right here’s an image of what the ocean of clouds ought to appear to be when the circumstances are proper.

The morning sun and sea of clouds over Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan
licensed from Shutterstock

Exploring Lake Kussharo

After getting a couple of extra hours of sleep, I put aside my disappointment (and fatigue) and determined to begin exploring the lake. By that point, it was cloudy, however visibility was good.

Once you go to locations like these, you all the time hope for good climate and clear visibility to totally benefit from the surrounding surroundings. Nevertheless, driving via the mountains with morning clouds rolling down the mountainsides, the sound of awakening birds, and scattered rays of sunshine piercing via the clouds proved to be simply as stunning. It was a really totally different environment from what I had envisioned, but it surely was serene and peaceable—an ideal begin to the day.

Lake Kussharo is the biggest of the three lakes within the park, with a circumference of 35 miles (57 km). It’s additionally the biggest caldera lake in Japan, providing numerous vantage factors from which you’ll admire its dimension and sweetness. Its title is derived from the Ainu language, “kut-char” (クㇳチャㇻ), which implies “marsh water outlet.”

Round Lake Kussharo, yow will discover many open onsens which can be accessible to each genders. These onsens are free to enter, and you’ll select to make use of them with or with out a swimsuit, relying in your consolation degree.

My first cease was at Wakoto Peninsula, the place you would see a panoramic view of Lake Kussharo and the encircling mountains. Regardless of the unhealthy climate the earlier night time, many individuals had been tenting and having fun with nature. The close by Wakoto Scorching Spring and shared bathhouse are shut by, so you possibly can have a soothing morning. Sadly, because the services had been in use, I wasn’t capable of take photos.

Lake Kussharo on a cloudy day

Persevering with alongside the jap aspect of the lake, I made two extra stops at onsens, Ikenoyu Open-Air Tub, and Kotan Open-Air Tub. Each are free to make use of and are mixed-gender baths. Ikenoyu is a spacious tub with incredible views over Lake Kussharo, whereas Kotan is a little more secluded, supplying you with the sensation of bathing within the lake. It’s divided by some rocks into two halves for men and women, with two small huts for altering.

Heading a bit additional up north, I reached Sunayu Onsen, which gives a singular open-air onsen expertise. Alongside the lakeside sandy seaside, should you dig a gap, pure onsen water will seem on the floor so you possibly can dip your ft while having fun with the encircling surroundings. Throughout summer season, you possibly can benefit from the heat waters within the lake, tenting and trip one of many pedal boats.

In winter, the geothermal exercise attracts whooper swan colonies, making a picturesque scene that’s fashionable with photographers.

Swan on Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan
licensed from Shutterstock
Pistachio soft serve at lake Kussharo

Pistachio gentle serve! Regardless of the time or season, yow will discover gentle serve in every single place.

Man praying at Kawayu Shrine
Kawayu Shrine

Mt. Io (Sulfur mountain). As you strategy, there’s a definite sulfur odor within the air.

Lunch – Miso Venison Ramen

For these studying which have visited Sapporo, you’ll be conversant in miso ramen. Near Lake Kussharo is Teshikaga City, dwelling to the flagship retailer, Teshikaga Ramen (which additionally has a store within the well-known Sapporo Ramen Alley). I’ve had the miso ramen within the Sapporo store many occasions however one explicit dish caught my eye: miso ramen topped with venison.

You could be questioning, why venison? There are two causes. First, deer have lengthy held a spot in Hokkaido’s culinary custom, because the indigenous Ainu group used to hunt deer for his or her meat and fur to make garments.

Secondly, there’s a large deer inhabitants in Hokkaido. Whereas there’s no official quantity, it’s estimated to be within the lots of of hundreds. The sheer variety of deer has led to issues with native farms and deforestation. Throughout winter, as a consequence of a scarcity of meals, these deer eat the gentle inside layer of tree bark, inflicting the bushes to wither.

Due to this fact, deer are hunted humanely and sustainably, with the purpose of mitigating hurt to the encircling forests and farms and sustaining a balanced inhabitants.

