Akan-Mashu National Park (Hokkaido), Panoramic view on Lake Mashu from Mount Kamui


National Park with Japan’s Most Beautiful Volcanic Lakes

Kanpai's rating
Add to my favorite places
Already visited

Akan-Mashu National Park is located in the east of Hokkaido island, between Abashiri City in the north and Kushiro City in the south. Hikers and nature amateurs’ favorite destination, it is home to a stunning volcanic landscape made of crater lakes and green mountains. Thermal tourism also developed around Iozan, a soufrière volcano, and its onsen hot springs.

Encompassed in an extended national park since 2018, the area of the 3 large crater lakes called Akan, Kussharo and Mashu are one of the most beautiful natural landscapes of Hokkaido Island in the northernmost part of Japan. There, nature is both wild and serene, with volcanic mountain ranges mostly covered by primeval coniferous forests, providing an elegant setting for the blue waters of the altitude lakes.

The National Park’s most remarkable features are:

  • Lake Akan, home to a specific ball-shaped algae species called marimo;
  • Lake Kussharo, Japan’s largest caldera lake, with a nearly 80 km² circumference; and,
  • Lake Mashu, whose water is one of the most transparent in the world.

Pictures can’t do justice to the scenery and to the breathtaking feeling when standing in this vast natural landscape; that was mostly preserved from the hand of man.

Akan-Mashu National Park (Hokkaido), Hiking trail around Lake Mashu

Hiking around the lakes and volcanic summits

The various hiking trails (mostly) circling the lakes are accessible to all hiking levels and we particularly recommend the trail around Lake Mashu, providing observatories on the beautiful and unobstructed altitude panorama. The small Lake Onneto, located at the National Park’s western entrance can also be mentioned, as it offers nice colorful reflections varying according to the seasons and the weather conditions.

In any case, when walking in this area it is advisable to carry a bell to ring so as to warn the forest's brown bears of human presence. In addition to its lakes, Akan-Mashu National Park is home to several volcanoes, that are open to climbing in the summertime.

Akan-Mashu National Park (Hokkaido), Cruise boat on Lake Akan

Outdoor thermal resort

Lake Akan and Lake Kussharo’s shores have places arranged for leisure so finding a hotel 🏨 or a thermal inn there is easy; the area’s geothermal activity indeed provides many natural onsen ♨️ hot springs.

In addition to hiking, various outdoor activities are available all year round, such as:

  • Canoe, pedal boat, and cruises;
  • Bicycle on land or on ice in winter; as well as,
  • Camping in a tent in summer.

Kawayu Onsen is one of the most popular thermal resorts of the National Park, with a strategic location in its eastern side, between Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu, and near Mount Io from where its hot springs well. The Iozan, a soufrière volcano 🌋, offers a deserted moonscape with about 1,500 fumaroles of fluorescent yellow sulfur oozing from the rocky land. The Senmo JR line is the last remain of the place’s sulfur mining past and the only train 🚅 to serve the western part of Akan-Mashu National Park.

Akan-Mashu National Park (Hokkaido), Soufrière at the foot of Iozan Volcano

On a side note, Mount Io is also called Atosa-nupuri, which is its name in the Ainu language. The area was indeed first inhabited by the Ainus who viewed the volcanic activity as a sacred phenomenon. An ancient kotan village has thus been reconstructed on the shore of Lake Akan, and opened to the public as a cultural and folkloric insight on this indegenous people and predecessor of the Japanese civilization.

⬇️ Further down this page, discover our visit guide in Akan-Mashu and around.
By Kanpai Updated on April 26, 2024 Akan-Mashu