The world greatest Kushiro Marsh is right there in Kushiro, in which the real wildlife of Hokkaido can be found. The graceful bird “Red-crowned crane” is the mystic treasure in this area. Hokkaido is greatly renowned for diverse nature, wildlife, beautiful rainbow flower fields, driveway, hiking, trekking, onsen, bird-watching, skiing, and fresh seafood.

In Kushiro, you experience most of these things except the flower farms, and ski resort. However, Kushiro – the most populous city in eastern Hokkaido is a historic port city and has a great impact on Hokkaido’s economy. Especially fishing industry here is very strong.

Mist on Lake Akan! Photo Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson at Flickr.

The city is overlaid with thick mist most of the time. That’s why often it is known as “City of Mist” in Japan. Winter here is not that as severe as Asahikawa and Sapporo. Due to the less snow fall in the city area you don’t find any ski resort nearby.

When you take a walk around the city at night you would see a very few people out there in the street. It sounds to me a ghost city though. To be honest with you, there is nothing much interesting to see and do downtown Kushiro but when we escape from it within Kushiro area we encounter the hidden treasure and beauty of it.

1) Visit Lake Akan in Summer

Beautiful view of Lake Akan in Summer. Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO at Flickr.

Lake Akan is one of the most beautiful caldera lakes in Japan and quite renowned for its marimo (Moss ball). It has been designated as a National Special Natural Monument. In Akan National Park, there are three caldera lakes and Lake Akan is one of them. It is said that volcanic eruptions of the two mountains Oakan and Meakan formed the landscape around Lake Akan.

If you are off to explore Kushiro area then visiting Lake Akan should be in your bucket list. In summer, Lake Akan receives a lot of nature enthusiasts. There are wide ranges of summer activities can be experienced throughout the season. To have a wonderful and most memorable summer holidays one should get to Lake Akan. Its picturesque landscapes help you to be stressed free and give you a lot of relaxation which in fact you must need.

Marimo under the water, Lake Akan. Photo Credit: TravelingOtter at Flickr.

Spending a day in Lake Akan is a good way to get an overview and make a to-do list for the upcoming days. I don’t think, only a single day trip to this area could satisfy you if you think yourself as a real explore. The lake features a magnificent hot spring resort known as Akankohan. This is where you can find restaurants, hotels and ryokan to stay the nights. Hot spring bath facility including the foot bath there is excellent.

There is sightseeing boats leave for Marimo Exhibition Center from Akankohan. It is a 1-hour leisurely boat trip journey which in fact very enjoying. You don’t need any reservation to take this service, just go there at the ticket counter and buy your tickets. Then enjoy the surrounding landscapes as it embarks. In addition, you can enjoy the scenic beauty by a motor boat. In summer and winter there are attractive guided tours available for the visitors.

2) Learn the Ainu Culture at Ainu Kotan

Shops at the Ainu Village. Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO at Flickr.

You can get to a historic landmark called Ainu Kotan in Lake Akan. It is a small Ainu (Indigenous people of Hokkaido) village of which you can learn about their history and their unique culture. At Lake Akan Ainu Theater, you can see Ainu Traditional Dance that expresses their lifestyle with wildlife including song and their traditional musical instrument performance.

In addition, there are some souvenir shops that usually sell Ainu handicrafts. You are suggested to purchase some unique crafts from the shops and use them as home décor accessory. Perfect choice!

3) Hiking Mt. Oakan and Mt. Meakan

Lake Akan and Mount Oakan in Kushiro. Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO at Flickr.

These two mountains are on the list of the best 100 mountains of Japan. The reason I tell you to stay there for at least 2 days is that Lake Akan is flourished with eye-catching endless nature beauty. It is only possible to explore when you take a hiking course along the designated hiking trails. Head to tourist information center and get some useful information before you start your hiking course. June to October is the ideal time to hike here.

Winter hiking here is quite challenging and more difficult to cope with the weather. That’s for why hikers are expected to take the designated hiking courses in between June to October. Through hiking viewing the alpine flowers beauty in summer would be surprising and charming at the same time. Mt. Oakan offers only one hiking trail, staring from the east point of Lake Akan, at the end of a gravel road.

On the other hand, Mt. Meakan has three hiking trails. The courses of the trails are known as: Akan Lakeside Course, Meakan Spa Course, and Onneto Course. Please have your bear bell with you and other necessary hiking accessories.

