Kushiro, Lake Akan and Lake Mashu Area

Untouched nature covers much more of Eastern Hokkaido than other areas of the prefecture. The Kushiro Area, with its mysterious marsh scenery and hot springs in the Kushiro Wetlands (the largest wetland in Japan), and around Lake Akan, and Lake Mashu, is an area where visitors will experience the feeling of being in a natural setting so vast it could only be found in Hokkaido. Sightseers are constantly astonished by the sight of a succession of landscapes of overwhelming scale. We urge you to enjoy outdoor activities in this vast natural world and relax at hot springs famed for the quality of their water.

Planning Hints
– To visit Kushiro, Lake Akan, or Lake Mashu, you should plan to travel for 3 days with 2 overnight stays because these scenic spots are far apart.
– We urge you to enjoy the outdoors in the vast land of Eastern Hokkaido. Canoe on the Kushiro wetlands to delight in its majestic scenery and close-up views of wild animals.
– Don’t pass up a rice bowl piled with all the fresh seafood you can eat! And be sure to savor the fish and shellfish.

Traveling

We also recommend a leisurely and relaxing ride on the popular sightseeing train, the Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko (limited service period). This way, you can enjoy gorgeous scenery while traveling across the Kushiro Wetlands (Kushiro to Toro). This sightseeing train that travels at a leisurely pace across the vast Kushiro Wetlands is a big hit with people of every age and is always particularly crowded during the summer holiday season. A relaxing ride on the Norokko will let you feast your eyes on a seemingly endless succession of gorgeous views of vast natural scenery as it appears through the train windows.

Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko
From its observation car, passengers can enjoy panoramic views of Kushiro Wetlands including scenery they could never reach traveling by car.
[Service period] Late April to early October (Please confirm days it is in service)
[Route] Kushiro to Toro
[Fare] Adults 540 yen (Kushiro to Toro), Additional 530 yen required to reserve a seat)
[Reservation method] It is best to make an early reservation. You can reserve a seat beginning at 10:00 a.m., one month in advance (the same date on the previous month) https://www.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/

Events

The following are the major events held in Kushiro and at Lake Akan and Lake Mashu. Check to find out which events will take place during your visit.

  • Tsutsujigahara Nature Trail: Mid-June to Mid-July
    Tsutsujigahara Nature Trail: Mid-June to Mid-July
  • Kushiro Port Festival: Early August
    Kushiro Port Festival: Early August
  • Ice Land Akan: Early January to Late March
    Ice Land Akan: Early January to Late March
  • Diamond Dust in KAWAYU: Late January to Late February
    Diamond Dust in KAWAYU: Late January to Late February
  • Akan Lake Ice Festival, “ICE – Love – Akan” Winter Fireworks: Early February to Early March
    Akan Lake Ice Festival, “ICE – Love – Akan” Winter Fireworks: Early February to Early March

Sightseeing spots

Kushiro Wetlands Hosooka Lookout
Japan’s largest wetlands and the first in Japan to be designated as a Ramsar Convention Registered Wetlands in order to protect waterfowl, the Kushiro Wetlands are the habitat of precious wildlife including the protected species, the red-crested white crane.
To see the large-scale scenery typical of the Kushiro Wetlands, visit the lookouts constructed throughout the region. On your first sightseeing trip to the Kushiro Wetlands, you have to visit the Hosokawa Lookout and others to enjoy broad panoramic views of the wetlands. Many can be reached easily by car or by train.

Key points

– Ten-minute walk from Kushiro-Shitsugen Station. You can enjoy a giant panoramic view of the Kushiro Wetlands from this popular lookout.
– The Kushiro Wetlands is the perfect place to enjoy some truly stunning sunsets. 

Paddling across the Kushiro Wetlands
A fascinating way to see the untouched nature of the wetlands only possible in a canoe. Carried by the gentle river currents, you will delight in the majestic Kushiro Wetland scenery and up-close encounters with the wetland wildlife. The leisurely experience of traveling slowly through the wetlands that are transformed with the arrival of each new season is sure to relieve the stress of daily life.

Key points

– We recommend canoeing to anyone who yearns for a deeper experience of the delights of the wetlands by meeting many of its wildlife including the red-crested white crane and Yezo deer
– No special clothing is required, but because you must paddle your canoe, we recommend that you dress so that you can move easily.

