Famous for the Mysterious Ball-Shaped Organism Called Marimo! How to Enjoy Hokkaido’s Lake Akan
Marimo is a mysterious organism that is shaped like a green ball. This article will guide you on how to enjoy Lake Akan (Akan-ko in Japanese) where these creatures live. Lake Akan is a famous sightseeing spot that best represents the eastern area of Hokkaido that is surrounded by lush nature and overflowing with the culture of the indigenous Ainu people.
What is Lake Akan?
Located in Kushiro City in Hokkaido, Lake Akan is a caldera lake that was formed after a volcanic eruption, occupying a total area of 13.28 sq. km., measuring 30km in circumference and having a maximum water depth of 45m. It offers an unobstructed view of the magnificent scenery that is created by Mt. Oakan and the lake. This lake is also popular as the breeding ground of the mystical creature called Marimo that looks like a green ball of moss.
The best seasons to visit Lake Akan are summer and autumn. During winter, the surface of the lake is frozen, so you can have fun riding snowmobiles and fishing for wakasagi (smelt) on ice. Meanwhile, from mid- to late-April, you can experience riding the Saihyo Cruise (Ice Breaking Cruise) (820 JPY for adults) that moves forward while breaking the ice on the lake.
What sort of an organism is a Marimo?
Marimo is a freshwater green algae that lives in lakes and rivers in cold regions. The Marimo in Lake Akan has a beautiful spherical shape that is said to be the only one of its kind in the world, so it has been designated as a special natural treasure. It is formed by an accumulation of fine filamentous algae, with some Marimo as big as 25cm in diameter.
The Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center in Churui Island that floats on the lake houses a massive aquarium that reproduces the bottom of the lake. You can see natural Marimo inside. This facility is accessible through the sightseeing cruise that will be introduced later.
Ride the Sightseeing Cruiser
Another great way to explore this area would be to ride on the Sightseeing Cruiser (1,900 JPY for adults) to get a better view of the sites from the lake. This cruiser goes around the scenic spot Takiguchi (the point where Lake Akan and Lake Taro meet to form a river) and the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center for 85 minutes (including 15 minutes spent for observing Marimo).
You can also take the Motor Boat (500 JPY – 4,500 JPY※) that will let you fully enjoy the spots without having to worry about the time. There are six courses to choose from, including the Roundtrip Course (25 minutes) between the pier and Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center, and the Deluxe Course (45 minutes) that will take you around the lake.
※Fare per person when riding in a group of two or more persons
Enjoy nature in a guided tour!
The Lake Akan Tourist Association offers several guided tours (prices start at 2,000 JPY) that will let guests marvel at the magnificent nature to the fullest. A knowledgeable guide will be there to talk about must-see attractions in the area such as the hidden spots and picturesque points around Lake Akan, and Bokke no Mori (Bokke Forest) ※. These tours will let you efficiently explore the lake and its surroundings within a limited time. There are also tours that revolve around the history and geology of Lake Akan, Marimo and other themes, so choose the tour that suits your preferences.
※This is the forest where you can get a glimpse of the charms of a volcano, forest and lake. It is a tract of virgin forest that is inhabited by a variety of animals and plants. You can also observe the mud volcano called Bokke.
Learn about the culture of the Ainu people! Lake Akan’s Ainu Kotan
On the banks of Akan Lake lies the biggest Ainu Kotan (a village where the Ainu people, the aborigines of Hokkaido, live) in Hokkaido. Inside this village are rows of shops that sell traditional woodcrafts and folk crafts that feature Ainu designs and patterns, and restaurants that serve local dishes, among other establishments. At the Lake Akan Ainu Theater Ikor (1,080 JPY for adults), shows are held featuring the Ainu traditional dance that is registered as a national important intangible folk-cultural property and intangible cultural asset, and the Iomante Fire Festival, a ritual for sending off the spirit of a dead bear. The village also houses the Ainu Seikatsu Kinenkan (Ainu Living Memorial Hall) that resembles the typical house of the Ainu, and if you go there, you will be able to see the culture of these indigenous people.
Offering the perfect combination of nature and culture, Lake Akan is definitely a must-see place when you travel through Hokkaido. A great way to go sightseeing in this area is to have Akanko Onsen (Akan Hot Springs) at the lakeshore as your base.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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