East Hokkaido Part 1: Lake Akan


※The recent earthquake was such a disaster in Hokkaido… But amidst the avalanches, broken roads collapsed houses, the Japanese spirit of resilience to such hardships is amazing and truly shines through. This past summer, I had the chance to visit Hokkaido for the first time.

Seeking reprieve from the summer heat in Tokyo, I ventured to Hokkaido! Although visiting Sapporo is arguably the most popular for first-time visitors to Hokkaido, I wanted to explore the much less traveled Eastern Hokkaido, famous locally for its three volcanic lakes (Lake AkanLake MashuLake Kussharo) and Mt. Io

From Tokyo, we flew to Memanbetsu Airport, and then drove about an hour to Akan Yuku no Sato Tsuruga – a beautifully secluded hot spring resort and spa located on Lake Akan. In this first post, I will share about Lake Akan.

※北海道の最近の地震は本当に残念なことですね…しかし、土砂崩れ、家屋や道路の崩壊があった中、苦難から直ぐに立ち直ろうとする日本の精神は素晴らしいと思います。私は、今夏 初めて北海道を訪れました。

避暑のために、最近、北海道に行ってきました! 札幌は人気がありますが、私が訪れたのは道東の3つの火山湖阿寒湖摩周湖屈斜路湖)と硫黄山です。

東京から女満別空港に飛んで、阿寒湖にある美しい「あかん遊久の里 鶴雅」というホテルに泊まりました。 今回のブログにて、阿寒湖を紹介したいと思います。

Lake Akan: Marimo and Canoe


Lake Akan is situated in the Akan National Park. It is famous for marimo, green moss balls that grow in the lake that are a national treasure in Japan.

From the shore, you can ride a speed boat that will take you on a tour around the lake as well as stop at Churui Island to visit the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center, providing a rare opportunity to learn about these cute natural algae balls and their ecosystem. 



Riding the speedboat to Churui Island and around Lake Akan!


Arriving to the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center! Let’s go take a look~

「マリモ展示観察センター」に到着! さて、見に行きましょうか〜

So many marimo! These cute natural wonders are designated as “Special Natural Monuments” in Japan. Colonies of these spherical green balls lie hidden a meter or two below the surface. They look super soft and velvety to the touch, and the Ainu native peoples even honor them with a dedicated festival every October!

マリモがいっぱいある! これらのかわいい自然の驚異は、日本では「特別天然記念物」と指定されています。 マリモたちは、阿寒湖の表面から1~2メートル下に隠れています。 とても柔らかく見えますね!!アイヌ民族は毎年10月にマリモの祭りを行うそうです。

Did You Know?

Although it is tempting to call marimo “moss balls,” they are actually a special species of algae. Their spherical shape comes from the constant motion rolling around as gentle waves lap at the lakeshore, and every side gets a chance to soak up the sun. How egalitarian, don’t you think? 



Although Marimo can be found in a few other locations around the world, it is only in Lake Akan that they grow up to 30cm in diameter! That is almost as big as a soccer ball! 

施設内には阿寒湖の湖底を再現した大水槽があり、天然のマリモたちが静かに眠っている様子を見ることができます。そして、びっくりするほど大きなマリモに出会いました! マリモは世界の他のいくつかの湖で見つけることができますが、30cmにまで成長するのは阿寒湖のマリモだけです!サッカーボールとほぼ同じ大きさですね!

Marimo only grow about 5 or 10mm a year, and it takes more than 100 years for them to reach their maximum size!


The Marimo Center also has an aquarium. Say hello to my new fish friend! 🙂

マリモセンターには水族館もあります。 新しい友達を作りました~ ^^

Marimo have long been popular as pets, but in 1920 they were made a protected species. You can still buy marimo at many stores around Lake Akan, but the ones on sale are artificially created or of a different algae species! Either way, they’re very low maintenance as pets – they will be very happy in a simple jar of water. However, for marimo to achieve its spherical shape, you need to roll them yourself regularly!

マリモはペットとして昔から人気がありましたが、1920年から保護されるようになりました。 阿寒湖の周りの多くの店ではマリモを買うことができますが、販売されているものは人工的に作られたものや違う藻類です! いずれにしても、ペットとしてのメンテナンスは非常に低く、普通の瓶でとても幸せに育ちます。 しかし、マリモが球形になるためには、定期的に手でロールを形作る必要があります。

Lake Akan also offers many sports! In the wintertime, fresh-water smelt fishing and winter sports on the ice are very popular! As I visited during the summer, I went canoeing. It was a breathtaking experience out on the lake!

阿寒湖は冬には前面氷結し、ワカサギ釣りや氷上のウインタースポーツを楽しむことができます。私が夏に訪れた時、カヌーをしました。 湖で息を呑むような経験でした!

With my canoe guide!


We were the only ones out on the lake.

出発~ 私は湖上の唯一の人でした。

This is the first post in my 4-Part Series on East Hokkaido! Continue reading about my adventures at Lake MashuMount Io, and  Lake Kussharo

摩周湖, 硫黄山, 屈斜路湖についても書きますので、是非ご覧ください~


About Rachel

Rachel Leng is COO and Co-Founder of SeiRogai, Inc., a Tokyo-based business consultancy & media production company. Previously, she was Leader of Business Development on the Investment Management team at a Japanese private equity fund, as well as Policy Analyst at a top think tank in Seoul, South Korea.

As an East Asia specialist and former Miss Singapore titleholder, Rachel is passionate about the potential of media to educate and raise awareness about history, culture, art, business, and societal issues to enhance mutual understanding.

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