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
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.
Access to the lake is strictly prohibited. Tourists have to make do admiring the lake from one of several viewing platforms.
Iozan (Sulphur Mountain), Akan National Park
You might think it’s a little odd that there are these incredibly active sulphur fumaroles out here in the middle of this paddock.
But there’s a very simple reason for it:
Iozan (Sulphur Mountain) is an active volcano.
Lake Kussharo, Akan National Park
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.
Lake Kussharo (along with other lakes in Akan National Park) is on the migratory path of the Whooper Swan.
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.
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 and how to reach Akan National Park:
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 transport info here.