4) Heading toward the Clearest Lake in the World

Awesome reflections. Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO at Flickr.

In Akan National Park, the best means of transportation to get around is a rental car, especially when you are to move from Lake Akan to Lake Mashu then to Lake Kussharo. In Hokkaido, summer is bright and sunny most of the time. So, the ideal and best time to visit Lake Mashu is in summer. You could experience an impressive view of the blue sky reflections in the lake. The sky uses it as a mirror! Sounds breathtaking, right?!

What is the clearest lake in Japan? Yes, that’s Lake Mashu (Mashuko). Sometimes I heard travel experts saying that it is the clearest lake in the world. I think it makes sense! After all my previous trips to this beautiful lake helps me to say it “Yes, it is.” Heavy fog can be observed in the early morning as well.

Please note that it even could be foggy most of the time. The surrounding scenery is amazingly gorgeous. The green forests, crystal clear blue water, and hills together make a silent wonderland. In which, you are hosted by the mother of nature.

Lake Mashu and an Observatory. Photo Credit: Mr Hicks46 at Flickr.

To enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake and Mount Mashudake, there are some observation decks around the rim of the caldera. You are not allowed to go down to the lake, please don’t try it. Whether you are amateur or advanced hiker, the hiking trail here is for all.

The trail is about seven kilometers long leading from Observation Deck Number 1 and for one way hiking course it takes about 2.5 to hours. Take more time if you need, there is no problem at all! Want to have a trip to this lake from Lake Akan? Then get there by a rental car, it takes only an hour drive. Good luck.

5) Visit Lake Kussharo for Fun Outdoor Activity

whooper swans in lake Kussharo during winter. Photo Credit: Simon Desmarais at Flickr.

Among these three caldera lakes in Akan National Park, Lake Kussharo is the largest of all. If someone asks you about “what’s the largest caldera in Japan?” then the answer would be: Lake Kussharo. Please pay a visit to this lake whenever you are in Akan National Park. I love to walk and it is my favorite way to see Lake Kussharo. Apart from this, in the summer I enjoy canoeing here.

Once I visited the lake with some of my friends. We all wanted to do some fun summer outdoor activities there such as hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing as we heard it was an ideal place for them. And we successfully did what we wished for.

Is not it a beautiful beach? Photo Credit: Christophe Richard at Flickr.

We have spent some times at Sunayu Beach right after end of our hiking course. It is a sandy beach that offers you to enjoy a lovely view of the lake. When I travel I take few books to read. While relaxing at the beach I read a famous Japanese novel called Spring Snow, written by Yukio Mishima. It was truly a great spot to read some pages there.

You can stay overnight at ryokan located in a small hot spring resort named Kawayu Onsen. If you become a non-staying guest during the day then still you could take onsen facility there. You are suggested to visit the Eco Museum Center and Kawayu Sumo Museum. Enjoy your trip!

6) Visit Kushiro Marshland for watching the graceful Red-crowned Cranes

Japanese cranes in Hokkaido. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

If Sapporo is the capital of eating famous Hokkaido Ramen in Japan then Kushiro Marshland is the capital of graceful bird called Japanese Crane or Red-crowned Crane. I think they are the most beautiful creature on earth. Watching them dancing in a wonderful winter morning is only possible in Kushiro Marshland.

It is a designated national park in Hokkaido and mostly known as the Kushiro Shitsugen National Park with a total area of 183 square kilometers. It is located between Akan National Park and Kushiro City. When people think of exploring Akan National Parks, they first should discover the wildlife of Kushiro Wetlands/Marshland.

Red-crowned cranes can be observed at various feeding stations throughout the year. These cranes are not migratory; they stay here all year round and increase their population safely. Kushiro marshland is the heaven for them. There is no one who could disturb them as bird hunting is strictly prohibited there. Many photographers from around the globe visit Kushiro only for photographing these beautiful cranes.

Now take down the name of the most prestigious spots for viewing these cranes, they are: Tancho Observation Center, Otawa Bridge, Tsuruimidai, and Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctury. Please pay a visit to Akan International Crane Center, a museum, to explore the crane history and ecology. In addition, you are suggested to visit various viewpoints around the park not only to see how large the marshland is but also for feeling the nature that surrounds it.

