Akan National Park located in eastern Hokkaido was established on December 4, 1934. Along with Daisetsuzan National Park, they comprise the oldest national parks in Hokkaido. Consisting of 90,481 hectares, Akan is primarily made up of volcanic craters and forests. It has two separate parts: the smaller, western portion contains Lake Akan with the lakeside hot spring resort of Akankohan Onsen, the larger, eastern part contains Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan (Sulfur Mountain) and the Kawayu Onsen. Although the lakes are often covered by fog, their waters are some of the clearest in the world. Akan is also known for the large marimo that forms there. Marimo literally means seaweed ball. It is a species of filamentous green algae that grow into large green balls with a velvet like appearance.
Iozan is an active volcano near Kawayu Onsen. Its yellow, sulfurous vents can be viewed from a close proximity as visitors are permitted to walk around without any restrictions. Eggs cooked by the natural heat of the volcano (onsen tamago) are usually available for sale near the vents.
The park’s vast forests are the perfect habitat for the wildlife of eastern Hokkaido. Twenty four species of mammals inhabit the area including brown bears, Ezo Deer, mice and squirrels. A number of rare and endangered birds such as the Black Woodpecker, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Steller’s Sea Eagle and the White-tailed Eagle can also be found in the confines of the park. The Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, specialize in wood carvings of the wildlife living in this region.
The Lake Akan area is home to the largest remaining settlement of Ainu. Visitors to Akan National Park can see traditional Ainu dances performed at their kotan (village) and enjoy outdoor activities such as canoeing, mountain bike tours and camping.
Akan National Park is easily accessible by train via the JR Senmo Line which runs north-south across the park on its way from Abashiri to Kushiro, stopping at Kawayu and Teshikaga (Mashu Station). There are four trains daily to Abashiri and six to Kushiro.
Akan National Park – Tokachi Heiya
Ainu wood carving of an owl
Photo credits: Izumi Walker