Day 4 - Lake Kussharo to Mount Asahidake

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Today’s journey was going to be almost 6 hours of driving, which could have been shortened to 4 hours if we had not gone via Lake Akan. We weren’t to know how great a visit to Lake Akan would prove to be, so I am very pleased we chose the longer route.

But first, a photo-stop. There don’t seem to be too many lay-bys in Hokkaido, so when you see a Parking sign with a camera icon, you know it must be worth pulling over. 

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Lake Akan is famous as the home of the marimo, a rare species of algae that form green balls on the lake bed. We arrived just too late to take a boat to the centre island to see the marimo so were pleased to see them in a tank at the local museum (see top photo). So instead, we took a quick boat ride around the island in one of these little boats. We did actually think we were going to have a brief stop for the marimo, but no.

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So, after a boat trip to nowhere, we ate some health-giving ice cream, at least that’s what the advert said! So far we’d managed to eat ice-cream everyday, so did not need much persuasion!

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To walk off the ice cream, we followed the signs to the lake walk. It was a glorious sunny day, and the sunlight through the trees was just as it should be! But first, why were there so many brides in the park by the lake?

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Paule used her Japanese language skills to the full and discovered that these beautiful ladies were marrying themselves. These Solo Weddings are for single ladies who may have opted out of marriage. Japanese society is still very patriarchal so women who want a carrier often have to give up the idea of marriage. When I visited some Japanese research labs back in the early 1990s, I learnt that when female researchers got married, they were expected to give up their jobs. And if budgets were tight, it was the women who lost their jobs first. I am a little disappointed that this may still be the case. Anyway, they all seemed to be enjoying their wedding day and the setting seemed perfect.

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Fallen trees in the Lake Akan bokke forest were not removed and provided a home for some strange looking animals (a skink) and plant life!

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At the northernmost end of the lake walk is the mud volcano (or bokke as it is known in the Ainu language). This is where mud is heated to 100C by underground volcanic gases and erupts in these grey pools.

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And a rare sighting of a Helen!

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We finished our walk in the museum where we found some marimo, a blue salmon, and the unsettling sight of a human in a fish tank!

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I also got the closest to a bear on the whole trip. They really are very big!

This museum near Lake Akan had a small section devoted to the Ainu, the indigenous peoples of Hokkaido. Their greeting word is “Irankarapte” which means “Allow me to softly touch your heart”. The Ainu have a rich cultural heritage and history and several museums in Hokkaido are devoted to their story. 

By now it was time to get back into the car so we would get to Mount Asahidake in time. For most of the hotels on this trip, we needed to arrive by 6-7 pm in order to get dinner, so we had to get going. We needed another break and eventually came across a service station, but I have no idea of the name of the place. At the back of the rather large facility was a very strange looking clock tower. It was nearly 3 pm and people seemed to be walking towards the clock tower, so we did so as well. Suddenly, music started playing, gnomes appeared out through doors on the clock tower and then a huge cuckoo came out! It was all quite surreal and so very Japanese!

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Our destination on this day was the Asahidake Onsen Hotel Bearmonte, conveniently situated close to the ropeway for Mount Asahidake.

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© Helen Gray 2021