Introducing places of interest: Akan National Park (Akan Area)
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Mt. Oakan-dake (1,371 meters above sea level) is situated at the southwest tip of the Chishima Volcano Belt and emerged approximately 10,000 years ago in the center of the Akan Caldera. The dignified, inspiring form of Mt. Oakan-dake is referred to in the Ainu language as Pinneshiri (Male Mountain). Up to around 1,000 meters above sea level, a mixed forest of conifers and broad-leaved trees — including Yezo spruce trees, Abies sachalinensis fir trees, and gold birch trees — grow on the side of the mountain where steep mountain trails encrusted with large and small deposits of lava have been created. From around the 1,000-meter mark, the vegetation dramatically gives way to a zone of dwarf stone pines that provides climbers with a clear field of view. From around the seventh gou up the mountain, visitors are afforded spectacular views of Lake Akan and Mt. Meakan-dake. If you are blessed with fine weather on the day of your climb, you will be treated to a sight of the entire area of Paketo from the summit of the mountain. Take delight in discovering Japanese alpine cherry trees, Clintonia udensis, and span class="i">Primula jesoana var. pubescens in May and June and fields of blossoming Diapensia lapponica L. var. obovata Fr.Schm. plants, Loiseleuria procumbens Desv. plants, lingonberry plants, Ledum palustre var. diversipilosum plants, Weigela middendorffiana plants, Orchis aristata plants, and Chamaepericlymenum canadense plants in June and July.
[Crater on Mt. Meakan-dake,
Aonuma, and Mt. Akan-Fuji]
Mt. Meakan-dake is positioned southwest of Lake Akan and rises 1,499 meters above sea level. Volcanic activities commenced approximately 20,000 years ago. The present-day complex features of this mountain came about through the steady emission of white volcanic smoke and countless eruptions over the course of its history. Mt. Meakan-dake actually comprises multiple cones—including Mt. Minami-dake, Mt. Higashi-dake, and Mt. Tsurugi-dake—and several summits, of which the main ones are the Nakamachineshiri summit and the Ponmachineshiri summit. In the Ainu language, Machineshiri means "Female Mountain." The main summit, Ponmachineshiri, was created approximately 15,000 years ago while Mt. Akan-Fuji, which is situated on the south side of Mt. Meakan-dake, stands 1,476 meters above sea level and emerged about 2,000 years ago. Phreatic explosions occurred at this site between 1955 and 1959. More recently, a small-scale phreatic explosion occurred on March 21, 2006. The mountain remains an active volcano to this day. Yezo spruce trees, Abies sachalinensis fir trees, and other conifers dominate the flora at the foot of the mountain while a zone of dwarf stone pines extends upwards from around the fifth station. Beyond the 1,100-meter mark lies a band of rocks and gravel where such alpine plant species as Dicentra peregrina, Arenaria merckioides Maxim, Potentilla miyabei, Penstemon frutescens, and heathberry flourish.
"Bokke" means "boil" in the Ainu language and refers to mud volcanoes produced through volcanic activity. The Bokke area is situated near the edge of the lake at a point approximately 500 meters north of the Akan Lakeside Eco-Museum Center. As you approach this spot, you will be met with the sounds of bubbling mud and the scent of sulfur wafting through the air. The base of this area features numerous small holes referred to as fumaroles from which water vapor and sulfur gas are discharged. In addition, this locale is permeated by a mixed forest of coniferous species consisting of Yezo spruce trees and Abies sachalinensis fir trees and broad-leaved trees identified as Ulmus laciniata elm trees, katsura trees, Prunus ssiori trees, and Japanese Rowan trees. This richly endowed mixed forest of conifers and broad-leaved trees is home to an array of wildlife species, including the Yezo squirrel, Yezo deer, and black woodpecker. Walk along lakeside or forest trails built to allow explorations of the natural surroundings of Lake Akan to become more intimately acquainted with the natural wonders of the Akan area.
[A lakeside trail]
[Mt. Meakan-dake as seen
from the Onneto Observatory]
The Onneto Observatory is the ideal spot from which to view Lake Onneto. With the onset of the tourism season, this observatory becomes a popular and bustling destination for the sightseeing occupants of tour buses and private vehicles. Onneto is a lake that was formed by an eruption of lava from Ponmachineshiri, the main summit of Mt. Meakan-dake, and represents the westernmost point in Akan National Park. In the Ainu language, the "onne" in "nneto" means "ancient or large" while the "to" in the name means "lake or marsh". Onneto is also referred to as "Goshiki-numa" ("five-colored marsh") due to the various hues taken on by the lake depending on the weather, the direction of the wind, and the vantage point from which the lake is seen.
Onneto Yu-no-Taki Falls
Onneto Yu-no-Taki is situated about 1.5 kilometers (20 minutes walking distance one-way) south of the Onneto Campground. Yu-no-Taki consists of two waterfalls, with the left one pouring forth hot-spring water from a vertical height of 30 meters (discharged at a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius). In the vicinity of Yu-no-Taki are located such facilities as a small arbor and a public washroom. While Yu-no-Taki at one time was used as an open-air bath, the practice has been forbidden ever since it was discovered that the site constitutes one of the world's finest naturally formed deposits of manganese. The substance that appears to be black mud on the surface of the falls is manganese oxide. Also appreciated for its academic value, Yu-no-Taki Falls was designated as a natural monument of Japan in September 2000.
