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Photo By: PIXTA/ camica
Region
Hokkaido
Island
Hokkaido
Largest City
Sapporo
Population
5,682,950

Akan

The eastern region of Kushiro abounds in national parks, wildlife and a huge seafood market.

By Alma Reyes

It is often said that Hokkaido is a different “country” all on its own. This northernmost tip of Japan is the country’s second-largest island, which became a full-fledged prefecture only in 1947. While the capital Sapporo may be the most frequented destination, the eastern region of Kushiro abounds in national parks, wildlife, a huge seafood market and the home of the Ainu indigenous culture.

Lake Akan

Lake Akan

Photo by: PIXTA/kiki Sightseeing boat tours are the best way to explore the lake and the hot springs village.

Akan town in Kushiro is a quiet community surrounded by flatlands and forested mountains. Lake Akan or Akanko is a spectacular crater lake in Akan National Park covering about 13 km2 with gorgeous lookout spots from Mount Oakan-dake, Mount Meakan-dake, and the colorful Lake Onneto. Akanko is famous for the habitat of Marimo, a rare type of spherically-shaped seaweed. The algae balls can only be viewed by taking a one-hour ferry to the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center on Chului Island or the  Akan Lakeside Eco Museum Center. Sightseeing boat tours are the best way to explore the lake and the hot springs village.

Lake Mashu

Lake Mashu

Photo by: PIXTA/naoima Going up the observation decks offers incredible views.

Another site worth visiting is the enormous Lake Mashu or Mashuko in the Akan Mashu National Park. Like Akanko, it is also a crater lake formed by an active volcano. The surrounding crater walls are as steep as 200 meters high, making the lake one of the deepest in Japan. Going up the observation decks offers incredible views. You may also follow the hiking trail through the forest and grasslands.

Akan International Crane Center

Akan International Crane Center

Photo by: PIXTA/ NNZM This is the only facility in Japan that specializes in protecting red-crown cranes.

Gazing at the graceful cranes cannot be missed when visiting Akan. Cranes started to flock to the cultivated lands in the 1950s and have since been cared for by the center. The institute also presents audio-visuals, exhibits, workshops and lectures on crane and wildlife breeding. This is the only facility in Japan that specializes in protecting red-crown cranes or tancho.

Akan Ainu Kotan Village

Lake Akan Ainu Kotan

Photo by: PIXTA/ HAPPY SMILE Don’t miss out on trying the local dishes and seeing traditional performances.

Ainu settlers were known to set up villages in Hokkaido around the 17th to 19th centuries. The Ainu Kotan was installed to preserve the Ainu lifestyle and tradition where local people can feel and experience the spirituality of their profound culture. Apart from crafts and souvenir shops, some local Ainu people demonstrate traditional woodcarving, embroidery, textile weaving and metalwork. You can also enjoy special Ainu dishes and see a ceremonial song and dance performance at the Lake Akan Ainu Theater.

Things To Know

HOURS AND FEES

Lake Akan

Sightseeing boat tours around the lake operate from April to November for 85 minutes including 15 minutes of Marimo viewing. Adult fee: ¥2,000. Check the Akan Sightseeing Cruise Company website for schedules.

Lake Mashu

Observation decks are open 24 hours April to November. Contact Masyuko Tourism Association for more details.

Akan International Crane Center

Adult entrance fee ¥480. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Akan Ainu Kotan Village

Open 10 am to 10 pm. Ainu dance show: ¥1,500/30 minutes. Puppet theater is open only to groups of 40 or more. Check the website for details.

How To Get There

Address

By train

Lake Akan

From Kushiro airport, take a bus to Akanko, approximately 1 hour and 5-20 minutes

Lake Mashu

From Mashu station, take the bus to the observation decks. Approximately about 1 hour from Lake Akan or 20-30 minutes from Kawayu by car.

Akan International Crane Center

From Kushiro airport by car, about 20 minutes; from Kushiro station by train or bus, about 1 hour; from Lake Akan by car about 40 minutes.

Akan Ainu Kotan Village

From Kushiro station about 1 hour and 30 minutes by car or about 1 hour and 45 minutes by bus.

Where To Stay

Hotel Gozensui
  • 4-5-1 Akancho Akankonsen (1-6-Chome), Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido, 085-0467 Japan
  • ¥11,495 - ¥35,531
  • 4.21/5 (396 reviews)
  • 2.4 km
New Akan Hotel (Granbell Hotels & Resorts)
  • 2-8-8 Akancho Akankonsen (1-6-Chome), Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido, 085-0467 Japan
  • ¥21,945 - ¥47,025
  • 4.03/5 (1,922 reviews)
  • 2.4 km
La Vista Akangawa
  • 3-1 Akancho Okurushube, Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido, 085-0468 Japan
  • ¥60,000 - ¥129,000
  • 3.86/5 (663 reviews)
  • 5.1 km

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