Lake Akan
Lake Akan, the only place in Japan where the spherical Marimo moss balls grow, is a famous sightseeing region and one of the most popular parts of the Kushiro, Lake Akan, and Lake Mashu Region. In the Lake Akan Hot Spring district along the lakeshore, you can enjoy the view of Lake Akan while relaxing in the outdoor baths or stopping at the scattered hand baths and foot baths. In Ikoro, which is Japan’s first theater specializing in Ainu dancing, you can see Ainu culture including classical Ainu dancing that has been designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Key Points

-Enjoy a cruise on a sightseeing boat to soak up the scenery and views of the Marimo. 
– You must not miss the Iomante Fire Festival, a dreamlike spectacle created by the Ainu people’s ancient dancing that has been designated by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
– There are many places to lodge facing the lake and river, and beautiful scenery is visible from the outdoor baths. Enjoy the hot springs while savoring the natural atmosphere of Akan.

Lake Mashu
Lake Mashu is one of the world’s clearest lakes. The popular No. 1 Lookout on Lake Mashu offers a panoramic view of the deep cobalt blue lake that boasts the world’s clearest waters honored with the title, “Mashu Blue.” From June to October, a sea of clouds can be seen spreading in the early morning. Its beauty is breath-taking. Then in the winter, sublime sapphire blue scenery appears through the region, showing the mysterious transformations brought by the changing seasons.

Key points

– Enjoy the many local tours that will bring you brand new experiences: extremely popular nighttime star-watching, sea-cloud tours in the summer, then hoarfrost tours, and snow trekking in the winter.
– The No. 1 lookout at Lake Mashu provides a view of the most beautiful scenery among the views at the three other lookouts built to view Lake Mashu. The blue soft serve ice cream sold in the rest house is colored to match the blue of Lake Mashu. It is an unbeatable treat.

Lake Kussharo
A giant caldera lake filled with cobalt blue water enclosed in a 57-kilometer shoreline with an amazing maximum depth of 125 meters, Lake Mashu is surrounded by mountains including Mount Kamuidake and Mount Sharidake, and others. Many hot springs are scattered around the lake. For travelers to the region, nothing can surpass enjoying out-of-the-ordinary experiences and basking in the hot springs in the midst of the majestic scenery found throughout Hokkaido: bathing in the rustic setting of a traditional outdoor bath while viewing the white seabirds.

Key points

– The largest caldera lake in Japan, it is in a rich natural environment including many vantage points providing a view of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
– The Bihoro Pass Lookout where you can enjoy a grandiose panoramic view of Lake Kussharo is one of the most famous lookouts in Hokkaido.

Fine Cuisine

There are many tasty treats waiting for you in Kushiro. The best-loved are described below.

Washo Market
This popular Kushiro Market is counted among the three finest markets of Hokkaido, which also include the Nijo Market in Sapporo and the Hakodate Morning Market in Hakodate. It is conveniently located close to JR Kushiro Station where, as a typical port town, its approximately 50 stalls sell an extremely broad selection of seafood products at reasonable prices.

One famous product sold in the Washo Market is Kattedon or “My Rice Bowl” that customers create by heaping their favorite seafood on rice. It is prepared and sold through a popular system: each customer buys a bowl of rice in the market then visits the fresh seafood stalls to buy and top off the bowl of rice with the customer’s favorite seafood to create a unique seafood rice bowl adapted to each person’s taste.

Robata-Yaki (Hearth-Roasted Dishes)
Robata-yaki is a method of grilling fresh seafood or vegetables over charcoal. Serving seafood grilled over charcoal was invented in Kushiro. Robata-yaki restaurants scattered throughout its bustling shopping districts include traditional robata-yaki restaurants where customers can enjoy fish and shellfish grilled to juicy perfection by experienced chefs clustered around a sunken hearth and others where customers can grill their ingredients to suit their individual tastes. Seafood with its umami condensed by charcoal grilling is really delicious. Won’t you try to savor the delight of feeling the Japanese atmosphere to a degree impossible anywhere but in Kushiro?

Kushiro Ramen
Kushiro Ramen is attracting interest as Hokkaido’s fourth most popular ramen after Sapporo, Hakodate, and Asahikawa ramen. Its most distinctive feature is its extremely thin curly noodles even said to be the thinnest in Japan. The best soup for noodles that are thin but solid and chewy is a lightly flavored soup with dried bonito flakes or kombu as its base. Its simple taste does not become boring. Among the more than 100 ramen restaurants now operating both in and surrounding the city, some start to serve ramen in the morning. How about ramen for breakfast in Kushiro?

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Kushiro / Lake Akan / Lake Mashu