A Rare Encounter with an 800-Year-Old Tree! A Walk in Hokkaido's Forest of Light
Many visitors to Hokkaido are attracted by the enchanting changes in nature through the four seasons. In this article, we will introduce an activity that brings you even closer to the land. Situated in the primeval forest surrounding Akanko Lake, Hikari no Mori (The Forest of Light) is a place to witness the life of nature and feel the rhythm of the earth. Since the limited groups of daily visitors must be accompanied by a professional local tour guide, only a handful of people have the chance to visit. Let’s head to the forest together to meet a 800-year-old giant tree and feel the breathing cycles of nature!
Jun 18 2020 (Sep 09 2020)
※This article is composed by a freelance writer.
Wandering the Forest of Light in Summer
Taking a walk through the Hikari no Mori under the guidance of a professional local tour guide is the perfect opportunity to experience Hokkaido’s primeval forests. While there are several popular “adventurism” activities in the Akanko area, this one is extra special.
“Adventurism” is a name for adventurous outdoor activities that allow tourists to experience nature first-hand. You can find information and make reservations at the Akan Tourist Information Center, as well as at major hotels on Akanko Onsen Street.
Hikari no Mori is located near Akanko Onsen Street and is a part of Akan National Park. Its beautiful name, meaning "The Forest of Light", describes the sunlight shining through the foliage in summer. On this fascinating journey, not only can you see an 800-year-old tree and boiling mud volcanoes, you can also breathe with the land, feel the forest with your skin, and bathe in the greenery and light.
Preparing to Enter the Forest
To preserve the pristine environment and avoid dangerous situations there are some tips for visitors to follow, even when accompanied by a tour guide.
First of all, visitors should wear comfortable long-sleeved shirts, trousers, sneakers, and caps to prevent mosquito and insect bites. Visitors should bring mosquito repellent and plenty of water, and it's best to wear a bear bell on your clothes or bag as well. These deterrents are used to warn the brown bears in the forest to stay away from the large crowd of people.
The local tour guide will also tell you that you should use strong pepper spray in the face of a charging brown bear. Even just listening to these precautions will probably make you excited for your upcoming adventure in nature!
The Entrance to Hikari no Mori
Hikari no Mori is managed by the Maeda Ippoen Foundation, and the tour guides are local professionals appointed by this foundation. It strives to engage and educate the general public with the aim of protecting the primeval forest. The foundation hopes that through direct contact with nature, people can better understand and protect the natural environment.
At the entrance to the forest, there is a wooden torii, which is a symbolic gate marking the entrance to the sacred precincts of a Shinto shrine. Pay your respects here and the journey finally begins!
Walking the dense woods and layers of leaves and light is like wandering inside a painting. As the tour guide says, the red foliage in fall might be tourists’ favorite, but all the greens in summer are equally enchanting. In no time, your soul feels purified.
The Nature Living in Hikari no Mori
During your walk through Hikari no Mori you'll experience the season, whether it be winter snow, spring flowers, fall foliage, or summer streams. Along the way, you will spot traces left behind by animals, like half-eaten plant roots left by brown bears, signs of Hokkaido Yezo deer rolling in the mud, and droppings of Yezo squirrels. There are also various types of mushrooms to spot underfoot. If you're lucky, you may even meet a white-bellied woodpecker!
See Mud Volcanoes and Feel the Breath of the Earth
"Bokke" means "to boil up" in Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu language. In Hikari no Mori, this refers to the area's bubbling “mud volcanoes”. The volcanic gas and bubbling mud from the earth can be as hot as 97°C. This is one of the most amazing natural phenomena you can see in this forest.
After witnessing these precious natural sights, you will understand the importance of a healthy ecosystem. From the fresh air we breathe in, to all the good things we enjoy with our five senses, everything is inseparable from Mother Nature. In Hikari no Mori, we learn to treasure nature by feeling the earth’s breathing rhythm.
The Giant Tree Left By Old Akan
As the walk continues, a sky-high tree will appear in front of you! What impresses people most is not just its enormous appearance but the endless power and aura it gives out. Everyone can’t help but look up at the tree in respectful silence.
Sitting silently on this land, the 800-year-old giant tree has witnessed countless seasons. Getting to be one of the few people to meet it is definitely an unforgettable experience.
Akan Tourist Information Center
Located at the entrance of the onsen street is Akan Tourist Information Center, a building made using Hokkaido’s indigenous Ainu design.
At the center, not only can you find all kinds of local sightseeing information, you may also learn more about the “adventurism” trip we just mentioned.
Take a Walk in the Forest and Breathe with the Land
The walk in Hikari no Mori led by a local tour guide is the best way to learn about Hokkaido’s primeval forests. On the journey, you can experience different sides of the forest, like meeting a 800-year-old giant tree and seeing the volcanic activity of the area's hot springs, and inherit the role of protecting nature for future generations. Next time you're in Hokkaido, this is the adventurous trip you should go for!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.