Miso Ramen with Yezo deer meat and pork belly

Anyway, the ramen was scrumptious. For those who haven’t tried miso ramen, it’s so wealthy, deep, and packed filled with umami. It’s utterly totally different from traditional shouyu (soy sauce) or tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. At first look, I believed the venison could be powerful but it surely was surprisingly tender and had a scrumptious gamey taste. I wouldn’t say it’s a should eat however in case you are craving ramen, then it’s value a attempt.

Miso Ramen with Yezo deer meat and pork belly

Lodge & Spa Resort La Vista Akangawa Kushiro

After all of the touring, I made a decision to verify in to my lodge for the night time, Lodge & Spa Resort La Vista Akangawa Kushiro, situated 10 minutes away from Lake Akan. The lodge is nestled in Akan’s serene nature, subsequent to the Akan River, making it the right retreat to loosen up in. 

Every room comes with its onsen tub with views overlooking the forest and meandering river. There’s additionally a public onsen with an out of doors tub, sauna, and water tub in addition to three totally different personal baths free of charge use on the bottom ground. All the water used to run these onsens is sourced from close by springs.

In room onsen with views outside

The room was spacious with probably the biggest mattress I had ever seen! On the finish of the room, there was a stupendous view of the Akan River, which frequently had wild deer roaming via and feeding on the grass. Actually, I want I may have spent every week there because it felt like an oasis, which helped me escape my hectic life again in Sapporo.

I can’t say sufficient good phrases about La Vista, from the services, plethora of onsens, cozy room and meals, which I’ll get into now.

Dinner at Lodge & Spa Resort La Vista Akangawa Kushiro

The eating room is situated on the bottom ground, overlooking the Akan River. As you eat, you possibly can benefit from the roaming deer and tranquil setting. The menu consisted of native substances caught across the space.

Hotel dinner menu
Hotel dinner appetizer of Shima ebi (shrimp), Pacific saury, marinated salmon, fish cake wrapped in deep-fried tofu, whelk, boiled seasoned mushrooms.
Appetizer – Shima ebi (shrimp), Pacific saury, marinated salmon, fish cake wrapped in deep-fried tofu, whelk, boiled seasoned mushrooms.
Simmered Kinki fish
Simmered Kinki fish
Hokkaido beef
Hokkaido Beef with selfmade sauce
Bouillabaisse Hot Pot
Bouillabaisse Scorching Pot
Fried Akan smelt fish
Fried Akan smelt fish
Rice porridge using bouillabaisse hot pot broth
Rice porridge utilizing bouillabaisse scorching pot broth
Pumpkin mochi and chestnut purin (flan)
Pumpkin mochi and chestnut purin (flan)

The entire meal was incredible however there was A LOT of meals, which is an efficient factor! Simply ensure you make sufficient room beforehand. We had been additionally greeted by some wild deer that strolled previous proper in entrance of our window!

Kamuy Lumina – Evening Stroll at Lake Akan

After the scrumptious dinner, I headed out to a particular night time occasion referred to as, Kamuy Lumina. Impressed by the Ainu tradition, the Ainu legend, “The Story of the Owl and the Jay Hen,” and the pure fantastic thing about the forests in Lake Akan, the enchanting expertise takes you alongside a 1.2km night time stroll. You might be given a ‘Rhythm Employees’ to make use of all through the stroll, immersing you thru lights, soundscape, scenography, and video projection.

Kamuy Lumina entrance

The stroll takes you alongside eight totally different story factors all through the forest, every with a singular setting. I liked each a part of it, from the lights and projection mapping to the music and story.

Tickets are 3,500 yen (USD 23) on the day or 3,000 yen (USD 20) if booked upfront. You’ll be able to guide tickets on-line however your lodge might also promote discounted tickets on the lodge reception. The narration and story are solely in Japanese however there’s a cell app, the place you possibly can observe the story in English. Yow will discover extra data right here!

After a protracted day trip, it was time to benefit from the lodge’s onsen and loosen up.

I’ll get extra into Lake Akan, Lake Mashu, and the Ainu Kotan (village) because the cloudy skies disappear and the solar lastly comes out! Keep tuned for half two!

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