Akan National Park

Ainu Kotan at Lake Akan

Ainu Kotan is a small Ainu village near Lake Akan. The village comprising some 40 Ainu households live here in scattered huts in an attempt to preserve the Ainu culture. The Ainu are greatly skilled in wood works and various shops can be found in the village selling wood carvings and embroidery.

From the sparkling Lake Mashu, the White Pirika bus rode on towards Lake Akan Shitona, our tour guide told us it was going to be a long ride of about an hour On the way she kept giving out more information about the lake I couldn’t understand a word of Japanese, but Mani translated some of it for me She went on telling us stories of the area She even sang a couple of folk songs for us which I very much liked We rode on, past unspoiled primitive forest in its natural beauty The road to Lake Akan is lined with Sakhalin spruce Lake Akan (阿寒湖, Akanko) is a crater lake in Akan National
Lake Mashu

The sparkling Lake Mashū

We ride to lake of the Gods. The aborigine Ainu called it so, for a reason. Surrounded by 200 m high crater walls, the deep blue mirror-like waters of Lake Mashu make for a unique landscape. We are lucky travelers I guess, for it is frequently blanketed in heavy fog and a rarity to view at its scenic best

After the extra-terrestrial experience at Mount Iwo, we were on our way to Lake Mashū (摩周湖) It was pretty obvious that our guide, Shitona, was in love with the lake and she kept telling us over and over, how beautiful the lake looked on a bright sunny day Although it is usually adored for its clear blue water, the lake is frequently blanketed in heavy fog and it is a rarity to view it at its scenic best Lake Mashū or Mashūko, is the smallest of the three caldera lakes in Akan National Park The comma-shaped lake with a circumference of 20 km originated from volcano activity of Mt Mashū some 32,000 years ago

The fuming Iōzan

Iōzan, also known as the Sulfur Mountain spews volcanic gases, rich in sulfur all year round. Standing amidst these steam bellowing vents and yellow crystallized rocks, it feels like we are on a different planet altogether.

From the lovely lake Kussharo, we drove into the mountains towards Mount Io, also known as Iōzan Gradually the landscape changed as the forest of Sakhalin Spruce gave way to the rocky surface of Iōzan Only a few dwarf stone pines and heathberry plants can be seen in the vicinity Barren landscape around Iozan Shitona, our tour guide kept us entertained with legends and mythical folklore of the area But she only spoke Japanese These are the times I deeply wish I had learnt a bit of Japanese I so love to hear stories As we got closer it seemed like a thick cloud had engulfed the side
Lake Kussharo

The Swans of Lake Kussharo

Lake Kussharo is the largest of the three caldera lakes that make up Akan National Park. In winter the lake becomes home to hundreds of whooper swans and other migratory birds. The still simmering volcano keeps the water warm for these feathered tourists from the Russian Arctic

We woke up to a beautiful morning It was our third day in Hokkaido and I was looking forward to our tour of Akan National Park We were lodged on the 9th floor of the Prince Kushiro Hotel and I could see the sea from our window The roads were deserted and snow had created a carpet of white over the town The thought of walking to the docks and capturing the sunrise did cross my mind but I controlled the temptation and prepared for the days trip Woke up at dawn to see the city of Kushiro draped in a carpet of snow At 8 am, we went down to the reception and picked up our tickets for the White Pirika sightseeing

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