Trip Report

Cycling Across Hokkaido, Japan (Day 6): From Akkeshi to Shirarutoro Lake

Posted on Aug 20, 2014
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Posted on Aug 20, 2014

Reading time: 4 min

After the impending drama and doom of last night’s heavy rain, we woke to a much more demure morning: no rain, just low clouds and all-round dampness.

Last updated Oct 14, 2018

Chikushikoi Campground in Akkeshi, Hokkaido, Japan

As any good (especially wet) mornings should, this morning started with some nice brewed coffee.

Real coffee in the morning while cycle touring in Hokkaido, Japan

And of course Haidee’s amazing home-made muesli.

A typical morning on the road while cycle touring in Hokkaido, Japan

The big plan for today was to head towards Shirarutoro Lake, right on the edge of Japan’s largest wetland, the Kushiro Wetlands. This would have us cut across rich dairy farm territory, a main industry for Hokkaido as a region.

Unfortunately, we’ve cycled through so much farmland in Hokkaido, that not much of it now inspires me into taking pictures of it. So here’s a nice red bridge we cycled over in Akkeshi at the beginning of the day.

The famous red bridge in Akkeshi, Hokkaido, Japan

The really interesting stuff came as we neared the Kushiro wetlands. This 270km square national park is the biggest in Japan, and among other things is home to the red crested crane. Tonight we would be camping at a hot-spring hotel campground just before heading across the wetlands the next day.

Before hitting the wetland lakes proper, we stumbled upon the Toro Nature Center. This small nature tours business has a cafe run by a woman who used to live in New Zealand for 16 years. She made a mean flat white coffee, and the Hokkaido wild deer hamburger pattie was pretty good (if not a little overpriced at 1,200yen – US$12 equiv).

Hokkaido Wild Deer burger at the Toro Nature Center, Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

Bellies full of good food, we carried on towards Lake Toro through quiet cool woods.

Sleepy forest near Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

We didn’t really know what to expect from the big blue ponds marked on our maps, but the real thing was really quite idyllic. Lake Toro was a swampy sort of lake, and had it not been quite so hot in the direct sun, we’d have probably been tempted by the canoe tours on offer.

Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

As it was, we amused ourselves with feeding a family of rabbits outside the canoe tour building. Someone had dumped a bucket full of clover flower weeds in front of the rabbit pen…obviously there to get tourists to do the work of actually feeding the wee critters.

Cute bunnies at Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

We tore ourselves away from the fluffballs and headed over the road to the local history museum. Hokkaido is full of fairly recent settler history. In Japan history terms, we’re talking super recent. Like only 160 years ago. Until then, it was mostly the indigenous tribal Ainu people who lived in Hokkaido. Then the ethnic Japanese arrived, ‘modernized’ the place, weren’t very nice to the indigenous peoples (like many colonizing forces), and now we have Hokkaido, a part of Japan proud of it’s ‘frontier spirit’.

Pioneer history and ecology museum at Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

The museum also has a fascinating stuffed creatures floor on the second floor. Birds, mammals, insects….

Pioneer history and ecology museum at Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

Really quite fascinating.

Pioneer history and ecology museum at Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

All housed in a not-very-Japanese-at-all building.

Pioneer history and ecology museum at Lake Toro, Hokkaido, Japan

After getting our fill of local history, we headed on towards our final destination for the day, the Kayanuma Hot Spring campground, on the western side of Lake Shirarutoro. Managed by a more upmarket hotel, the campground is a simple grass clearing, with the normal Japanese campground facilities: clean flushing toilets, and a covered washing/cooking area. Like many other campgrounds we’ve stayed in in Hokkaido, this one of course also had a hot spring facility right next to it. A perfect ending to the day.

Lake Shirarutoro, Hokkaido, Japan

Route: https://goo.gl/maps/MlRGV

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