AKAN-MASHU NATIONAL PARK
Akan-Mahsu National Park (eastern-central Hokkaido) is a large park made up almost completely of composite volcanoes and forests. Covering 905 square kilometers, it features scenic crater lakes, hot springs and “marimo” (green algae balls), which are very rare and found in only a few other places in the world. The park is lovely in the autumn when the leaves change. In the winter the mountains are covered in deep snow. Boat tours of Lake Akan are offered. A show entitled 'Fire Festival for Sending Spirits Off' by indigenous Ainu people is performed every night at the Akan-ko Ainu Kotan lakeside village.
Sometimes called Akan National Park and one of the oldest parks in Hokkaido, it is covered in natural forest comprising mainly of subarctic mixed coniferous forest that is said to be some of the most primeval forests of all the national parks in Japan. The heart of National Park is three caldera landforms — the Akan Caldera, Kussharo Caldera, and Mashu Caldera — which were formed by the volcanic activity of the Chishima Volcanic Zone. Several volcano-lake pairs are closeby. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]
The park can be broadly divided into two areas: the Akan area and the mashu (Kawayu) area. In the Akan area, the sights to see include Mt. Me-akan and Mt. O-akan which tower sedately over nearby lakes and reservoirs such as Lake Akan and Lake Onneto in a breathtaking landscape. In the mashu (Kawayu) area, the sights to see are Lake Mashu — one of the most transparent lakes in the world — as well as Lake Kussharo, which can be viewed from the surrounding mountain passes and peaks, and the colors of the forests, which transform with the seasons.
There are settlements of Ainu People, the indigenous people of Japan, throughout Hokkaido, and one is located on the shore of Lake Akan. There are also hot springs located throughout the park, and unique phenomena such as bokke (bubbling mud pools) around Lake Akan and Mt. Ponpon (cavity phenomenon) near Nibushi can be seen. Also, in areas where geothermal phenomena occur, a unique distribution of organisms and ecology can be observed, such as the Hyalessa maculaticollis living at the northernmost limit of their habitat (Wakoto Peninsula) and crickets that are active even in winter.
Tourism at Akan-Mashu National Park
The park attracts over 5 million visitors a year. The main gateways to the park are Kitami and Bihoro in the north and Kushriro in the south. The main accommodation centers inside the park are Kawayu Onsen, beautiful situated among old growth forests, and Akan Kohan, a touristy center that attracts a lot of bus tours. Many visitors see the main sights on sightseeing excursions sponsored by the Akan Bus Company. Accommodation Areas: Kawayu, Akan, Me-akan Onsen (Onneto Onsen) Websites: Akan Tourism Association kushiro-lakeakan.com ; Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Maps: env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/guide/akan/map/ Akankohan Eco-museum Center introduces the natural environment in the western area centered around Lake Akan in the Akan-mashu National Park. The volcanic collapse terrain (caldera) centered on Lake Akan, a deep lake and marshes capturing the original landscape, and the wildlife supported by rich environment. Experience the many miracles hidden in the story of Akan's natural environment. Location: Akanko Onsen 1-1-1, Akan Town, Kushiro City, Hokkaido, Tel: 0154-67-4100; Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm, Closed Tuesdays (if coinciding with a national holiday, the next day), end and beginning of year
Kawayu Eco-museum Center introduces the natural environment of the mashu (Kawayu) area centered on the Kussharo Caldera. Collect information here first when visting mashu (Kawayu). Location: Kawayu Onsen 2-2-6, Teshikaga Town, Kawakami County, Hokkaido, Tel: 015-483-4100; Hours Open: 8:00-5:00pm (April-October) 9:00am-16:00 (November-March), Closed Wednesdays (if coinciding with a national holiday, the next day, open daily between the third week of July and August 31), end and beginning of year ( December 29-January 3)
Wakoto Field House is an n eco-museum center introducing the plant and animal life of the Wakoto Peninsula, and providing information on the natural environment. Collect information here first when visiting the Wakoto Peninsula. Samples of trees and wild birds are also on display. Location: Kussharo-wakoto, Teshikaga Town, Kawakami County, Hokkaido, Tel: 015-484-2835; Hours Open: 8:00-5:00pm (normally) 8:00-19:00 (August 11-17), Closed November-mid April
Getting There: From Haneda Airport it takes about one hour 45 minutes to get to Memanbetsu Airport. A taxi takes about 3 minutes to get to Nishimemanbetsu Station. From there take JR Sekihoku Main Line about 25 minutes to get to Abashiri Station. From there take JR Senmo Main Line about two hours to get to Kawayuonsen Station. 2) From Haneda Airport it takes about 95 minutes to get to Kushiro Airport. Take an Akan Bus about one hour 10 minutes to get to Akanko Onsen Bus Stop. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Animals and Plants in Akan-Mashu National Park
The foundation for Akan-mashu National Park ecosystems are the area's vast forests and richly unique lakes and reservoirs. The forests covering the bases of Mt. Me-akan and Mt. O-akan are mixed forests of conifers and broad-leaved trees comprising mainly Sakhalin fir and Yezo spruce, and well as magnificent pure forests of Picea glehnii. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]
Also, pure forests of Erman's birch can be seen in the areas surrounding the Mashu Caldera and Mt. Nishibetsu , and a unique landscape can be seen around Mt. Iwosan, where colonies of dwarf stone pine and Ledum Palustre var. diversipilosum spread across the land, despite the low altitude. Plants whose Japanese names incorporate the word "Akan" include Potentilla miyabei (Meakan Kinbai), Arenaria merckioides var. merckioides (Meakan Fusuma), and Carex loliacea (Akan Suge).
