Know before you go! All about Akan’s magnificent nature行く前に知っておきたい!阿寒の大自然アレコレ
What do you first think of when you hear "Akan"? Hot springs? Marimo? Lake Akan? Visitors from Honshu are impressed by the grand scale of nature in Eastern Hokkaido, and visitors from overseas are often surprised at how close you can get to nature. We'll cover Akan's most talked-about points, and the history of the region.
How nature and humans came to coexist in Akan since ancient times
For the bountiful nature of its forests and lakes, Akan was designated as Japan's second national park in 1934, a legacy which will continue into the future. With a total area of 90,481 hectares, this expansive park includes Lake Akan in Akan-cho district, as well as Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu in nearby districts. Lake Akan and its surrounding areas are home to a number of rare plants and animals, including the "marimo" aquatic plants, which have been designated as a special natural monument of Japan. Along the lakeshore, visitors will find Japan's largest Ainu kotan (settlement), where the proud custom of respecting nature as kamuy (gods) continues to this day. By the end of the Edo period, the explorer Takeshiro Matsuura, who journeyed all of Japan, had already recorded exchange with the Ainu people in his writings.
Lake Akan and Mt Akan-dake: Landmarks of the Akan region
Lake Akan is the fifth largest lake in Hokkaido. This caldera lake was formed about 150,000 years ago by volcanic eruption. It is home to notable wildlife such as marimo, an aquatic plant designated as a special natural monument of Japan, as well as species such as Japanese char, rainbow trout, Sakhalin taimen, and carp. The marimo are an extremely rare plant, found in only two places in the world, including Lake Akan. Marimo have come to symbolize the remarkable abundance of nature in the Lake Akan area.
The magnificent peaks of Mt Meakan-dake and Mt Oakan-dake stand as if watching over Lake Akan. Both are currently active volcanoes, but it is possible to hike them. Mt Meakan-dake is suitable for beginners, with a hike of about three hours reaching the summit at an altitude of 1499 m. Mt Meakan-dake also offers views of Lake Onneto, which remarkably changes colors with the climate.
Akan's national trusts, taking this beauty into the future
One of the major contributions to protecting Akan's nature was the region's designation as a national park. However, even before then, the "Maeda Ippoen Foundation", which holds 3,892 hectares of land around Lake Akan, has been involved in nature conservation in the area. It was 1906 when Masana Maeda, founder of the Maeda Ippoen Foundation, bought land around Lake Akan. The national park designation would occur about 30 years later. The original purpose of buying the land was to turn it into farms and ranches. However, it is said that when Masana Maeda laid eyes upon the abundant nature surrounding Lake Akan, its beauty deeply moved his heart, and he remarked "Even Switzerland pales in comparison to this landscape." And so he decided to conserve the Akan lakeshore area. One hundred years later, the Maeda Ippoen Foundation continues to protect its managed lands as "the forest of recovery". The untouched virgin forests that remain in Akan are a gift of the dedication of these people