Engaging the senses and getting lost among the volcanoes, forests, and lakes of eastern Hokkaido
3 years have passed since wondertrunk & co. Producer Sakie Miya first fell under eastern Hokkaido’s spell. Home to some of Japan’s most dramatic terrain, we talked with Miya about what continually draws her back to this volcanic landscape, her top tips for making the most of your visit, and some unique experiences that can only be had in Hokkaido.
Eastern Hokkaido – A land of endless natural wonders
From the abundant wildlife of Shiretoko National Park, to the volcanic landscapes of Akan-Mashu, to Kushiro where cranes alight in untouched marshlands, there are few places remaining in the world where we can explore such varied and diverse scenery in one area. With so many fascinating and varied nature activities at your fingertips, the best way to explore eastern Hokkaido’s stunning natural tableaus is slowly, savoring each encounter and experience one at a time.
Taking the plunge – Dive into the waters of Lake Kussharo before warming up in an outdoor sauna
Exclusive to this area, visitors to the Akan Mashu National Park can dive into the chilly waters of Lake Kussharo before warming up in an outdoor sauna, or vice versa! Lake Kussharo is Japan’s largest caldera lake, with cold, clear waters offering an unobstructed view of the rocky lakebed below. We want our guests to experience the bliss of floating on the lake’s calm surface, the feeling of stress melting away, from the tips of their fingers to the tips of their toes. Set on the shores of the lake, our sauna tent uses a number of local products, from the firewood, to the natural “vihta” bath brooms, to the aromatic mint oil. Sweat to your heart’s content while enjoying this unique feast for the senses.
An eruption of color – Fall foliage season is just around the corner!
Compared to Japan’s more famous (and more crowded) foliage spots, these relatively unknown stretches of Hokkaido wilderness may very well be the its best kept secret for viewing autumn’s splendor. The northernmost of the four main islands, Hokkaido is home to country’s greatest expanses of untouched forests and in mid-October, the mountains erupt in a riot of color as the leaves of the various tree species change their colors, seemingly all at once. Admire the trees that crowd the banks of the Kushiro River as you float downstream in a canoe. In the evening, turn your gaze upwards to marvel at a night sky so full of stars you’ll feel as though you can reach up and pick them right out of the cosmos.
Connecting travelers with remarkable places
When I travel, I’m often overcome with a strange sense of comfort, that at this very same point in time that I am inhabiting, amazing moments are happening all over the world. As I sit awestruck by the beauty of eastern Hokkaido, somewhere else in the world a festival is beginning, a bear is catching a salmon in Shiretoko, the aurora is setting the night sky ablaze in Finland…and in these moments people are meeting, friendships are being formed, and I feel in my heart that a small window has opened, a glimpse into the lives of people and places around the world.
If you’re able to carry that window inside of you, you’re never too far from loved ones, or from remarkable places or moments. In times of stress of difficulty, all you have to do is open that window to be transported to a different place, even if only for a brief moment. In a digital world where any information is constantly at your fingertips, immersing yourself in an area and experiencing its sights and smells, feeling the land with your own two feet and two hands, these authentic experiences have become more important than ever. To me, traveling is a mechanism for peace as we continue to connect with remarkable people as well as the world around us.
Engaging the senses and searching for serendipity
From night skies so laden with stars that they look like they’re about to fall, to sunsets that fill your entire field of view, to the mountains surrounding the mirror-like stillness of Lake Kussharo, it’s easy to feel as though you’re in the presence of the divine.
The shapes of the clouds, the color of the sky, the lake’s surface, the hues of the leaves on the surrounding trees – as time passes the very landscape itself changes, so slowly and subtly as to be nearly imperceptible to the human eye. Despite our attempts to harness it, the earth’s rhythms are still largely unknowable. Its beauty often reveals itself not when we are poised with a camera waiting to take a picture, but rather when we least expect it, a serendipitous moment of wonder that excites the imagination and moves the heart.
With an almost universal affinity for nature, those who live within this powerful landscape are constantly reminded of the blessings provided to them by the earth. In eastern Hokkaido, where smoke still pours forth from the active volcano Mt. Iō, it’s easy to see that the earth is indeed alive and waiting to be explored, to be experienced with all five senses. I hope all of you have a chance to spend some time here, to breathe deeply and reflect upon our inherent coexistence with the animals, the insects, the trees, and all other living things in nature.