Ledum Palustre var. diversipilosum is a relative of the Rhododendron that occurs in the southern part of Hokkaido, and subalpine and alpine areas of Honshu. It grows in large numbers around Mt. Iwo due to the impact of the volcanic area fumaroles that emit sulfurous gases. Hyalessa maculaticollis, which is designated a National Natural Monument, is found on the Wakoto Peninsula of Lake Kussharo. This is the northernmost point of its distribution range in Japan.
The forests of Akan are home to Yezo deer, brown bears, Ezo red foxes, raccoon dogs, Japanese sable, and other mammal species. The forest zones of Akan-Mashu National Park are an important habitat for the Yezo deer. Ezo Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes schrencki) is a subspecies of the red foxes, which is commonly found across the entire northern Hemisphere. It can be spotted in various areas of the Akan-Mashu National Park.
Bird species that can be frequently observed in the park include small birds such as goldcrests and coal tits that prefer coniferous forests, as well as the black woodpecker and great spotted woodpecker. In addition, large grey herons and various duck species live around each of the lakes and reservoirs. Regarding fish species, Lake Akan is home to white-spotted char and kokanee, while many fish species have been confirmed to live in Lake Kussharo and Hyotan Marsh. However, there is concern over the impact of invasive species such as signal crayfish and tropical fish on the ecosystem.
Volcanoes, Calderas and Mountains of Akan-Mashu National Park
Mt. Iozan is a 512-foot-high volcano with hissing vents, clouds of steam and bright yellow sulphur deposits. Vendors sell eggs boiled over the vents. Popular hiking destinations include 1,371-meter-high Mt. O-Akan-dake, with views of Lake Penketo and Lake Panketo; 1,499-meter-high Mt. Me-Akan-dake, an active volcano and the highest mountain in the park; and the preservation platform on Mt. Hakuto-zan.
Lake Akan Caldera was created between several hundreds of thousands and 150,000 years ago by volcanic activity. The Old Lake Akan, which was created first, was divided approximately 10,000 years ago by the eruptive activity of Mt. O-akan creating today's Lake Akan as well as Lake Panketo and Lake Penketo. Today the caldera is surrounded by volcanoes, including Mt. Me-akan (1,499 meters above sea level) as well as Mt. O-akan (1,370 meters above sea level), Mt. Fuppushi (1,225 meters above sea level), and Mt. Kikin (995 meters above sea level). These harmonize superbly with the beautiful lakes and reservoirs, such as Lake Akan, Lake Panketo, Lake Penketo, and Lake Onneto, and the subarctic mixed forests of conifers and broad-leaved trees-mainly Yezo spruce and Sakhalin fir-surrounding them, present a majestic northern landscape. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]
The Kawayu Area is located around the Kussharo Caldera. The original form of the Kussharo Caldera is thought to have been created by a huge volcanic eruption that occurred approximately 130,000-100,000 years ago. This area has many sights to see, including Japan's largest caldera lake, Lake Kussharo (area: approximately 80 km2), which is located inside the caldera; the magnificent somma, which includes Bihoro Pass and Mt. Mokoto (1,000 meters above sea level); and Mt. Iwosan (Atosanupur) (508 meters above sea level), the foot of which is covered in an expansive colony of Ledum Palustre var. diversipilosum. The area also has many onsen, including the Kawayu Onsen as well as Nibushi Onsen, sand baths, Ike-no-Yu Onsen, and Wakoto Onsen. Furthermore, various phenomena characteristic of very cold regions can also be observed, including the cracks formed in the ice on the surface of Lake Kussharo, diamond dust, frost cracks, soft rime, and air frost.
