What comes to mind when you think of Hokkaido? Picturesque snowy landscapes perhaps? Or the abundance of natural hot springs?
1. Kushiro Akan lake
When we first arrived at Akan Lake, we noticed the shops lined along the road are selling these adorable-looking green furry balls. We learnt later that they are called marimo, formed by many layers of filamentous green algae. The algae attached themselves onto the stones when they roll around at bottom of the lake. The lusciousness of the stones’ furry hide is dependent on how long it drifts in the water, before finally becoming the kawaii marimo.
But beyond its cute appearance, the marimo holds cultural significance that is unbeknownst to many.
Legend has it that long ago, in a small village on Lake Akan, there lives a beautiful girl, daughter of the village chief. She falls in love with a warrior, but because of her status, is forced to marry another man. The night before the arranged wedding, the lovebirds cast themselves to death by jumping into the lake. It took the death of two young people for the chief and the villagers to understand their love, who prayed for their eternal happiness. The locals believe that cultivating marimo will make their wishes come true, and it has since become a token of faith and happiness.
Marimos take a long time to grow, where some require around 150 to 200 years to grow to the size of a baseball. Featured above is the world’s largest marimo, measuring up to 30 centimetres in diameter, and estimated to be around 1000 years old. The town’s folklore claims that whoever witnesses this mammoth of a marimo up close and personal will be blessed with happiness and success.