Hokkaido Winter Self Drive Travel – Kushiro, Lake Akan & Lake Mashu

We stayed in Obihiro after our snowboarding in Furano. Apart from accommodation in Obihiro is cheaper, the main reason is due to Obihiro is located between Furano and our following destinations – Lake Akan, Lake Mashu & Kushiro thus staying in Obihiro would reduce our travel times the next day.

Obihiro – Lake Akan – Lake Mashu

The scenery while driving

1. Lake Akan (阿寒湖)

Lake Akan (Map) is a beautiful crater lake in Akan Mashu National Park. The lake is home to a rare algae that have been designated as National Special Natural Monument- Marimo, that forms itself into lush green balls.

The area is also famous for its top-quality hot springs due to its location in a volcanic region. Some hotels open their bath to the public for around 1,500 JPY per pax.

In winter, the lake is completely frozen with its ice is at least 60 cm thick. There are operators offering snowmobile activities.

Snow Mobile

2. Ainu Kotan

Ainu Kotan is a small Ainu village in Akankohan, a street filled with souvenir shops specializing in Ainu handicrafts. There is also a small museum displaying traditional Ainu crafts, clothes, daily life utensils and traditional Ainu performances.

3. Lake Mashu

Lake Mashu (Map) is a caldera lake surrounded by steep 200 metres high crater walls. The indigenous people, the Ainu, called it the Lake of the Gods.

The lake is clearest in Japan and second to Lake Baikal in Russia. However, the lake is usually covered by fog especially in summer. The fog covered the entire lake on our first-day attempt hence we decided to try our luck on the next day and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the icy lake.

Wild sika deers appeared from nowhere in front of us.

Snowball fight on the first day when the fog covered the lake

The crazy travel gang

5. Teshikaga Ramen

We do recommend to drop by Teshikaga Ramen’s main shop if you are visiting Lake Mashu. Pork bones are boiled for 24 hours for their soup. We love their spicy ramen and gyoza.


1. Washo Market (和商市場)

The Washo Market (Map) opened in 1949 as a civic kitchen is located close to Kushiro Station. The market houses over 60 food vendors that sell vegetables, fruits, seafood, or meals for the public.

The main highlight of the market is the kattedon (勝手丼), a rice bowl (donburi) meal that allows customers to add their favourite toppings on top of the rice from different vendors. First, you will need to buy a bowl of rice and walk around to choose the desired toppings.

In my opinion, the quality of seafood in Washo Market definitely lack behind Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo. Nevertheless, kattedon is a fun and unique experience, especially for visitors. For a nice meal, we recommend the kaisendon (seafood rice bowl) at the restaurant in the market.

Opening Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00 pm. Closed on Sunday

The shop owner showing us a block of otoro

All visitors must try Chutoro and Otoro Sashimi when visiting Japan

We recommend this restaurant for a proper meal.

Seafood Bowl (Kaisendon) for only 1,500 JPY

2. Akan International Crane Center

The Akan International Crane Center (Map) is a facility dedicated to protecting the red-crowned cranes that come to this region for the winter and researching the behaviour of cranes. Artificial feeding of red-crowned cranes first succeeded at the facility, resulting in the area becoming their wintering grounds.

The facility has only 3 or 4 permanent housed cranes while the rest are wild cranes hence the number of cranes depends on the migration season. Initially, we thought it is a zoo with a few hundred cranes but only saw 4 cranes and 3 wild ones during our visit.

Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm

Entrance Fees: 470 JPY Adult / 240 JPY Child

Akan International Crane Center

Kushiro Accommodation

Kushiro Century Castle Hotel

We stayed in Kushiro Century Castle Hotel during our trip in Kushiro. The hotel is well located in the city center and along the river.

Airbnb is a good alternative choice apart from hotel. Get Extra RM160 off on your Airbnb booking when you Sign up new Airbnb HERE!

Book Kushiro Century Castle Hotel: Agoda / Expedia / Hotels.com

Hokkaido Car Rental

We booked our Nissan car online with ToCoo Japan. If you are travelling to few cities, Hokkaido Highway Pass will be beneficial as HEP allows unlimited use of Hokkaido’s expressways, for one fixed price thus saving on toll.

Read: How to Rent a Car in Hokkaido

Pocket Wifi

We rented our portable wifi from Roaming Man which offers 3GB data daily at a 4G speed at only RM12 per day for up to 5 devices.

Promo code: RMWIFI19 for 10% off discount. (validity: 4th May till 31 July 2019, for travels until 31 Dec 2019)

Our Hokkaido Self Drive Travel Blogs

About Tommy Ooi 509 Articles
Luxury Hotel Reviewer & Destination Blogger. Passionate for travel, exploring new culture & indulging divine food, Tommy has traveled to 42 countries & 140+ destinations.


  1. Hi, can I check which month you visited in? I notice the roads do not seem to be covered in snow/ice even though everywhere else is. I am trying to decide if we should drive from Furano to Kushiro in December.

    • Hi Wen, we went in March, their normal road is well maintained, apart from the black ice that formed.

  2. Hi, can I check with you, is it dangerous to drive between Kushiro, Lake Alan and Lake Mashu during winter.

    • Hi i think it is not too bad, just allocate more time and drive slower, dont rush and you will be fine

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