Mashu Caldera was formed approximately 7,000 years ago by an enormous volcanic eruption; inside the caldera is Lake Mashu, which boasts one of the highest levels of transparency in the world. Lake Mashu is a lake with no rivers flowing in or out of it; on the southeastern wall of the caldera is Mt. Mashu (Kamuinupuri; 857 meters above sea level), which has a huge explosion crater, while on the southwestern side is Mt. Nishibetsu (800 meters above sea level), which is a treasure trove of alpine plants. Lake Mashu is also known for the thick fogs that frequently occur there and which, with the deep blue of the lake surface, create a mysterious atmosphere.
Mt. Iwosan (Atusa-Nupuri) was mined in the past for sulfur. The mountain has more than 1,500 vents, both large and small, from which white fumes of gas are constantly gushing. Mt. Nishibetsu ( to the east of Lake Mashu) provides stunning views of Mt. Mashu and Lake Mashu and because of its relatively low altitude, it is known familiarly as a mountain rich with abundant alpine plants. Mt. Me-akand (southwest of Lake Akan) is a very active volcano. Near the top it is possible to see the crater from which fumarole gas rises and enjoy the richly varying landscape.
Wakoto Peninsula comprises the remnants of a volcano that erupted much later than when the Kussharo Caldera was created, and even today the geothermal heat overall is high. Consequently, much of the peninsula does not freeze, even in winter, making it possible for Hyalessa maculaticollis and many other organisms to live here.
Lake Akan and Its Marimo Balls
marimo Lake Akan (on the west side of the Akan caldera) is famous for its Moss Balls (Marimo algae). Moss Balls are a species of freshwater green algea found in a number of lakes in Hokkaido and Honshu. The Moss Balls that grow in Lake Akan have been designated a National Special Natural Monument due to their beautiful spherical shape. In addition to hot springs, visitors can take a trip across the lake in a tour boat, as well as enjoy fishing and other activities. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]
Lake Akan is a 42-meter-high caldera lake that covers 1,300 hectares and has a circumference of 2.6 kilometers. It is situated between two volcanos 1,371-meter-high Mt. Oakan and 1,499-meter-high Mt. Meakan. It is not clear why the marimo grow to such a large size in Lake Akan. Influencing factors include spring water that feed the lake, the gentle topography of the lake and soil rich in lapilla lava fragments. Marimo can be observed at only two locations in the lake. Perhaps the best place to see them is at the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center on Chunui island in the lake.
Some marimo are smaller than tennis balls Others are larger than volleyball. It was originally thought that it took 900 years for these balls to reach the size of a basketball. Studies however reveal that can grow as much as 10 centimeters in five years. The balls form the bed of Lake Akan from clumps of threadlike algae. Marimo can be found in six locations in Japan and 70 around the world but nowhere but Lake Akan do the balls grow to such a large size,
Lakes of Akan-Mashu National Park
Lake Kussharo is Japan's largest caldera lake. In the winter, the lake freezes over completely. At times ice pressure ridges of over 10 kilometers can be formed in the surface ice. In local tradition, these are attributed to the gods crossing the lake. Bihoro Pass is an excellent spot for viewing Lake Kussharo. The observatory is located next to the roadside station. From here is it possible to see the topography of the Kussharo Caldera as well as Mt. Iwosan, Wakoto Peninsula, and — in fine weather — the Shiretoko Mountain Range.
Lake Kussharo is said to be the home of Lochness-like monster named "Kussie." Since 1973, more than 100 local people in the town of Teshikga have reported seeing the long black creature. At Sunayu Onsen on the eastern shore there is a beach warmed by hot springs. At Wakata Onsen on the southern shore there open-air pool warmed by hot spring water. Website:
Kaminoko Pond is located in the foot of the mountains of north side of the Mashu Caldera, and its mysterious blue water shinning under the sunlight fascinates many visitors. It was admitted into the Akan-Mashu National Park in August, 2017.
