By this time, we were three-quarter way through our holidays. Another four days and it’s back to life of normalcy and work. I was looking forward to Lake Akan. My friend who had booked the accommodation had revealed that the last two resorts were the best for this trip. (Reviews for the two resorts to follow.) Leaving Furano, we drove east towards Lake Akan, following highway 38, and then the smaller route 242 to our destination.
My first impression of the resort area was that the area was rather untidy, with buildings haphazardly arranged. Our hotel, Lake Akan Tsuruga (Tsurugu Wings) was not fancy and had no grand entrance, but made up for the service. The concierge came running out to our car and ushered us in. For once, we did not have to do any unloading ourselves.
We had a quick lunch of venison, then decided to make our way to Lake Mashu since we only had one night here before a long drive back to Chitose the next day. It was drizzling but the drive was enjoyable as we passed through green hills and dairy farms in what is known in Hokkaido as a scenic byway. (Scenic Byways are roads that by themselves are utilized as a tourism resource in a new approach combining government, the local populace, users and nonprofit organizations to protect and maintain the scenery of regional roadsides and the natural environment.) We also had to navigate through winding mountainous road. A wild deer grazing on the side provided a little excitement to the drive.
We arrived at Lake Mashu, 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled 1.5 hour drive. (We were trying hard to maintain the speed limit of 40-50km/hour and were lucky to have just missed the traffic police numerous times during our drive throughout Hokkaido.)
Upon reach Lake Mashu, we rushed out and searched in vain for the lake. We couldn’t see a thing through the mist. The sign rightly declared : Lake Mashu – Most Mysterious Lake.While disappointed, my three friends did not wallow in gloom for too long as they spotted some snow on the side and started a snow fight, earning them a terse tsk tsk from the other three married women waiting in the car.
On our way down, the other tourist spots like Twin Peaks Plateau and Twin Lake Plateau(Sogakudai and Sokodai) were shrouded in mist too.
There was a heavy storm that night and we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning. The Ainu Kotan Village is just right in front of our hotel. Ainu is an aboriginal tribe in Hokkaido and they are skilled in wood works and various craft. Next to our hotel is Lake Akan. Lake Akan is known for its marimo, a type of floating green algae ball only found here and in a lake in Finland. One can take a glass-bottom boat to view the marimo if desires, but we were lack of cash and time.At noon, with the bright sun overhead and the web-cam at Lake Mashu showing us a clear view, we decided to rush back up to Lake Mashu, despite the fact that we hadn’t had lunch and our drive to Chitose was expected to take seven hours. Of course, we were taking a risk as the web-cam yesterday had also shown a clear view before we departed to the lake.
As we retraced the route back to Lake Mashu, the clouds rolling in was a worry. The driver had to drive fast yet watched for traffic police as well. This time, we were rewarded by a magnificent view of Lake Mashu. The hotel staff had told us proudly that Lake Mashu is the most beautiful lake in Japan and had warned us that it was very difficult to view it. I hadn’t understood him until that moment as I stood in awe.To take a momentous snap shot of Lake Mashu does not do the lake justice, for the colour of the lake changes with the rolling clouds and the blue of the sky. As I watched, clouds floated on the surface of the lake, blurring the line between sky and water.
After an hour basking in the view, we left Lake Mashu, contented that our journey was not wasted. The seven-hour drive ahead to Lake Shikotsu in Chitose area did not seem so daunting after all.
(PS: warning from http://www.lake-akan.com/en/eastern/mashu/index.html
Often enveloped in dense fog and mist, Lake Mashu has an image of being “always covered in fog, and only sunny once in a blue moon.” Because of this, it’s said that those who see the lake when it’s sunny and without fog will either not be able to marry until later in life, break up with a loved one if with that person at the time, or be unable to advance their career, and therefore jinxed! Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
I am not worried though, since I am already rather ‘late in life’, my love one was not with me, and have no career to speak of! 🙂 )