[View from Sokodai]
Travel by car for about 12 kilometers non-stop along National Route 241 (Trans-Akan Highway) linking Akanko Onsen with Teshikaga Town to reach a parking lot, public washrooms, a concession stand, and Sokodai, an observatory commanding views of Penketo and Panketo lakes. The sight of Lake Penketo, which lingers quietly amid a sea of dark-green trees, is breathtakingly beautiful.
In the Ainu language, "Churui" stands for "rough, torrential waves". Churui Island is one of four islands situated inside Lake Akan (the others being Oshima, Koshima, and Yaitai) and is the site of the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center ("torasanpe" means "departed soul of the lake" in the Ainu language). It also happens to be the only island in the lake where visitors can go ashore. In addition to displays of marimo placed inside aquarium tanks, the center provides easy-to-understand explanations on such topics as the distribution and ecological significance of marimo.
[Marimo on display]
Travel by car for about 5 kilometers along National Route 241 (Trans-Akan Highway) from the Akan lakeside area towards Teshikaga, take a right turn at a forest road that leads towards Tsurui Village, and drive for approximately 7 kilometers along highly curved sloping roads until you reach a location with a sign reading Tsurumi-toge ("Tsurumi Pass") at around the boundary line between Kyu-Akan Town and Tsurui Village. Tsurumi Pass commands a sweeping view of majestic Mt. Oakan-dake and Mt. Meakan-dake, which can be identified by the presence of billowing white columns of volcanic smoke. In addition, Mt. Akan-Fuji appears from this angle to be pressed up against the latter.
[Mt. Oakan-dake and Lake Akan
as seen from Mt. Kikin-dake]
Rising 995 meters above sea level, Mt. Kikin-dake is a peak that is situated northeast of Lake Akan. Drive along a forest road that extends to just below the summit and once you have reached the terminal point of this road, walk for a further 30 minutes or so to reach the top of the mountain. From around the summit, you will be treated to a spectacular view of Mt. Oakan-dake, Lake Akan, Mt. Meakan-dake, and a dense ocean primarily comprising red Yezo spruce trees, Yezo spruce trees, and various other species of local trees.
Mt. Hakuto Observatory
[Mt. Oakan-dake and Lake Akan
as seen from the Mt. Hakuto
From the Mt. Hakuto Observatory, visitors can enjoys views of Lake Akan, the Akanko Onsen resort area, and Mt. Oakan-dake. The area around the Mt. Hakuto Observatory is a zone of geothermal energy where fumarolic activity occurs, such that there is little snow accumulation seen here even in winter. A carpet of soft moss suitable for such a temperate location can be found throughout the area. Refrain from stepping off the walking trails set up to protect the valuable moss and exercise caution against the risk of burns from exposure to the hot vapor emerging near the face of the mountain.
Akan Lakeside Observatory
[Akan Lakeside Observatory]
The Akan Lakeside Observatory is an observatory (open during the summer months only) attached to the Akan Lakeside Ski Resort situated at the southern tip of the local onsen district. As this observatory is located halfway up the ski slope of this resort, it commands a fantastic view of Lake Akan, Mt. Oakan-dake, and the onsen district. You can drive almost the entire distance to this observatory and walk for about another 50 meters to stand at a vantage point from which the glorious sight of Lake Akan and Mt. Oakan-dake will be unveiled to you. This observatory is recommended for those who, with little time to spare, wish to survey the Lake Akan area with their own eyes.
Takiguchi is situated at the mouth of the Akan River around the base of Mt. Oakan-dake. It is said that this area was named Takiguchi ("top of a waterfall") because the strength of the river flow caused the outfall in question to resemble a waterfall. Takiguchi also constitutes the starting point for climbs up the Mt. Oakan-dake mountain-climbing trail and is a popular destination among mountain climbers from across the country during the summer season. The Takiguchi lakeside vantage point affords views of Mt. Oakan-dake, a chain of nineteen islands created from lava deposits, and Rhododendron dauricum and Rhododendron brachycarpum var. roseum flowering plants. If you visit on a windless day, the tranquil, beautiful reflection of the landscape in the surface of the lake will take your breath away.
[The Akan River as seen
from Takimi Bridge]
Takimi Bridge is a bridge built over the Akan River as it flows down from Takiguchi and is located near the place where the river flows into the lake. During the season of autumnal foliage, large numbers of visitors arrive to take photographs. This is an impressive place from where one can admire the red and yellow tinged woods of Akan and the beauty of the Akan River as it flows with such force that it resembles a waterfall.
Lake Jiro and Lake Taro
Walk for about ten minutes from the starting point of a mountain-climbing trail leading up Mt. Oakan-dake to see Lake Taro and for another ten minutes or so to see Lake Jiro. Lake Taro and Lake Jiro are tranquil, inscrutable bodies of water whose beauty is only revealed to those who make the journey to arrive here on foot. These two lakes are situated at an elevation of 420 meters above sea level. Lake Taro and Lake Jiro boast a maximum depth of 8.7 meters and 3.0 meters, respectively. This location is similar to Takiguchi in that it is a place where one can enjoy beautiful displays of Rhododendron dauricum flowering plants and the fall foliage.