The Lake Akan Area: A Future Geopark?
Akan National Park is found on the Island of Hokkaido. It was designated in 1934 as one of the second batch of properties to be declared national parks in Japan. The natural heritage of the area includes a group of volcanoes, Me-akandake, O-akandake, and Akan-Fuji, and three lakes of volcanic origin, Akan-ko, Kussharo-ko, and Mashu-ko. The geological structure consists of a large caldera that originated in the early Pleistocene and a group of younger partly Holocene, andesitic, and dacitic cones. The highest point of the complex is the Me-akandake (1499 m) stratovolcano. It consists of nine overlapping cones, with three summit craters, and has erupted least 17 times since the beginning of the nineteenth century. The national park based on this natural heritage is a popular visitor destination, offering sought-after views and bathing opportunities all year round and skiing and other snow sports in the winter. Lake Akan-ko is also known for its “marimo”—a species of algae that forms large green balls when mature—and a natural phenomenon that in Japan is unique to this lake. The social capital of the area also includes traditional Ainu settlements (an early Japanese indigenous ethnic group now mainly confined to Hokkaido). This is an important feature given that cultural geotourism is a global phenomenon. Many indigenous communities offer their unique interpretations of natural and other forms of heritage, including food, around the world, and the implications of such an interest by tourists for the Ainu community around the lake are considerable.
KeywordsMarimo Ainu Cultural interpretation The Mt. Akan volcano group Geoparks
The author thanks Dr. Wataru Hirose of the Environmental and Geological Research Department, Geological Survey of Hokkaido, for his welcome contributions to the geological commentary in this chapter.
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