Duration
6 days
Season
May-Oct.
Requires renting a car.

ITINERARY

Akan-Mashu National Park Wilderness Tour

An action-packed exploration of Akan-Mashu National Park’s volcanic landscapes, caldera lakes, Ainu culture and hot springs.

Itinerary Highlights

  • Capture the scents of the forest through crafting your own aromatic water from Ezo spruce and Sakhalin fir trees.

  • Immerse yourself in eastern Hokkaido’s wilderness while hiking, cycling and canoeing.

  • Enjoy the wide open skies of Hokkaido at night with an evening of stargazing at Lake Mashu.

Trip Overview

An introduction to Akan-Mashu’s fragrant forests
Lake Kussharo’s sea of clouds and Ainu culture
Mountain biking and a magical night tour
Lake trekking and canoeing around Akan
Volcanic hikes and a night sky tour from Lake Mashu
Explore the Kushiro River and observe fascinating local wildlife
Day 1

An introduction to Akan-Mashu’s fragrant forests

On your first day, fly to Memanbetsu Airport on a morning flight and pick up your rental car. Make your way to Tsubetsu—there are lunch options in Bihoro, on the way. Arrive at Tsubetsu Nonno-no-Mori nature center, a certified forest therapy base, around 1:00 p.m. You'll be taken on a forest fragrance therapy tour with a nature guide who will lead you through the forest and help you collect leaves and branches. Back at the base, you'll be able to capture the essence of the leaves in a distiller and put the aromatic water in a bottle to take with you. After the tour, check in to your accommodation at Tsubetsu and enjoy a relaxing evening.

Day 2

Lake Kussharo’s sea of clouds and Ainu culture

Early risers will enjoy a “sea of clouds” guided tour at Tsubetsu Pass Observatory, located at 947 meters, for 360-degree views of Lake Kussharo and the surrounding landscape. The early morning hours are prime time to overlook Lake Kussharo blanketed in fluffy white clouds tinged pink with the sunrise. After the tour, set off for Lake Akan, about a 1.5-hour drive from Tsubetsu.

In the afternoon, join a tour led by an Ainu guide at Lake Akan. There are two guided activities to choose from, as well as traditional cooking and craft experiences. Afterward, pay a visit to the Akankohan Eco-museum Center for an overview of Akan’s geography, nature and wildlife. Explore multilingual exhibits and enjoy the ecomuseum’s freshwater aquariums, which feature fish from Lake Akan and marimo, a unique form of algae that grows into the shape of a ball. Several hot-spring ryokan on the shores of Lake Akan make ideal places to rest your head for the night.

Day 3

Mountain biking and a unique digital art show

Start the day with a cycling trip from Akankohan to secluded Lake Onneto with a knowledgeable local guide. Along the way, visit Onneto Yunotaki Falls, a thermal waterfall designated a Natural Monument of Japan. In the evening, the Kamuy Lumina Enchanted Night Walk at Lake Akan will awaken your senses as you walk through Lake Akan’s enchanted forest in the dark. Beautiful digital art and projection mapping illuminates the natural surroundings, and stories are recounted of the Ainu, the Indigenous people of Hokkaido.

Day 4

Lake trekking and canoeing around Akan

Take a deep dive into the natural beauty of the Lake Akan area with a full day of outdoor adventures. In the morning, learn about Mount Oakan’s volcanic past and explore its surrounding forest and lakes on a guided hike around the foot of Mount Oakan. After a break for lunch, enjoy a relaxing paddle on the placid waters of Lake Akan in a canoe. You’ll have the opportunity to spot white-tailed eagles, ospreys and other wildlife around the lake. If the weather is clear, enjoy the uninterrupted views of Mount Oakan.

Day 5

Volcanic hikes and a night sky tour from Lake Mashu

After checking out of your Lake Akan accommodation, head for Kawayu Onsen in the northeastern area of Akan-Mashu National Park. Sokodai and Sogakudai Observatories are great places to stop for admiring views along the way. Hiking options near Kawayu include the rim of the Mashu Caldera to Mount Mashu, a challenging climb, or walking the more gentle Tsutsujigahara Nature Trail to Mount Io. Allow around 5 hours for the Mount Mashu hike, which starts from Lake Mashu Observatory 1, and around 2.5 hours to walk the Tsusujigahara Nature Trail from the Kawayu Eco-museum Center.

Stop by the Kawayu Eco-museum Center after your trek for an introduction to the Kawayu region’s nature and rich history, and to learn more about Akan-Mashu National Park’s volcanic activity.

The town of Kawayu Onsen has several lodging facilities where you can enjoy bathing in the area’s natural hot springs. Check in, freshen up, and enjoy a meal at your chosen accommodation before an evening of stargazing at Lake Mashu, an ideal location to view shooting stars and constellations unspoiled by urban light pollution.

Day 6

Explore the Kushiro River and observe fascinating local wildlife

Begin your final day with a misty morning paddle down the pristine headwaters of the Kushiro River by canoe. The area is teeming with wildlife—catch glimpses of native birds, deer and other creatures along the riverbank. After the tour, stop by the Teshikaga Kussharo Kotan Ainu Museum to learn more about the rich history of the Ainu and see artifacts of the Kussharo Kotan Ainu settlement.

Before flying out from Kushiro Airport, if time allows, drop by Roadside Station Mashu Onsen for some last-minute souvenirs, or visit the Kushiro Red-crowned Crane Nature Park, just 10 minutes from Kushiro Airport. The nature park is outside the borders of Akan-Mashu National Park, but it is a good chance to observe the elegant red-crowned crane, a symbol of Japan.

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