Check this topic
for introduction on the area, general information and access details.
After visiting Akan Lake and Onneto Lake, visitors often continue their trip with the following journey:
- go through Teshikaga to the two view points on Mashu-ko;
- go down to Io-zan mountain and Kawayu Onsen;
- finish on the shore of Kussharo-ko.
Many consider Mashu-ko to be the most beautiful lake in Japan. It is also considered as the world's most transparent lake! Located 15 km southeast of Kawayu Onsen, this lake was revered by Ainu people as the "lake of the gods", and the tiny island on it was supposed to be the home of those gods.
This lake is also known as "Misty Lake Mashu", as there is very often a thick fog on the surface of the lake. While this increase the mystic atmosphere of the area, keep in mind that the probability you will not be able to see the lake at all is high
! If you can, plan a trip to Mashu Lake at the last minute, after checking the weather...
When arriving from Teshikaga, you will first reach the Observatory No 1 at Lake Mashu (第一展望台). There is a big, concrete complex with - of course - a souvenir shop, but the view, from the south side of the lake, is really nice. But the view from Observatory No 3 (第三展望台) is even nicer, and much less people stop there (no Observatory No 2...). Access to the lake itself is not allowed, so you will be confined in the parking lots and view points. Therefore, a 30 minutes stop is probably enough to enjoy the lake... On your way, have a look on the western horizon for great sight on the Kussharo Lake!
Note that if you are travelling by car and have time, you should go to the Ura-Mashu observatory
, which is located of the east shore of the lake. There is no direct access from the other side of the lake, so going there will require some long driving. However, the altitude of Ura-Mashu observatory being lower than that of observatories 1 and 3, the view is more impressive and, if the weather is foggy, you increase your chance to see the lake!
And that is the view when the weather is a "little" foggy...
A very impressive sight, especially if you have never seen a sulfurous volcano, Io-zan can also be reached in just 20 minutes by foot from the Kawayu Onsen station. The peak reaches 512 meters, but climbing is not allowed. You are only able to walk a couple of hundred meters from the parking lot, where the sulfur discharges can be seen (fences are preventing visitors from approaching too close). The 2.5 kilometers trail is not that interesting. Also, as it is usually the case close to places with volcanic activity, boiled eggs cooked by the vapor of the fumes can be bought. They are black outside, but perfectly tasty inside! A 20-minutes visit is enough to enjoy that place.
Nice small onsen town, ideally located for the visit of nearby Io-zan, Lake Mashu and Lake Kussharo. If you do not overnight here, there are only limited attractions available. However, we would suggest to stop in the center of the town (in front of the post office), to enjoy a free foot bath (足湯)
. This water is very hot - almost 45°C - and extremely acidic (pH = 1.3, more acidic than pure lemon juice); it contains a large amount of white suspension - sulfur - giving it a milky appearance. One of the most unusual type of onsen water you can enjoy in Japan.
Alternatively, you can visit a ryokan or hotel just to dip in their onsen. This is called nyuyoku (入浴), and is a cheap way to enjoy nice onsen. We recommend Hotel New yu no kaku
, accessible from 12:00 to 17:00 for visitors. There is a nice mixed bath outside (konyoku, without swimming costume). Sumo bluffs will note that 48th sumo grand champion Koki Taiho was from Kawayu Onsen, and that an annual Women’s Sumo National Championship is held in early September in this town. For more information, Tourist Information Office, phone number 01548-3-2255; open from 9:00 to 18:30 (17:00 from October to May).
(屈斜路湖, Kussharo-ko) will be discussed in another topic...