Mashu-ko, Mashu-dake and Io-zan

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

If you are based in Lake Kussharo or Teshikaga area you can spend a very rewarding day viewing Lake Mashu, climbing Mount Mashu and visiting sulphurous Mount Io. 

Lake Mashu is one of Japan’s most beautiful lakes. Formed following an enormous eruption that resulted in a huge caldera, Lake Mashu has precipitous sides and is towered over on the East side by Mount Mashu. In the center of the lake is the tiny Isle of Gods, the result of a volcanic plug within the caldera.

Start your day at Parking spot #1 off Route 52; the latter winds its way past the West rim of the caldera. The views of the lake and mountains are stunning. Then take the Mount Mashu trail and head East. On the way you will get great views of the surrounding mountains, as well as the birch forests rising out of the endless bamboo groves. It takes about 2.5 hours to get to the peak of the mountain, with the last 400 m being steep but manageable – just don’t look to your right and definitely not to your left. The views of the lake are terrific – the views into the secondary caldera of the mountain are terrifying.







It takes about 2 hours to get back to the parking area. Get back onto Route 52 and go North. Mount Io is about 8 miles away. It’s a little disappointing compared to the easily accessible volcanic areas in Iceland and New Zealnd, but it is every bit as smelly (sulphurous). Still, worth the visit as you are in the area anyway. The take Route 52 back to Lake Kussharo – you might want to visit one of the free hot springs on the way.

Hokkaido, Japan – Drive from Sounkyo Onsen to Lake Kussharo

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

As you depart Sounkyo Onsen going South through the Layer Cloud Gorge be sure to view the Ryusei and Ginga waterfalls streaming down from the cliff tops into the Ishikari River. The recent typhoon in Hokkaido made sure that they looked quite spectacular. 


The drive on Route 39 starts well, with many towering peaks to view. However, once you cross the mountains and descend into the plains it seems to be one long strip mall for about 20 miles until you turn off onto the mountain roads again. It is all worth while, however, when you hit the Bihoro Pass and get your first view of Lake Kussharo in Teshikaga. This lake is the largest caldera lake (volcanic collapse) in Japan and the second largest in the World. Nakajima Island in the middle of the lake is quite stunning. The ph of the lake is 5 – quite acidic – so no fish, but plenty hot springs e.g., Sunayu and Wakoto Onsens. And best of all – this lake is where Nessie’s (i.e., Loch Ness Monster) sister, Kussy, lives.


Beijing City – Beihai Park

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

Beihai Park is in Xicheng District and northwest of the Forbidden City. It is our favorite park. It consists of a number of lakes, the largest, Beihai or North Sea, is huge. It blooms gloriously with lotuses in summer – we were a bit late as only a few blossoms were left. There were many people dancing (to traditional to jazz music) and groups singing. It’s a restful place to sit or stroll around. Grab a lolly of pressed rice and fruit and watch folks boating on the lake. Note that if you enter by the North Gate and walk along the West side of the lake you cannot officially walk up the East side of the lake. However, if you exit by the Southwest gate and then act like a stupid tourist at the Southeast Gate, you can probably gain re-admission for free.