7) Kushiro Zoo Expedition

It is swimming time for them! Photo Credit: pelican at Flickr.

Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa is the most prestigious and largest Zoo in Japan. On the other hand, Kushiro Zoo is said to be the second largest Zoo in the land of the rising sun. If you are visiting Kushiro with kids then this is the ideal holidays spot for them as there is an amusement park, and hot springs located next to it. My little cousin loves Polar bear & penguin very much; that is why often we go to Asahiyama Zoo.

Anyone who is curious of the Polar Bears should get to this zoo. They are in serious danger of going extinct due to global warming. Thanks to the Government of Japan that it has taken so many actions to save endangered animals. Please note that the zoo is home to about 60 different species of animals including endangered birds species.

Hokkaido Brown Bear at Kushiro Zoo. Photo Credit: pelican at Flickr.

At the Zoo, you see the polar bear having fun playing with things inside the cage which your kids would like to enjoy the most.  In addition, this zoo features the Red-crowned crane, tigers, owls, penguin, Hokkaido brown bears, Steller’s sea eagles, White-tailed sea eagles and many more.

Please note that half of the zoo is dedicated to the Red-crowned crane Protection and Breeding Center. It plays a very important role in order to increase the population of this crane type. As winter rolls in hundreds of wild whooper swans come here and then the zoo becomes one of the most iconic places to see birds in winter in Hokkaido. I think the fictional character “Tarzan” would be pleased to see the harmony of the animals that reside at this Zoo.

8) Get Back to Ancient Times of Kushiro Area visiting the Kushiro Art Museum

Kushiro City Art Museum. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

History amazes me! Whenever I travel to any specific area one of my intentions is to hunt for the history of that place. It is time to explore the ancient history of Kushiro. How could you do it? Simply head to Kushiro Art Museum, located by the Kushiro-gawa (river) that flows through the center of the city. It is worth a visit!

The whole museum consists of attractive collection of fine arts including rare paintings and photographs that represent the old and modern history of Kushiro. In addition, there is an exhibition hall, arts space, workshop room, coffee house, conference room, and a library.

Think it is a basket that is filled with everything related to Kushiro’s ancient time and its evolution. You will be learning here a lot from Kushiro’s fauna and flora to Hokkaido’s indigenous people “Ainu”. It is not just a place to spend few times because you don’t find anywhere to travel around in downtown Kushiro but much more than that! Once you get in, you are completely lost in the deep history of this area. I highly recommend you to pay a visit and experience it fully.

9) It is Time for Having Some Kushiro’s Local Specialties

Katte Don! Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO at Flickr.

The port city is quite renowned for producing tons of fresh seafood. In downtown Kushiro there are restaurants you can get it and order some local dishes. But there is a special place for having a special dish. That’s “Kushiro Washo Market.” It is a popular fish market to have fresh seafood as it is located quite adjacent to JR Kushiro Station. Katte Don is the special dish I was talking about a moment ago.

You yourself buy a bowl of rice, and then walk along the rows of shops for selecting your wished ingredients to eat as toppings. As it is filled with seafood vendors you are highly encouraged to try quick seafood meal. There are also famous Hokkaido crabs you find there. You can measure the size of it before you start eating it! I think the market is a heaven for sashimi lovers. Come here as it is neat and clean, good luck dear!

10) Enjoy the Sunset

A statue at Nusamai Bridge, Kushiro. Photo Credit: Tzuhsun Hsu at Flickr.

Enjoy the view of the sunset from the greatest Nusamai Bridge. Anyone finding a place in downtown Kushiro to spend the evening could head to this bridge. It is one of the most prestigious spots for viewing the sunset in the Hokkaido region.

There could be some reasons why you should consider making time to watch the sun set here. Every nature lover knows the value of it and considers it as a perfect time to say “Goodbye” to the sun until it rises in the next following morning.

Sunset view from Nusamai Bridge, Kushiro. Photo Credit: yuukin at Flickr.

When I stand on the bridge I just don’t wait to see the sun set rather I like strolling around and gazing at the beautiful statues on each side of the bridge. Check out the weather forecast before you go there. If the weather is bad then don’t expect to see it clearly. You better then find a restaurant to have Kushiro Ramen. That would be best!

Please visit Kushiro either in summer or winter! You will be just amazed! And try to visit these attractions and have a lot of fun there. Thanks!