The eastern part of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, promises both the majestic beauty and awesome power of Mother Nature. Among the lakes and dense forest here is the only place in the world where volcanic activity can be observed close up.
This volcanic region offers exhilarating biking routes and restorative hot spring water, providing the perfect place for outdoor adventure and long soothing soaks. Look out for red foxes and sika deer.
For trekking, there is no better place than Machineshiri, as the active volcano Mount Meakan (1,499 meters) is known in the Ainu language. A local member of the indigenous Ainu community will be your guide into this little-known world.
End your visit with more adventure biking and a trek through the “forest of light,” usually off-limits to visitors.
Meet your guide at the Memanbetsu Airport arrivals lobby and transfer to your hot spring hotel by private vehicle. A short orientation session is followed by a kaiseki-style dinner. A good sleep is recommended in preparation for the following day. Kawayu Onsen has long been popular for its restorative geothermal baths.
After breakfast there is a short lecture at the Kawayu Eco Museum Center on the topography of Akan Mashu National Park. The cycle ride begins soon after. There are three stops at places of volcanic interest along the way as well as a break for lunch. The escort car that follows is there to assist you during your ride.
Break for a lunch of French cuisine and magnificent scenery at Lake Kussharo Tsuruga Auberge Sora. The bike trip culminates in a thrilling downhill ride to Lake Akan, about an hour and a half away.
The following three nights are spent at Hina no Za, a beautifully designed hot spring hotel by Lake Akan that seamlessly blends Japanese hospitality with Western luxury.
Kaiseki-style dinner at the hotel
Set off for a trek across Machineshiri, the name of the active volcano Mt. Meakan in the Ainu language. The first part is a gently ascending forest road. Look out for sulfur crystals at your feet as you near the volcanic area. The approach to the summit reveals the explosion crater and the awesome scale of volcanic activity.
Enjoy a bento boxed lunch while admiring the scenery of volcanic activity from the top of mountain. Along the way, look out for Mount Akanfuji (another volcano) and Lake Onneto (“old swamp” in Ainu). Your guide will point out luminous moss known as hikari-goke that shimmers when exposed to the light. From Lake Onneto return by private vehicle to the hotel.
Dinner at a local restaurant
After breakfast, choose between a fat bike and an e-bike and head off for a cycle trip around the small town of Akan and a downhill ride through the forest.
Lunch at the hotel
After lunch, set out for a walk through Hikari-no-mori (lit. “forest of light”) with your Ainu guide. The forest is an integral part of Akan culture and a special place that is only accessible with a certified guide.
The focus here is on the lives of the Ainu who live around Lake Akan. As you trek through the forest, learn about local folklore and the Ainu relationship with nature.
Dinner at the hotel
Check out of the hotel after breakfast and head to Kushiro train station by private vehicle. Explore Kushiro, a city that once flourished as a fishing port, before boarding the train.