Canoes Trips allow visitors to quietly explore while slowly paddling along waterways surrounded by deep forest are held in the upstream area of Kushiro River and on Lake Kussharo and Lake Akan. Sokodai Observatory is approximately 12 kilometers by car on National Route 241 (Akan Odan Road) linking Lake Akan and Teshikaga Town. This observatory provides breathtaking views of Lake Panketo and Lake Penketo nestled quietly is an ocean of trees.
Lake Mashu: Lake of the Devil
Lake Mashu Lake Mashu (in Akan-Mashu National Park) is known as the "Lake of the Devil" to the Ainu. The second clearest lake in the world, with visibility over 200 meters, it features 1,000-foot-high cliffs and spectacular views. Hikers often set out for 855-meter-high Mashu-dake, a craggy volcano whose crater ridge was altered by a 1993 earthquake. The crater itself was created around 4,000 to 5,000 years, with water filling in gradually until it reached it present level about 1,000 to 5,000 years ago. In 1966, a popular ballad made the lake famous. Unfortunately much of the lake is off limits to everyone but researchers.
Lake Mashuis continually transforming throughout the year. The lake can be viewed from three nearby observatories with each one presenting a different landscape. Lake Onneto is located on the far western edge of the park. It's name in the Ainu language means "old, large lake", and it is also called Goshikinuma ("Five-colored marsh") because the color of the lake varies widely depending on the weather, wind direction, and position from which it is viewed.
The water is so clear in part because of a shortage of nutrients — particularly nitrogen and phosphorous — that certain light-blocking plankton need to grow. In August 1931, transparence was observed to a depth of 41.6 meters, a record at that time. These days the transparency in August is between 26 meters and 29 meters. The transparency is measured by dropping a 30-centimeter white disk into the water and measuring the depth in which it is no longer visible.
In recent years the water in Lake Mashu has started clouding up, with its transparency measurements sometime falling below 20 meters. No one is sure why . In the late 1920 rainbow trout were released in the lake. In the 1960s and 70s kokanee trout were released. The trout fed on small creatures that feed on animal plankton that feeds on plant plankton, which has helped keep the water clear, Without the fish the water starts clouding up. Other factors that have affected visibility including erosion of sand into the lake and the mixing of deep water with shallow water in December and May.
Mashuko is a caldera lake like Crater Lake in Oregon. No rivers flow in or out of it. Its only sources of water are rain and snow. Some air pollutants arrive form China. The level of the lake never varies more than 40 centimeters. It bedrock floor acts as a sink. A fissure in the crater walls just above the surface prevents water from rising above that level.
During much of the summer the lake is covered in mist. Most winter the lake freezes over, Some years it partially freezes. But in 2002, 2004 and 2007 it didn’t freeze at all, Water has begun to collect in the crater of Mount Mashudake, suggesting the possibility of a mini-Mashuko developing over the next several thousand years there. Website: Akan Tourism Association kushiro-lakeakan.com
Onsens and Sights in Akan-Mashu National Park
Akanko Onsen (on the southern shore of Lake Akan) is lined with large hotels and is a base for a wide range of sightseeing activities. In addition to viewing the Moss Balls growing in the lake, bokke bubbling mud, or taking a sightseeing cruise, skiing in the nearby mountains and skating on the lake can also be enjoyed here. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]
Kawayu Onsen has bubbling spring water that originates from Mt. Iwosan. The Onsen district is lined with Onsen inns and souvenir shops, and a "hot water river" flows through the town. Surrounding the Onsen district is a forest containing Quercus crispula Blume, Japanese white birch, Picea glehnii, and various other tree species.
Ainu Kotan is the largest Ainu settlement (kotan) in Hokkaido, Located to the east of the Akanko Onsen at Lake Akan, Ainu Kotan comprises approximately 30 households and is the largest settlement of Ainu people in Hokkaido. In addition to rows of folk craft shops, the Ainu theater Ikor presents performances of traditional Ainu dance, which has been designated as a National Important Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as puppet plays.
