Lake Kusharo is Japan's largest massive caldera lake, covering nearly 80 square kilometers. Numerous hot springs can be found around the perimeter of the lake, and sunayu or “sand baths,” wherein warm water rises to the surface of holes dug into the lake shore, have become a must-see tourist attraction. Moreover, the lake has become famous for “Kusshie,” the gigantic, mysterious and unidentified creature thought to lurk in its waters, and Japan's own version of the Loch Ness Monster.
An Idyllic Resort Area
Lake Kusharo is a massive caldera lake 57 kilometers around, covers an area of 79.7 km2, is 117.5 meters deep, and has an underwater visibility of 20 meters. In the center of the lake lies Japan's largest lake island, with an area of 5.7 km2 and a circumference of 12 kilometers. The blue of the waters of the lake is distinctively beautiful, and the area has become an easy-going resort where even in the heart of the solemn and primitive Akan National Park, visitors can enjoy hot springs, camping, sail boating and more. In the winter, Whooper Swans and the best lake bulge ice in Japan are also famous.
Lake Kusharo is a curious in that by digging holes in the sand along the lake shore in certain places known as sunayu ("sand baths"), warm water will bubble forth. Hot springs are abundant due to an active volcanic belt, and in addition to the famous Kawayu Hot Springs known for its strongly acidic sulfur springs, many quiet and secluded hot spring inns such as the Wakoto, Sankou, Kotan, Ike no Yu, Sunayu and Nibushi hot springs can be found along the lake shore. Outdoor baths are also found on the Wakoto Peninsula and in the sand baths along the lake front.
Japan's Best Lake Ice Bulges - Omiwatari
During the winter, a rare natural phenomenon known as omiwatari or "God's Crossing," occurs on the surface of Lake Kusharo. This bulging phenomenon takes place when ice on the frozen surface of the lake with straight-line cracks collides with itself and creates a tremendous cracking sound, but the omiwatari of Lake Kusharo is said to be the best in Japan as these cracks can extend for as many as 10 kilometers. Ice contracts when cooled and expands when heated. When the temperature drops at night and the lake ice contracts, it forms cracks. During the day, the temperature rises and the ice expands, and with the increase in pressure of both sides of the crack jutting up against one another, it creates a loud crack! The word omiwatari originally comes from Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture, where it's said that the cracks are the remnants of the male god of the lake striding across the ice to meet the female god of the lake, and the formation of the cracks are used to foretell the weather for the upcoming year, social conditions, and whether or not the harvest will be good or bad.
The Legend of Kusshie
Kusshie is an unidentified mysterious animal first witnessed in Lake Kusharo in 1973, and named after Nessie, the famous creature said to inhabit Loch Ness in Scotland. Kusshie's first reported sighting was in the summer of 1973 by as many as 40 middle school students on a field trip to the lake, and later in 1988, a man pursuing the creature in a motorboat claims to have approached it, remarking, "Kusshie's back is black and shaped like a dolphin." Ripples were photographed on the lake surface in 1990, which were also filmed by the video cameras of a television station, but no conclusive evidence was ever gathered from the footage. As a side note, it should be noted that local residents tell the story of a lake monster that eats dear whole, and an Ainu legend giant exists of a giant snake that lives in the lake, which may have some relation to Kusshie.