Hokkaido’s Akan National Park – Discover Ainu Culture and “Frost Flowers”

Volcanic Lakes and Dense Coniferous Forests

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Lying in eastern Hokkaido, the 90,481ha (approximately 223,538 acre) Akan National Park is predominately covered by a natural coniferous forest and encompasses three caldera lakes – Akan, Mashu, and Kussharo.
The basins of these lakes were formed by volcanic activity and they remain surrounded by volcanoes today. There are observation decks dotted throughout the park, giving you the best panoramic views of Akan’s primeval tapestry.

The flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Kushiro Airport takes one hour and thirty-five minutes. Hop on the Akan shuttle bus at the airport for the one-hour ride to Lake Akan. In just under three hours you’ll be transported from the bustle of central Tokyo to a pristine natural sanctuary.

Get Closer to Hokkaido’s Indigenous Ainu Culture

Along the shore of Lake Akan you will find Akan Ainu Kotan – a settlement of Hokkaido’s indigenous people, the Ainu. Some 200 Ainu people live and work here, the largest such community in the prefecture. At the local “Ikor” theatre you can see traditional song and dance performances in worship of bears and other animal spirits. Handed down through generations, Ainu music is simple yet mystical. These rituals have been registered as an UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Visitors can also participate in instrument and wood carving workshops.

Don’t Miss the “Frost Flowers” of Winter

Frost Flowers

The winterscape of Akan National Park is truly phenomenal! Between December to March, uniquely-shaped ice crystals form on the frozen surface of Lake Akan. True to their name, these “frost flowers” look like glittering white flowers in bloom.

From January to March, the non-profit Akan Tourism Association runs the “Akan Forest and Lake Walk” guided tour. In good weather, you can trek across frozen Lake Akan for about an hour.
As for the frost flowers, there’s a 10 to 20 percent chance they appear each winter. The conditions need to be just right – 15℃ or less, no wind, clear skies, and no snowfall the previous day.
Tour details can change depending on the climate each year. Please inquire at the below email address in December for more details.

Other fulfilling activities around the lakes include canoe tours on Lake Akan and Kussharo, morning mist viewing on Lake Mashu and Kussharo, and lakeshore camping. Whatever time of year you visit, an unforgettable experience awaits.

English and Chinese-speaking guides can be arranged for the various tours, depending on the tour company, schedule, and number of participants.