The Ainu people have traditionally been a hunting, gathering, and fishing people, and as such, they venerate bears as the manifestation of a high-ranking mountain god who descends from his heavenly kingdom to visit the earth dressed in meat and fur for the benefit of humans. Iomante is a ritual performed by the Ainu people to send the spirit of the mountain god back to his kingdom. In the Iomante Fire Festival, it is possible to see various dances and traditional rituals in a sacred atmosphere, such as the Fire Lighting Ceremony conducted by Ainu elders. Today, performances of the Iomante Fire Festival are presented at the Lake Akan Ainu Theatre Ikor May-June and to enable visitors to September-November experience Ainu culture.
Kushiro: Industrial Town with Good Soba and Seafood
red-crowned crane Kushiro (near Akan-Mashu National Park, 5 hours by train from Sapporo ) is an industrial town with 200,000 people. The most interesting place to visit is Washo market. Specializing in seafood, it is not only a place where one can gawk over the staggering variety of sea creatures and sea creature products it is also a place where you can eat them. Some stalls have sushi with toppings that you choose. Other have huge tanks filled with king and horse hair crabs that you can select and have boiled for you on the spot. Many of the specialties are seafood delicacies found almost exclusively in eastern Hokkaido. Shin Usami wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: The yellow-green of the soba made and served at the Chikuroen soba restaurant on the shore of Lake Harutori in Kushiro, Hokkaido, is as beautiful as ever. The noodles at this restaurant, founded 140 years ago in the early Meiji era (1868-1912), look quite different from ordinary soba, which is either whitish, brownish or blackish. About 30 affiliated soba restaurants in the city also serve soba of a similar color. “We mix powdered chlorella [green algae] with ichibanko [flour from the core of buckwheat] when making soba. We started doing it around 1960,” said restaurant owner Junji Ito. According to Ito, 40 grams of chlorella is added to a 30-kilogram mixture of buckwheat flour and wheat flour. [Source:Shin Usami, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 9, 2014]
“Speaking of food culture, I should also mention the meat sauce spaghetti at Izumiya Honten, a restaurant that opened near the Nusamaibashi bridge in 1959. When the dish was brought to me, a large serving of thick spaghetti with rich sauce was sizzling on a very hot iron plate. I immediately began eating the dish even as the lavishly applied oil continued to bubble. Soon after I began eating it, I began sweating. By the time I’d finished, dripping with sweat, I could feel the deep association between the local dish and Kushiro’s severe winters. Shino Sakuragi, a local native and winner of the Naoki Prize for popular literature, describes nostalgia for this restaurant in her novel “Loveless.” I was happy to see that it still attracts as many customers as before.
“After leaving the restaurant, however, I was confronted by the city’s run-down central area. I had expected it, but it did make me sad. For many years, this city boasted the largest fish hauls in the nation. It also prospered through coal mining and paper manufacturing, but it was difficult to imagine the city’s glory days as I stood on its main street lined with shuttered, vacant shops. I also went to see Zuriyama, a pile of rocks removed as waste from coal mines, which towers at the seaside. It looked lonely in the sunset twilight. However, concerned locals are making efforts to promote the city’s sunset as a tourist attraction. Dubbing it “one of the three greatest sunsets,” along with those on the island of Bali and Manila Bay, people who support the project have installed cameras at various spots to post images of the setting sun online, and introduced good spots for photography. I went to Nusamaibashi bridge around sunset and saw many people carrying cameras there.
“Later that evening I went to Robata, a Japanese-style barbeque restaurant that was established a little more than 60 years ago. The restaurant, which cooks its food in front of customers, is the oldest of its kind in the city. Its interior has the atmosphere of a banya, a traditional facility for fishermen’s work and lodging near their fishing grounds. Having absorbed lampblack over the years, its darkened pillars and ceilings shine smoothly. Restaurant employee Shizuko Nakajima, 78, was grilling a large Pacific saury, a fish also known as saury, in a square fireplace, surrounded by diners. Fat dripped from the fish onto the smoldering charcoals, causing them to flare up intermittently.”
Websites:Kushiro Tourism Association kushiro-lakeakan.com , Tel: (0154) 31-4549. Map: Kushiro Tourism Association Walking Tour kushiro-lakeakan.com Hotel Websites: Kushiro Tourism Association kushiro-lakeakan.com; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Kushiro is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Sapporo and other Hokkaido cities. The trip between Sapporo and Kushiro on a limited express train is five hours. By bus it is six and half hours. The Shiretoko Peninsula is three and half hours away by bus. Kushiro Airport is about a 100-minute flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo. The central area of Kushiro is about a 50 minutes’ bus ride from the airport.
Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
red-crowned cranes Kushiro Shitsugen National Park (near Kushiro) is a vast marsh with a nesting area for the rare black and white red crested cranes, which numbered only about 20 in 1924 but now number between 400 and 500. The birds. Also known as Japanese cranes, are most easily seen in the winter when they are fed in designated areas. Other wildlife seen here include Hokkaido foxes, zoshika deer, kingfishers, great spotted woodpecker, Steller’s sea eagles, white-tailed sea eagles, and Siberian salamanders. In addition to sedges, wild cherry trees, grasses and reeds you can also see Kushiro hanashinobu plants, believed to have been around since the Ice Age.
Kushiro Shitsugen is Japan’s largest wetland area. Shaped like a left hand palm, it covers 18,000 hectares and extends 36 kilometers from north to south and is spread out over 25 kilometers from east to west, with the Kushirogawa and Chiruwatsynaigawa Rivers running through it. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park covers 27,000 square kilometers and included the wetlands and the alder forests around it. Some areas have been damaged by farm development and flood control project in the 1960s that straightened the Kushirogawa River.
Several kilometers of wooden plank walkways wind through the marshes. Many people stop at the Kushiro Marsh Observatory on the west side of the wetland. Some people explore the area on the backs of native Hokkaido horses. Other glide though the wetlands in canoes and kayaks.
Websites: Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Akan Tourism Association Akan Tourism Association ; Kushiro Akan Tourism Association kushiro-lakeakan.com Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Kushiro Marsh Japanese Crane Tours are offered in Kushiro Marsh is an ancient wetland and food source for almost all Japan’s Japanese cranes. Here you can appreciate these magnificent birds in their natural habitat, alongside stunning snowscapes and other natural and wildlife wonders. Tours are offered to the marsh and it is possible to observe the cranes dancing and soaring in a winter skies around Kushiro Marsh National Park. Tour Address: 3-19-8 Tokiwa-cho, Nemuro-shi, Hokkaido Websites: Crane Tours h-takarajima.com
Nemuro and Eastern Hokkaido
Stellar sea eagle Nemuro is Hokkaido's easternmost city. It is a jumping off point for scenic places and wildlife-viewing areas. A number of ecotours are organized by local authorities and tour companies. Nemuro is a 1½-hour ride from Nemuro-Nkakshibetsi airport. Websites: Nemuro Tourist Information nemuro-kankou
Shunkunitai Wild Bird Sanctuary (near Nemuro) is one of the best places in Japan to see birds . It embraces Lake Furen, a 5,000-hectare brackish lake, and three long sand bars, one of which extends five miles into the Sea of Okhotsk and is covered by three rows of dunes . All three have been created in the last 3,000 years.
About 300 species of birds have been spotted here. During the warm months red-crowned cranes can be seen in te marshes between the sandbars. In the winter Stellar's sea eagles, white-tale eagles and snow buntings can be seen. The eagles come to feed on fish scraps left out by fishermen. In October and November, birds which have just fledged chicks in Siberia, arrive in the area and move around in groups with between dozens and hundreds of birds. They eat a kind of water weed known locally as amamo. When the Lake Furen begins to freeze they fly further south and return in March and April to rest and load on food before their long journey back to Siberia. Occasionally people see very are Blakiston's fish owls,
Odiato (near Nemuro) is place where sometimes in the winter you can witness an unusual sight: a square or hourglass rising sun. The sight only occurs a few times a year. The phenomena occurs in Nemuro Straight when the air is much colder than the sea and the water's surface is warming up, creating a layer of warm air that acts like a mirror. You are most likely to see on cloudless, very cold mornings.
Notsuke Peninsula (northeast Hokkaido) is the largest peninsula in Japan. Extending for 28 kilometers to within 16 kilometers of Russia, it is essentially a long sand bar covered by sparse vegetation. The main attractions are birdwatching, sailing and fishing.
Erimo (eastern Hokkaido) is home to the $16.2 million Wind Museum. It contains an observation deck with views of spectacular black rock cliffs and offshore islands, where seals hang out. The only problem is that the view during the peak tourist season, from April through August, is often obscured by fog. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia
Image Sources: 1) idioimagers.org Kumai Mintara 2) Wikipedia 3) 6) Nicolas Delerue 4) 5) Akan-Mashu National Park 6) 7) 8) Wolfgang Kaeler, International Wildlife Adventures 9) 10) Rishiri Tourist Association
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020