As we made our way back to central Hokkaido from Shiretoko Peninsula on the far eastern end, we stopped by Akan National Park to break up the long drive. The park is home to three mountain lakes: the Akan-ko, Mashū-ko and Kussharo-ko. Since we had a car, we decided to visit all of them.

Akan-ko 阿寒湖: While this eponymous lake is the most famous of the trio, I was underwhelmed by it. The surrounding forest however offers walking trails along which you can spot bubbling mud pools known as bokke and an occasional squirrel. If you have the time and energy, you can hike up Mt. Meakan 雌阿寒岳.

On the southern side of the lake lies the resort town of Akanko Onsen 阿寒湖温泉, a popular tourist destination where there are several guesthouses, each with its own onsen (hot spring bath). After dinner, it is common for visitors to stroll dressed in a yukata (a light cotton robe that is often worn after bathing) and geta (wooden sandals). We stayed at a small family-run guesthouse, Onsen Minshuku Yamaguchi 温泉民宿山口, which I would recommend if you’re travelling on a modest budget.Lake Akan 阿寒湖03tc4lAkan town12tc4lAkan town09tc4ll

Mashū-ko 摩周湖: While I was able to read the kanji name of this lake, I was inspired by its fog-shrouded appearance and referred to it as “模模糊(糊)” which in Chinese means “unclear lake.” A crater lake, it is one of the clearest lakes in the world though many visitors do not get to see much of it as it’s usually covered in a fine mist. For the brief moment when the fog cleared, a collective ‘ahhh’ swept across the audience before it was replaced by the sound of cameras clicking away.Lake Mashū 摩周湖01tc4lb

Kussharo-ko 屈斜路湖: This is the largest caldera lake in Japan yet it is less famous than the other two lakes, which means fewer tourists. When we were there, we were the only ones wandering around the isolated shoreline where two empty canoes bobbed along with the gentle waves.Lake Kussharo 屈斜路湖

Nearby Lake Kussharo is Sunayu 砂湯, a hot spring onsen where hot water simmers beneath black sand. Sunayu is popular with families – children dug energetically into the sand with their spades as their parents watched them from a dry picnic spot. A short drive away is Iozan 硫黄山 whose name literally means “Sulphur Mountain”, probably because the active volcano is constantly spewing pungent sulphur. You can walk on a trail to get closer to observe the fumes as you eat a hard-boiled egg that has been cooked in one of the vents.Sunayu 砂湯02Lake Kussharo 屈斜路湖03 - Sunayu onsen 砂湯温泉 tc4Mt. Iou 硫黄山02tc4l

Side Notes

#1 This post is a continuation of my documentation of the self-driving holiday in Hokkaido with my family in the summer of 2012.

#2 The mascot for Hokkaido is inspired by the marimo, an algae ball that is most commonly found in Akan and used as an ornamental underwater plant. Going by the name of Marimokkori, this green anthropomorphic character is notorious for the huge bulge between his legs. With the second half of its name, “mokkori” being a Japanese slang word that is used to describe an erection, it’s obvious that this is one perpetually excited mascot!

5 replies on “Lakeside notes from Akan National Park // 阿寒公立公園, 北海道

  1. Oh, Angelina … what a marvelous post! I loved your beautiful, contemplative photos and your kanji lessons. But the crowning touch was your humor, especially when discussing that mascot! It raises so many questions, none of which I’ll ask here. 😉

      1. It’s just one more example of the fascinating complexity of Japanese culture, isn’t it? They are so reserved and understated in their personal interactions … and then THAT. If nothing else, it’s an exuberant way to say, “Happy to see you.” 😀

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