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Off the Beaten Path: Beautiful Lakes in Japan

Japan is an archipelago with a lot of volcanic mountains that naturally generate onsen hot springs. Tourists to Japan enjoy the relaxing onsen experiences but many of them tend to disregard the beautiful views of lakes, also formed by volcanic activities. Here are some of the country’s most popular lakes that offer breathtaking views, clear waters, abundant wildlife, and relaxing activities.

If you’re looking for some mysterious surroundings, then take a trip over to Mashu-ko (Lake Mashu) or Kussharo-ko (Lake Kussharo) in eastern Hokkaido.  Lake Mashu was named one of the clearest water lakes in the world in 1950. During the summer, the normally crystal clear waters become obscured by dense fog, adding to the hype of local legends.  Lake Kussharo is Japan’s own Loch Ness, with multiple reported sightings of a lake monster known as Kusshii by the local press, since 1973. On the shores of this beautiful but volcanic made lake sit several outdoor hot springs, naturally heated sand beaches and hot ground water.

Chuzenji-ko (Lake Chuzenji), located in Nikko National Park – Tochigi Prefecture, is a world heritage site with an abundance of excursions, events, and lodgings available year round. In the Meiji and Showa period, many European embassies built vacation houses around the lake, several of which have been restored and opened to the public. In the spring, cherry blossoms can be found blooming along the lakes coasts and near the surrounding temples. Summertime is great for bird watching and hiking, and the lake is known to have stunning autumn leaves surrounding it in fall. In the winter there is a Snow and Ice Festival held near the lake.

Those looking to have a relaxing getaway with a stunning close up view of Mt. Fuji should take a look into the world heritage site of Fuji Goko (Fuji Five Lakes) in Yamanashi Prefecture. Long ago, lava flow from a volcanic eruption of Mt. Fuji spread across the area, forming five lakes. Motosu-ko, Sai-ko, Shoji-ko, Kawaguchi-ko, and Yamanaka-ko all have spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, with onsens and hotels lining their coasts. Boat rides for sailing, sightseeing, and fishing are offered by the local fishermen, while hiking trails and mountain climbing are available nearby for those looking to stay off the water. Sai-ko Iyashi no Sato Nenba (The Village of Healing), a historically accurate, rebuilt Japanese Village, is also a popular spot to visit. (Closed from December to February)

Next time you’re looking to get away to Japan, think about planning your trip around one of their many beautiful lakes. With festivals, breathtaking scenery, lodgings, and other local activities, you won’t want to leave.

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Known for extremely clear water and thick fog, Mashu-ko in Hokkaido, is filled with mysterious air.

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Magnificent view of Mt. Fuji at Motosu-ko.

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Three Largest Lakes in Japan

1. Biwa-ko (Lake Biwa)
Located in Shiga Prefecture, the lake has a 670 square kilometer area. Since it is so close to Kyoto, it had played an important role providing shipping and transportation routes to connect to remote regions, back in pre-modern days. Today, it not only provides great views but also recreation activities and food supplies.

2. Kasumigaura (Lake Kasumigaura)
The 220 square kilometer lake encompasses Ibaraki Prefecture and Chiba Prefecture. Originally it was a lagoon; therefore, there are still some areas whose water quality is “kisui”, a mix of seawater and still water.

3. Saroma-ko (Lake Saroma)

Located in Hokkaido and facing the Sea of Okhotsk, Saroma-ko has a 152 square kilometer area. Its sandspit encompasses as long as 25 kilometers, providing precious samples of primeval plants. The water quality is a mix of seawater and still water.

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Three Deepest Lakes in Japan

1. Tazawa-ko (Lake Tazawa)
It dips 423 meters deep at the deepest point, Tazawa-ko is a circular shape lake with 6 kilometers in diameter and 21 kilometers in circumference. The water is beautiful cobalt blue and it offers breathtaking views. Located in Akita Prefecture.

2. Shikotsu-ko (Lake Shikotsu)
Located in the southwestern part of Hokkaido, this beautiful caldera style lake is named from the local dialect meaning “a big hole”.  It is 360 meters in depth and is known to be water high in clarity.

3. Towada-ko (Lake Towada)
It is a double caldera lake generated by two huge subsidizations by volcanic eruptions.  The lake is surrounded by beautiful nature, including the famous Oirase Stream, and is a popular tourist destination.  Located between Aomori and Akita Prefectures, the deepest point has 326 meters in depth.