The past few days, we visited a very unique lake on the island of Hokkaido in Japan. I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing else like it in the world. Here are my top 3 reasons why Lake Akan is so unique and sugoi (awesome):
1) Marimo Algae Balls
It’s full of these weird round algae balls called Marimo. They’re really interesting looking and they don’t exist in many places in the world. This area is famous for them, so there’s lots of touristy stuff around here about it. We even got to see some ways that the eco-museum is studying them and growing them, involving the local school students. The ones you can see below are little, but the real ones in the lake are huge. Coincidentally, our guide at the eco-museum mentioned that there are also some of these in Iceland.
2) The Ainu Indigenous Japanese People
Lake Akan is the home of the Ainu people, an indigenous group of people who were some of the first people in Japan. We got to visit an Aunu Kotan (village) and experience a bit of their culture. We bought some of their wood carving and other handicrafts, tried playing their musical instruments, and even got up and danced with them (check out the video to see our group embarrassing ourselves).
3) Natural Hot Springs (Onsen)
Lake Akan was formed by a volcano, so there are natural hot springs everywhere. We got to smell the sulfur, touch the hot rocks on the ground, and see the boiling water in the ground. Very cool stuff.
We happened to be passing by when a crew was filming the bubbling hot springs with a drone-like helicopter camera thing. So that was awesome — you can see it in action in this video.
The best part of the hot springs is that people use the natural hot water for public baths, called onsen in Japanese. Our hotel had gorgeous baths, with all sorts of tubs. There were many ways to relax in there — walking through the foot spa (with different pools filled with different kinds of rocks), lying down in a recliner tub, soaping up at a beauty station, going between tubs of different temperatures, hopping in the extra hot sauna (75 degrees Celsius) or the regular one, , standing under the hard stream of water getting a good muscle massage, or heading outside to gaze at the lake from the tub. It was glorious and no photos were allowed inside, but I took some photos outside the onsen and another one to show you the view of the lake from in the tub.
Lake Akan is a truly special place. If you ever have a chance to check out some marimo, hang out with some Ainu people, or go to an onsen, definitely say yes!