Akan National Park, Japan – caldera lakes, sulphur fumaroles, and whooper swans 2


Each year Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, suffers through a long, cold, Siberian winter. The snow is deep and covers everything, and there is an almost perpetual whiteout. It makes backpacker travel difficult but not impossible. If you can withstand the cold, and put up with the snow, then you’ll find a trip to Akan National Park in the dead of winter is full of rewards.

Lake Mashu, Akan National Park, Japan

Viewing Platform Number 1, Lake Mashu. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Lake Mashu

Lake Mashu is a caldera lake, and it’s endorheic (it’s a closed basin; no inlet, no outlet). It was once classified as the clearest lake in the world (in the 1930s) with visibility of 41.6 metres, but visibility has since dropped to 20 – 30 metres.

Lake Mashu, Akan National Park, Japan

Lake Mashu, seen from Viewing Platform 1. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Access to the lake is strictly prohibited. Tourists have to make do admiring the lake from one of several viewing platforms.

Iozan (Sulphur Mountain)

Iozan, Akan National Park, Japan

The sulphur fumaroles at Iozan (Sulphur Mountain). Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

You might think it’s a little odd that there are these incredibly active sulphur fumaroles out here in the middle of this paddock.

Iozan, Akan National Park, Japan

The sulphur fumaroles of Iozan. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

But there’s a very simple reason for it:

Iozan (Sulphur Mountain) is an active volcano.

Lake Kussharo

Whooper swans, Lake Kussharo, Akan National Park, Japan

Lake Kussharo. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Lake Kussharo is another caldera lake in Akan National Park.

In the 1970s there were reports that a monster – similar in description to the Loch Ness Monster – was inhabiting the lake. But it hasn’t been seen since.

Whooper swans, Lake Kussharo, Akan National Park, Japan

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Lake Kussharo (along with other lakes in Akan National Park) is on the migratory path of the Whooper Swan.

Whooper Swan

Whooper swans, Lake Kussharo, Akan National Park, Japan

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The whooper swan (pronounced hooper swan) weighs between 7 – 14 kilograms, with the heaviest ever recorded whooper swan coming in at 15.5kg. That makes the whooper swan one of the heaviest flying birds in the world.

Whooper swans, Lake Kussharo, Akan National Park, Japan

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The whooper swan breeds in Siberia during the summer months. In winter they head for milder climes, such as Lake Kussharo in Akan National Park.


Practical Information:

Train travel, Mashu, Akan National Park, Japan

Train travel in Hokkaido in winter. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Kawayu Onsen Station (the most convenient train station to access Akan National Park) is on the Kushiro-Abashiri train-line. Trains continue to run even in the dead of winter.

Taxis can be hired from the train station (this is true at the time of writing – January 2012) to take you to any of the sights listed above.


More on Japan:

Jigokudani – snow monkeys in hot springs

Kintai Bridge, Iwakuni – the most elegant of bridges

Kumamoto Castle

Okunoin Cemetery, Kōya-san

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2 thoughts on “Akan National Park, Japan – caldera lakes, sulphur fumaroles, and whooper swans

  • Karen White

    How beautiful. The visibility is amazing still even though it has decreased, I wonder how they measure it, I would think it would be pretty cold all year. Those whooper swans are so lovely as well. I wish I could see them
    Kazzieandkitty