Time Required: 42 min. Distance: 3.2 km
Wakoto Peninsula was originally an independent volcanic island formed by a volcanic upwelling after the creation of Lake Kussharo. As sediment accumulated over many years, it was later connected to the lakeshore, turning it into a peninsula.
First, stop by Wakoto Field House at the peninsula’s base to gather information about the local natural environment and get a good idea about how to best enjoy your walk. After that, cross the sandbar to the island. Take in the beautiful blue hue of Lake Kussharo as you follow the lakeshore clockwise around the peninsula, and after going down the stairs, you will arrive at Oyakotsu Jigoku, where you can see volcanic activity that continues to the present day. With the fertile soil and high ground temperatures across the entire peninsula, you will find a diverse array of flowers and tree species growing here. Additionally, you can relax in a free rotenburo (outdoor hot spring bath) that is imbued with the essence of the wild. As you walk through this course, please enjoy all the diverse, natural charms of the Wakoto Peninsula.
Around Oyakotsu Jigoku, you will hear the chirping of band-legged ground crickets (Dianemobius nigrofasciatus), that are active year-round due to the peninsula’s geothermal heat. Kussharo Shrine is the only place in eastern Hokkaido where you can hear a rare species of cicada (Hyalessa maculaticollis). Wakoto Peninsula is the cicada’s northernmost habitat in Japan and it has been designated as a National Natural Monument known as the Wakoto "min-min" cicada for the sound of its song. Also, listen closely for twittering narcissus flycatchers, grey-headed woodpeckers, and white-backed woodpeckers, who are not about to be outdone by the cries of the insects.
One of Lake Kussharo’s liveliest spots for volcanic activity is Oyakotsu Jigoku, or "Oyakotsu Hell", whose fuming you can still see to this day. You can visit it from the water by canoe from Lake Kussharo, taking a break at the nearby observatory while you look at the lake. Explorer and author, Takeshiro Matsuura, who visited in 1858, described Oyakotsu Jigoku in his book, Kusuri Nisshi, writing, "The vents belch black smoke and the echoes of it can be heard far off. When the sun goes down, its fire is reflected in the lake’s surface as bright as day."
Wakoto Peninsula is rich with a variety of plant life. Spring arrives early to the peninsula, where you can see the yellow blossoms of the Adonis ramosa earlier than anywhere else. In fact, Wakoto Peninsula is one of the best places to search for spring flowers, as you can find Asian skunk cabbages, wind flowers such as Anemone debilis and Anemone flaccida, and rows of beautiful cherry trees along the road to the peninsula’s gateway. Another unique highlight of this course is strolling beneath a forest of white birch and Erman’s birch, as well as seeing the giant katsura trees. Katsura trees were used by the Ainu people to make dugout canoes and the soot from white birch to color their tattoos.