While not an ancient tradition, the Marimo Festival has been held on Lake Akan since 1950. It was created to protect the local marimo, round algae balls, from further pollution and is conducted by significant members of the Ainu community.
The event takes place over three days when the marimo are in full “bloom”. This is usually from October 8–10.
On the second day of the festival there will be a procession in the afternoon and evening; this will include dancing and a ceremony to protect the marimo. This is called Kamuynomi (meaning ‘pray to the gods’) and is conducted by the Ainu. On the last day it will be time to send the marimo back to the lake; this will involve another procession and a traditional canoe ride.
How to get there
Lake Akan Ainu Kotan isn’t the easiest place to get to and is quite inconvenient unless you plan to visit other spots in the area. If you are coming from JR Kushiro Station, you’ll need to grab a bus heading to Lake Akan. It’ll take 1 hour and 45 minutes.
If you catch the same bus from Kushiro Airport, you can shave 45 minutes off your journey. Buses are infrequent (every hour or two), so best to plan ahead. Timetable here (Japanese only).
Note: The bus schedule may change in winter.