The area around Kushiro, filled with rich natural features such as Lake Akan, Lake Kussharo, and Kushiro River, is popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Moreover, the landscape offers opportunities to see up close such wild animals as red-crowned cranes, whooper swans, and Yezo sika deer. And with sightseeing trains from whose windows the Kushiro Marsh can be seen, this is a destination especially recommended for those traveling as a family with small children. Ainu villages, where you can experience the traditional culture of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido; Lake Akan, which freezes over in winter, allowing for the enjoyment of winter activities on the completely frozen lake; and sand baths formed from hot springs that jump up from holes you dig into the sand—there are countless spots where you can get active and enjoy the nature of Kushiro. This article introduces relaxing destinations that even families with small children can enjoy. You can experience one spot in-depth, or you can combine multiple spots according to your child’s age and interests. We hope that during your trip to Kushiro you will make memories that the whole family will never forget.
Akan International Crane Center 【GRUS】
The red-crowned crane has long been popular as a subject for both origami and Japanese paintings. Akan Town is known as a wintering ground for Japanese cranes, and the Akan International Crane Center [GRUS] is the only facility in Japan dedicated to the research and protection of these emblematic birds. In addition to exhibitions where you can learn about their ecology, there is an outdoor breeding farm where, throughout the year, you can observe cranes that have been bred in a close-to-natural environment. Why not take a closer look at the beauty of these birds with your whole family?
23-40 Kamiakan, Akan-cho, Kushiro, Hokkaido
Akanko Ainu Kotan
In the Ainu language of the indigenous people of Hokkaido, “kotan” means “village”, or “settlement.” Lake Akan Ainu Kotan is known as one of the largest Ainu settlements in Hokkaido. Kotan is home to the Ainu Living Memorial Hall, called “Poncise”, which means “small house” in Ainu. The memorial hall recreates the type of house in which an Ainu family would have lived in the old days, including an exhibition that conveys this bygone way of life. In addition, there are shops showcasing traditional Ainu crafts, such as wood carving and embroidery, as well as restaurants where you can taste Ainu cuisine, and the Lake Akan Ainu Theater, “Ikor”, where ancient Ainu ceremonial dances can be seen.
4-7-19 Akanko-Onsen, Akan-cho, Kushiro, Hokkaido
Kushiro Shitsugen Norroko Train & SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train
For travelers who want to enjoy Kushiro Marsh with the whole family, the JR Hokkaido sightseeing train, “Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko Train”, is recommended. It takes about one hour from Kushiro Station to get to Toro Station, the final stop, during which time you can relax and enjoy the vast scenery of Kushiro Marsh, which is filled with wild animals, from the large train windows. This view is even more spectacular from the observation car (by reservation only). Offering a truly magical experience, the “SL Fuyu-no Shitsugen Train” (steam locomotive) runs in winter, and it is from this train that you can see Kushiro Marsh dyed silver with snow (all seats by reservation only).
14-1-78 Kita-Odori, Kushiro, Hokkaido
Sunayu around Lake Kussharo
Lake Kussharo, located in Akan-Mashu National Park, is home to many whooper swans in winter. Lake Kussharo is also known as a place for sunayu—hot springs that jump up from holes dug into the sand—offering you the chance to enjoy making handmade open-air baths with your children. The rest house “Letara Chip”, overlooking Lake Kussharo, has restaurants and souvenir shops where you can have a meal while gazing at Lake Kussharo. There are rental boats that can be ridden around the lakeside, and footbaths from which you can enjoy watching the swans, so this is certainly an area recommended as a base where the whole family can spend a relaxing time.
Biruwa, Teshikaga-cho, Kawakami-gun, Hokkaido
Ice Land Akan
For families who want to enjoy winter activities in Hokkaido, the winter-only leisure land “Ice Land Akan” is recommended. Here you can enjoy ice skating and smelt fishing on the lake’s surface (ice skates and fishing tackle can both be rented), which is entirely covered in ice—a phenomenon that is unique to Lake Akan. There are thrilling experiences on the ice for the whole family, such as riding a snowmobile that runs on a 2000-m course in about five minutes; a four-wheel buggy that elementary school students and up can enjoy; and a banana boat that can seat up to eight people that allows you to try out “cornering” around tight bends on the ice.
4-5-10 Akanko-Onsen, Akan-cho, Kushiro, Hokkaido
Kushiro Fureai Horse Park
Fureai Horse Park, located in Yamahana Park, Kushiro City, is a facility where visitors from small children to the elderly can interact with horses. You can see up close horses such as the Dosanko, a species endemic to Hokkaido, and you can experience a guide-led horse ride that even children and beginners can enjoy with peace of mind, as well as a seasonal ride on a horse-drawn carriage. The park is also home to an auto campsite and a hot-spring facility called “Yamahana Onsen Refre”, so it’s a good idea to stop by during a family-camping or hot-spring trip.
10-1 Yamahana, Kushiro, Hokkaido