Akan National Park
Akan National Park ( Akan-kokuritsu-kōen) is a large national park in the eastern part of the Japan island of Hokkaido.
The park's attractions are its three sparkling clear mountain lakes, the eponymous Lake Akan ( Akan-ko) to the west, Lake Mashū ( Mashū-ko) to the east and Lake Kussharo ( Kussharo-ko) between them. The largest settlement nearby is Teshikaga (), to the south of Lakes Kussharo and Mashu.
By planeThe nearest airports are in Kushiro, an hour and a half to the south, Nakashibetsu, an hour to the east, and Memanbetsu, an hour and a half to the north.
By trainThe JR Senmō Line () runs north-south across the park on its way from Abashiri to Kushiro, stopping at Kawayu and Teshikaga (Mashu station).
There are around 4 trains daily to Abashiri (2 hours, ¥1600) and 6-7 to Kushiro (1:40, ¥1790).
By busThere are 4 buses daily between Akan and Kushiro station. Infrequent buses connect the lakes to each other and the train station at Bihoro. In season (May-October) bus service is available to Lake Onnetto, serving the Meakan and Akan Fuji trail-heads.
A 2days pass is available at hotels, convenience store and train stations. It gets you around the area with Eco-friendly buses (run on bio diesel fuel) and it's also valid on the JR Senmo line between JR Mashu and JR Kawayuonsen. More info at https://www.ysstaff.co.jp/facebook/east_hokkaido/tab4/2days.pdf .
Lake AkanThe best-known of the trio, largely thanks to mysterious fuzzy green algae balls known as "marimo", which you can view at the free visitor's center. There is also a small Ainu museum and lacklustre dance performances in the village of Ainu Kotan.
Lake MashūEntirely protected, without a single building along its pristine shores, Lake Mashu can only be viewed from two designated lookout points, known as #1 (the larger and busier of the two, on the south shore) and #3 (on the north shore). A deep volcanic caldera lake, the lookout points are suspended high on cliffs above, and the bonzai-esque appearance of the gnarled trees nearby are a testament to the strong winds that seem to blow incessantly. Often blanketed with a thin layer of fog. Starkly beautiful and worth a visit.
Kaminoko PondLiterally "Child of God Pond", this is a small pond in the middle of the forest, reachable only by a long dirt track (no 4WD needed). What makes the bumpy trip worthwhile is that the water in the pond is a truly unearthly shade of transparent sapphire blue. The track is a few kilometers north of the Ura-Mashuko (#3) lookout.
Lake KussharoAlso a caldera lake, but a bit livelier than the others as the volcanic peak of Mt. Wakoto ( Wakoto-san, 266m), jutting out from the southern shore, still bubbles, hisses (and stinks) with geothermal activity. An easy trail runs around the island. Good swimming in the summertime.
Mt. IōLiterally "Sulphur Mountain", which is a fairly good hint of what you will see and smell if you go poke around the hells (jigoku). It is also called "Atosanupuri" by the Ainu (indigenous people of the Nord of Japan and nearby Russia).
- Canoeing along the nearby Kushiro river is a popular if expensive activity, with a 90-minute guided trips from ¥5500.
- These hot spring resorts offer, surprise surprise, hot springs:
Nonaka OnsenThis hotel and onsen actually has three separate onsen buildings — choose which one you want to enter when you buy your ticket. Two of the three buildings have outdoor baths.
- In summertime at the Akan Kohan ski ground (), there are two interesting short hikes, one 550m, the other 2.2km. The shorter one takes you to a ski slope with an excellent view of Lake Akan, its islands and the surrounding forest. The longer one starts off climbing about 900m up a ski slope before delving into the surrounding forest and taking you past a hot water creek (47 degrees), and several bokke (), an Ainu word referring to hot mud caused by volcanism.
- Another hike from the Kawayu Onsen Visitor's Centre to Iwo-san (2.4km) is a very flat and easy but extremely interesting one starting off in luxuriant forest on a moss path before petering out into desert-like scrub as you approach the poisonous vapours of Iwo-san.
Mt. MeakanMt. Meakan makes for a nice day hike. There are several courses, and this is the simplest. Park your car at the trailhead 50m SW of Nonoka Onsen. The trail starts 50m NE of Nonoka Onsen. The trail goes up and around the back side of the volcanic mountain. On a clear day, there are good views of a pond inside the crater, but this can be covered by steam or clouds. From near the top, a side trail leads to Akan Fuji (). The loop continues downhill to Onneto (), where you can walk along the road or around the lake to get back to the parking lot. This 8km hike takes 5 hours at a casual speed.
Mashūko Youth HostelA very friendly youth hostel halfway between the town of Mashuko and the lake. Included in the price are homemade cakes and yogurt after dinner and all-you-can-drink milk in the morning, fresh from the neighboring farm — and you can even go squeeze your own glassful in the morning!
Wakoto Peninsula CampgroundLocated on the shore of Lake Kussharo with Mt. Wakoto steaming in front. Facilities include free (but very basic) open-air and indoor hot spring baths to soak in. There is also a restaurant nearby with dishes ¥500 and up.
Lake Akan Tsuruga Resort Spa Tsuruga Wings ( Formerly Akan Yuku no Sato Tsuruga)Located on Lake Akan, this modern ryokan hotel has open outdoor baths where you can view the lake, or several indoor baths which are varied and quite nice. There are a variety of rooms for those that prefer Western style, or they have 'semi-Japanese' style as well.
Nonaka OnsenThis hotel and onsen is situated in the mountains at the base of a hiking trail for Mt. Meakan.