Twisted trees near Lake Mashuko
Akan National Park (阿寒公立公園 Akan-kokuritsu-kōen) is a large national park in the eastern part of the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
The park's attractions are its three sparkling clear mountain lakes, the eponymous Lake Akan (阿寒湖 Akan-ko) to the west, Lake Mashū (摩周湖 Mashū-ko) to the east and Lake Kussharo (屈斜路湖 Kussharo-ko) between them. The largest settlement nearby is Teshikaga (弟子屈), to the south of Lakes Kussharo and Mashu.
 Get in
 By plane
The nearest airports are in Kushiro, an hour and a half to the south, Nakashibetsu, an hour to the east, and Memanbetsu, an hour and a half to the north.
 By train
The JR Senmō Line (釧網本線) runs north-south across the park on its way from Abashiri to Kushiro, stopping at Kawayu and Teshikaga (Mashu station).
There are around 4 trains daily to Abashiri (2 hours, ¥1600) and 6-7 to Kushiro (1:40, ¥1790).
 By bus
Infrequent buses connect the lakes to each other and the train station at Bihoro.
 Get around
Buses are infrequent and cover only the main routes. A rental car will come in very handy here.
The unearthly hues of the Kaminoko Pond
- Lake Akan (阿寒湖 Akan-ko). The best-known of the trio, largely thanks to mysterious fuzzy green algae balls known as ', which you can view at the free visitor's center. There is also a small Ainu museum and lacklustre dance performances in the village of Ainu Kotan.
- Lake Mashū (摩周湖 Mashū-ko). Entirely protected, without a single building along its pristine shores, Lake Mashu can only be viewed from two designated lookout points, known as #1 (the larger and busier of the two, parking ¥410, on the south shore) and #3 (on the north shore, free parking). A deep volcanic caldera lake, the lookout points are suspended high on cliffs above, and the bonzaiesque appearance of the gnarled trees nearby are a testament to the strong winds that seem to blow incessantly. Often blanketed with a thin layer of fog. Starkly beautiful and worth a visit.
- Kaminoko Pond (神の子池 Kaminoko-ike). Literally "Child of God Pond", this is a small pond in the middle of the forest, reachable only by a long dirt track (no 4WD needed). What makes the bumpy trip worthwhile is that the water in the pond is a truly unearthly shade of transparent sapphire blue. The track is a few kilometers north of the Ura-Mashuko (#3) lookout.
- Lake Kussharo (屈斜路湖 Kussharo-ko). Also a caldera lake, but a bit livelier than the others as the volcanic peak of Mt. Wakoto (和琴山 Wakoto-san, 266m), jutting out from the southern shore, still bubbles, hisses (and stinks) with geothermal activity. An easy trail runs around the island. Good swimming in the summertime.
- Mt. Iō (硫黄山 Iō-zan). Literally "Sulphur Mountain", which is a fairly good hint of what you will see and smell if you go poke around the jigoku (hells). 5 minutes north of Kawayu by car.
- Canoeing along the nearby Kushiro river is a popular if expensive activity, with a 90-minute guided trips from ¥5500.
- The hot spring resorts of Kawayu (near Lake Kussharo) and Akan Kohan (at Lake Akan) offer, surprise surprise, hot springs.
Near Lake Akan, the small village of Ainu Kotan is a tourist trap filled with Ainu handicrafts.
 Eat & Drink
- Mashūko Youth Hostel (摩周湖ユースホステル). Tel. 01548-2-3098, . A very friendly youth hostel halfway between the town of Mashuko and the lake. Included in the price are free homemade cakes and yogurt after dinner and all-you-can-drink milk in the morning, fresh from the neighboring farm — and you can even go squeeze your own glassful in the morning! HI members pay ¥3360 a night (VISA accepted). Take a Bihoro/Kawayu-bound bus from JR Mashu station to "Youth hostel-mae", or call for free pickup from the station after 4 PM. Recommended.
- Wakoto Peninsula Campground (和琴半島キャンプ場 Wakoto-hantō kyanpu-jō). Beautifully located on the shore of Lake Kussharo, with Mt. Wakoto steaming right in front. Facilities include free (but very basic) open-air and indoor hot spring baths to soak in. There is also a convenient restaurant nearby with dishes ¥500 and up. Camping costs ¥400 per person per night.
 Get out
- You're already almost at the end of Japan, so why not head north to the outermost point of all, Shiretoko National Park?
- The little town of Bihoro has nothing to see, but the trip there via the scenic Bihoro Pass may be worth a drive.